23 April 2016

Coming to terms: Blog-reality vs Life-reality

Yes, I know it's been a while. Don't worry; I have excuses. Mostly the timing of events in the month of April left me off-balance as far as putting up blog posts. Then things happened: bad things, awful things, and I was numb and unable to find the words to express anything, either about the horrors happening or even about ordinary mundane episodes of amusement which are my usual stock in trade.

I was forced to think in a deeply profound manner. What is the point of a blog? Many of my colleagues have answered that question already. But aside from a little personal pleasure ("thoughts on waking up too late"), self-promotion ("check out my latest book"), sharing writing tips ("I really have nothing new to offer"), or celebrating holidays ("here's my annual Thanksgiving post"), why take the time to dabble when there is so much going on that is decidedly undabble-worthy?

Let's face it: There are a lot more important things happening in the world today, the past week, this entire month - but if you're a writer, all that matters is the story in front of you. (The story in front of me often serves as an escape from the reality of the world I hear about on social media and television.) All this is meant to say is that not even writers can solve all the problems in the world. Long gone are the days when we could right wrongs with a well-turned phrase. Where are those word warriors who fight with sonnets instead of swords?

I'm working on an epic fantasy, as everyone and their grandparents know, yet I fell into a funk - writer's block, if you will - because of everything going on in the world: death and destruction, terrorism and earthquakes, storms and murders, crashes and floods, lots and lots of inane arguing, lying, shouting, cursing, and more or less deception by just about anyone who makes it onto the national or world stage. Plus deaths of people who were minding their own business in the music business.

It's always sad when a celebrity dies, regardless of the reason. As a public figure, we all tend to feel we know that person. We have close loved ones who die, of course, but we share that person with fewer mourners. Every day it seems another actor or musician passes on, and we are surprised because we've grown accustomed to their immortality. Theirs seems to be real while our own we understand is finite. So we pay tributes, listen to their songs, watch their movies, remember the good times we were having while they somehow were invited into those moments with us through the music or the shows. This week I've heard several people say this or that musician provided the soundtrack to his or her life. 

The phenomena remains. Time stops, the past flashing through us, like memories we wonder if we really ever had or if we are creating anew just for this moment, just so we can join in with others in mourning, in remembering, in sharing a feeling of joy at having known that person. And a feeling of sorrow at that person's passing. What once was an endless stadium of space suddenly collapses into a closet-sized reality: if this person, so celebrated, who had everything, can pass so easily, so suddenly, who am I in the greater scheme of the universe? And in that flicker of recognition, we are born again. And we go on.

An anecdote: I had been in the National Guard for about a year when a new guy arrived. On one weekend drill, I happened to see a small flyer advertising a concert which he had sitting at his station. I picked up the flyer to look at it closer. On the flyer was a striking face of the musician performing at the concert, smug expression under a wild mop of hair. The name on the flyer said Prince. I said to my colleague, both of us in our fatigue uniforms, waiting for the final formation late on a Saturday afternoon, "Who would name their kid 'Prince'?" He shrugged and said he was going to the concert that night. This must have been in Fall 1980. Kansas City. A few years later I went on a first-date which began with the movie Purple Rain. I finally put two and two together. 

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  1. Well said Stephen. You've helped me clarify my thoughts on the subject. Thank you.

    1. Putting feelings into words is always difficult.