Monday, 30 April 2007

and then there were none

The most doubtful thing in the universe is our own ability to perform to our potential. Some days you just don't want to try, some days others make the assessment for you, and some days you feel like you made it. There is a real beauty to doing nothing - it takes practice.

Writing is terrifying work. What if it is lousy? What if no one will read it? What if no one will publish it? What if you are wasting your time and should be doing some other meaningful work? Some days you look down at the white expanse of Word and panic. Some days you open up Word and can't get the words down fast enough to keep up with your thoughts. After the piece is written comes the editing, giving up paragraphs and pages of words you had to mentally sweat to get out. Into the trash with you, too wordy, too trite, too many metaphors, too many adverbs. Then you send it in to someone to publish and sure enough - not good enough. The game is not set that way however; you have to send it out again, and again. You have to re-edit, rewrite, and somehow keep believing in your own ability to tell a meaningful story.

Then there is the sheer volume of it when you are writing a novel. You have to keep all the timelines coordinated, and all the characters connected. In order to have a compelling story you must have a tapestry of interwoven plots and people. I have to see the physical pages in order to keep it all in order. I print out the story so far and line it up on the floor. I have a war table with the layout of my armies and the navy deployments. I have another map with the political alliances taped to the various countries.

The best thing in my case for ideas is to run. I get more ideas on walks, or on the treadmill than anywhere else. Whenever I get stuck that is the best remedy. The core for the idea of "Fractured" came to me while I was on the bike in the gym in Fez. The circumstances were a bit surreal.

Then come the days when you are just discouraged, so discouraged that you can't write a damn thing. I know I should anyway, that's what successful writers and the books about writing say; but some days I can't do it. The danger is in letting the days pile up! I am come to believe even if I only write shit, I need to write every day, hence this rambling coherence of words.

I wonder how much of what we do is because we are afraid to fail in the eyes of other people, or to be scorned by our society. The Americans are imbued with the essential guilt of any time not spent “doing” something. Even when on their vacation the time must be organized and set for some activity. The concept of value in the meditative state of contemplation has not broken through the society’s consciousness. Even those that do ‘meditate’, again, it is “doing” something. There are of course exceptions to this rambling analysis; I am making a rash generalization.

The difference between Rabat and Fez, or any of the larger cities of Morocco and Fez is quite stark. The withholding of funds or investment to the city by the old king continues to impact the city today. It makes you aware of just how much taxes (used properly of course) can do for the public welfare. In Fez you have cracked and crumbling sidewalks, no parks, no flower gardens for the public to walk in, contemplate, and bring children to play. No museums of any note or art galleries. I am sure that dry spell of neglect had an impact on the psyche of the city as well. You do see the individual entrepreneurship that you see all over the rest of Morocco but not as much or with the same zeal.

I observed something in myself while in Marrakech that I had not been aware of before; what is frightening is that it is most likely a view taken to even further extremes by populations in the West. I was viewing the old mosque next to the big Square in the Medina. As I passed the men were at prayer and at first I had the same reaction I have when I see or hear the monks in a Buddhist temple or a Christian church – that of fellowship in the spiritual world. I was shocked to find that following close on the tails of that emotion was the griping emotion of fear. Too many movies, too many news clippings of Muslims at prayer just before they blow themselves or something else up. I feel terrible for every practitioner of Islam who no more wants to harm another human being than I do that this is the overwhelming perception of his or her faith. I was shocked by my own reaction to the sound of men at prayer. The more I thought about it, the more sadness it evoked. While I will be vigilant to monitor those responses in myself and not let them affect my conscious actions, I can only imagine how pervasive that feeling is, and if not followed by self-examination, how dangerous.

People who are not defined by their physical bodies amaze me. I was reading the report of Stephen Hawkins and his ride in an aircraft that allowed him a short time of being weightless. He said it was “bliss”. Here is a man that should have long ago been dead, who cannot speak without the assistance of mechanics, who cannot move without a wheelchair, and yet has written best sellers to bring science to the public. He has made some of the breakthrough discoveries and postulated some of the most daring theories in modern day physics. Yet most of us react to others and to ourselves by what we see. The pretty and the tall get a leg up just by virtue of genetics; while the fat and the short must go the extra mile. Admittedly that may in some, but not all, cases build a stronger character; but my bet is they would give that up for a perfect jaw line or nose.

I can’t believe it is the 21st century and women are still making around seven cents to the dollar a compared to men. It was not really that long ago however that women got the vote and recognized as property owners. The patriarchal society is still alive and strong. That is what having an all-powerful god is about isn’t it? The father figure who will take care of you, make all the hard decisions, fix matters when you fuck them up, and take the burdens of a life lived onto himself. When you take on that sort of protection however you give up your self-determination; fate then rules your destiny. Unless of course the Christians or Muslims are right and there is an all-powerful god “up there”.

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