Writing about writing

Or The Alienation of Our Mourning

There is a lie, a deceit perpetrated on our minds by our culture of visual images; of movies and TV as narrators of our reality, which affects our expectations about loving, relating to each other, working together and even, finally, even grieving.

The paradigm of our modern and stylized idea of mourning assumes the visual/cinematographic form of a sequence of “best of” moments flowing seamlessly through our minds.

The act of remembering is aestheticized and depurated – and in the process globalized by this model. In turn, we are expected to respond to these images in correspondingly predictable ways.

Being the power of mass media what it is, I can only imagine that some of us feel by now that such is the “right” way to transit our very real feelings of loss.

Such imposition upon our nature would do great violence to our true selves – although forcing ourselves into artificialities such as this one is by no means an exclusive sin of our century – not just because it replaces and voids the functions of other senses, or because it establishes an internal time and a single threaded flow essentially unnatural, but because it infallibly leave “us” outside of our own memories: the viewer – or at most the camera.

What is essential about us, as we pair in any kind of intense relationship is the sense of immersion in it. Most disassociations, which from time to time would allows us to view events and images from our life from outside ourselves, are by definition pathological. But we have invented an aesthetic way to resolve its narrative in the visual language that we created for our shows of light and magic, and it’s very success – as that of most of our successes of the imagination – made it into a virus.

We have changed by means of similar processes for millennia, on the wings of oral traditions, theater, literature, opera… but there is the small issue of the accelerated rate and momentum that seem to leave more often than not, the human out of “human change” in the changes our ever speeding
technological development are begetting as of late.

Of course, we also change when we relate to others. We multiply into the persons we create with each of our relations. Some are very strong and have a solid and independent existence: such as the one that without prior consultation chooses the paint color for the living room, or a piece of décor, for a couple that has lived in deep consubstantiation for many years. Other beings so borne – most of them, in fact – are very faint – ghostly: just a shared joke or the memory of a shared experience; yet they do ride with us for a few floors on the elevator.

Is the loss of these persons which we miss most dearly in our Hollywood laced mode of mourning. The fact that we are not just missing the person that died or left us, but the persons we made with that other being, the daily begotten children of our spirits, among which we lived and grew together.

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My readings as of late have convinced me of this: behind the post-modernist love of ambiguity lies the post-modernist fear of commitment.

It’s sad that so many talented writers, able to craft truly rounded characters and rich situations, capable of profound observations about the very nature of our relationship to the world, to memory, to our strange feelings about ourselves and each others, are so afraid of actually picking a branch of the forked road at the end of their books. I am not saying such needs to be inescapably the destiny of a story, but that the option should at least be on the table!

What began as a valiant challenge to the conformist practice of serving you, the reader, outcomes and resolutions all tied up in a bow and neatly presented on a platter, has devolved  into a crutch; both an easy escape from the technical difficulties of achieving such prolix endings without lapsing into clichés, as well as a solution to the problem of having to decide, to commit to an outcome – a practice that brings decidedly dangerous consequences to the comfortable neutrality of a writer.

Realistic, raw and gritty depiction of sex, violence of mind or body and shocking ugliness of character and form, are welcomed tools in a po-mo writer’s toolbox. And since they are also good selling points nobody hesitates to use them. But committing to definite outcomes is becoming rare; this is because outcomes express opinions, which is why fables and parables don’t let you uncertain about their ending.

A committed resolution means offering an opinion, revealing yourself, alienating sectors of the audience that hold differing views. Exposing themselves to criticism while baring their true thoughts has never been easy for the children of the late 20th century.

Of course, life often offers unresolved situations. Science delves more and more in the realm of the relative, and absolute truth is increasingly considered as a concept of the past. But when 80% of the whodunits are answered “well, we just don’t know, don’t we now?” something is unambiguously out of whack.

You’d have to wonder what does all this says about moral ambiguity…

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I love you more than you can ever imagine…
I am an orphan when you leave for work,
but a One-Dog Welcoming Wagon when you return
And when I see you,
darling: if I had a tail I’d wag it!

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Like a Cheshire Cat, I waltzed into your life:
all smile and very little substance
You did not reject, flee, or retreat
Instead you taught me

You said “I believe in you”
I said “Thanks” – slowly materializing…

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how far we are from who we were…!
we stretch our arms and we can touch
our wives, our parents, our children
yet there is nothing that can breach
the inmense abbyss that keeps us from ourselves

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