Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Does This Mean?

I've spent the evening reading short stories by Edward P. Jones and a section from the book Grace Is Where I Live, by John Leax. I trimmed the cats' claws, I talked to Andrew about health care and politics, and I read one of my unfinished stories and started on another. This writing is hard. They say writing's a solitary exercise, but for me it languishes outside of community. If I don't have someone to tell me, "This is where it sucks. Change this part," I become stuck. I don't know where to go next.

Right now, I'm writing here to get some of that off my chest. That's part of the reason. Mostly it's 10:30 and I don't want to get caught up in a story if I do happen to hit "flow" because I know I have to get up early tomorrow morning. Why, when I decided to write tonight, did I go to the kitchen, toast Ezekiel cinnamon raisin bread, spread Nutella on it, and sprinkle peanuts and marshmallows on as a second supper? Why, when I sat down at my desk did I choose to let Molly's getting her claws stuck in the chair convince me I should trim all the cats' claws, right now? Why, when I finished with that, did I remember the birthday cards I still had to make from yesterday's to-do list? Is this some kind of spiritual warfare? Or is this divine guidance pushing me toward my journal instead of my notebooks?

Why, when I want to write the most, do I have such difficulty doing it? Perhaps a quote from John Leax that caught my spirit, did so for a reason tonight. He was talking about prose, but it fits my fiction as well:
This uncertainty has nothing to do with any lack of faith or conviction. It has rather to do with three shifts in my thinking. First, I have an increasing respect for the wondrous mystery of my life. Second, I am more aware of the limitations of language. And third, I am dumbfounded by my finiteness before the infiniteness of truth.
It's not so much that I'm already there, or had already realized I am there. But I sense it is where I am going. He put it into the words I feel so constrained to understand.

My life is a wondrous mystery. Born by divine intervention, raised with a promise over my life, I am now struggling to find the fulfillment, or the path to fulfillment, of the promise. I am on my own, but I have people around me. Totally new people who do not know personally the Sarah who was cradled in Illinois. A few know the Sarah who carried her life into college in Indiana, and most know the Sarah that carried all that to Georgia as a new self--Sarah and Andrew. I am the same, but I have evolved into new identities. And I feel I am never constant.

Words. My life revolves around words. I love language as a tool and language as an art. Yet I find it so difficult to harness language around my thoughts, my experiences, my imagination, and create something new and true to the thought, experience, or imagination. I always feel my words come up short, like a line thrown just out of reach of a drowning person. Like setting up the longest ladder I could find and realizing I still can't grasp the lowest branch of the tree. Oh, words!

And that reaching and grasping at, it is all for conveying truth. Even in fiction. There is truth in fiction, otherwise it would be alien and undesirable to read. But sometimes I feel like Pilate. "Jesus, what is truth?" And like John Leax pointed out, Jesus answered him without words. How can my finite grasp of my own experience lead me to express in finite words what in reality is infinite?

This is why I struggle. This is why I love it so. Because in my own stretching and straining, I hope I can be worship to the Author of truth and creativity, the ultimate All who is in all, the infinite.

I am undone.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

This Just In! News Channels Lose Me

Last Thursday I spent the whole morning reading. Not a bad way to start the day; except that I was at the mechanic's waiting room with Fox News Channel talking at me from the TV in the corner. I've decided, if there's one thing that could fall off the face of the earth and I wouldn't miss it, it would probably be news channels. There are a lot of things I don't personally enjoy or reap the benefits of, but I recognize they have a place in human ecology. But news channels?

If they're around to instantaneously report vital information, there's the 10:00 news, and more effectively, the internet. Most people have the news e-mailed to them, or they can look it up from countless (relatively) reliable sources.

If news channels function as some sort of entertainment, they're as successful as laugh-track sitcoms on minor networks.

If news channels aim to provide education, they've fallen into the same trap as most American schools. The most they educate on is useless, irrelevant, mind-numbing information. If you want education, watch C-Span, History Channel, Discovery, or my personal favorite, PBS.

I was at the mechanic's for nearly three hours, and the biggest stories, the most led-up-to, were about Obama and Clinton traveling to Unity, New Hampshire to begin their new tour called Unite for Change. The big inside scoop? That they'd decided on Unite, instead of Uniting or United. Uniting implies a never-ending effort. United implies they've already done it and it's over. This explanation was given at least twice while I was there, and it was just as interesting as it sounds. Also, Barack's tie matched Hilary's suit. Wow! That's teamwork!

Then there was the breaking news that the FCC was meeting to discuss new rules concerning embedded advertising in TV shows and movies. Don't they have better things to do? Must want to get on the ticker on the news channel. Transitioning from the FCC via the "Great Cheese comes from Happy Cows; Happy Cows come from California," it's apparently newsworthy that dairy cows in Green Bay, Wisconsin now sleep on waterbeds. This "watershed" discovery led to slightly higher productivity. Wow, I'll have to try that with my cows at home.

Possibly the most inane and un-journalistic news story was about baristas in some Seattle area coffee shops that are being told to cover up or be regulated as "adult entertainment" coffee shops. The reporter "had to go undercover" to get this story. A couple coffee shops were drawing customers with bikini-clad baristas. Competition ensued, and some women customers complained that the "uniforms" were getting too skimpy. Follow that story with a humorously repulsive picture of Sasha Cohen as Borat in a "mankini," and you've got news.

Is this news, I ask you? It's not news, it's not entertainment, it's not education. It's not even good for white noise while I'm trying to read.