Much of my day, and evening, is spent looking at words. It is a constant search for meaning, for the conveyance of an important understanding, feeling, imagining, insight. Something memorable. Something worth retelling, talking about, and thinking about.
When I was younger, I was a collector of words. I sorted and organized them and put them in folders for later recollection. Sometimes I would be astonished at what I found, later, thrown together in one folder: One plus one equals wonder.
These days I am more a browser of words, jaded, looking for more, looking for phrases, sentences, and, rarely, whole paragraphs that really pack a punch, tight, every word counting, saying so much more than the mere definition and aggregation of the constituent words. I am impatient, stingy, hard to please, now.
It is as if, when I was younger, I was foraging in a rich, biodiverse wilderness, full of exciting discoveries, and now I am scrounging in a scrub desert, a vast tundra, a wasteland of broken debris, things that no longer work.
I go through books, now, like an absent-minded man looking everywhere for something he’s lost, only to discover he’s forgotten what he’s looking for. I read hundreds of web pages, indifferently, rarely stopping to read more than headings or boldface quotes. Drowning in oceans of words, almost all brackish, saline, undrinkable.
Just as I find it harder and harder to find music I like enough to save, or artwork I like enough to look at twice, I am finding it harder and harder to find compositions that still have meaning to me. My recent learning is convincing me that much of the writing I once thought important is really not: The words of tragic, forlorn songs that once I found profound and stirring I now find pretentious and maudlin. The words of love songs and poems that once I found romantic and brave, I now see as social propaganda.
There is not enough extraordinary writing. Not in songs, poems, fiction or non-fiction. This is nothing new. It’s just that with so many words everywhere, now, the finding of that rare well-crafted piece of work, that rare passage, is so much harder. (The word ‘passage’ comes from the Latin word meaning ‘step’, so passages, stories, are, literally, pathways that lead us forward, upwards. Voyages. Vehicles that transport.)
We need more passages like this one, from Jacqui Banaszynski’s article in the writer’s compendium Telling True Stories (thanks to Patti Digh for this one):
Stories are our prayers. Write and edit them with due reverence, even when the stories themselves are irreverent.
Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning, so each tale stands for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.
Stories are history. Write and edit and tell yours with accuracy and understanding and context and with
Stories are music. Write and edit and tell yours with pace and rhythm and flow. Throw in the dips and twirls that make them exciting but stay true to the core beat. Readers hear stories with their inner ear.
Stories are our soul. Write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves. Tell them as if they are all that matters. It matters that you do it as if thatís all there is.
Each such rare passage is like a spark in the dark, a cinder that roars suddenly into a blaze that turns night into day, a night light, a faerie protection that keeps away the demons, a candle that, flickering but never dying even in the howling wind, shows us the way forward.
Category: Narrative and Story-telling
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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