A Few Words
Posted on April 10, 2012
I was taught in grade school how to make the letters pretty. It took me a while to write in the lines. I was taught how to write essays later. When a new thought or idea was present, it had to be separated by a new paragraph, yet the essay had to be coherent as a whole. There had to be a point to writing.
It’s not easy to write. It’s not easy because when I speak I swallow half of my periods. I finish on cliff hangers, dependents, maybe I don’t finish at all. It’s not natural to be so coherent.
So, after a few years of college, I thought I could write. After all, I had written many essays, and each essay, a page long or ten pages long, had structure and was coherent. After all, I’ve been taught by professors that graduated from Columbia, Brown, Rutgers, even Harvard.
But, it took me a long time to figure out the craft of writing.
Can you see I’m still practicing?
I did thought wonders when Philosophy had opened doors for me. Words started to possess me. I discovered I could understand and think like the thinkers were thinking. How great was it to dive into the words of those who, with so little effort so it seemed, were able to communicate their thoughts and questions about the universe.
Descartes- “Cogito ergo sum.”
Plato- “Justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.”
William James- “If we believe that no bell in us tolls to let us know for certain when truth is in our grasp, then it seems a piece of idle fantasticality to preach so solemnly our duty of waiting for the bell.”
Mill- “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
Milton- “the mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”.
Sarte- “Something has happened to me, I can’t doubt it any more.”
Kundera- “What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”
Antoine De Saint-Exupery- “Whenever I encountered a grown-up who seemed to me at all enlightened, I would experiment on him with my drawing Number One, which I always kept. I wanted to see if he really understood anything. But, he would always answer, ‘That’s a hat.'”
H.P Lovecraft- “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
Yet, with all these words of the philosophers and writers, what truths are there, but opinions? That is what I had discovered, and that is why I feel that I know less then when I started.
Some opinions are beautifully put together. Those are the ones that last. Opinions on morals, freedom, and that of the common good, and especially that of purpose and love. Authors who have found a voice in history constructed words with such profoundness and skill that their words have become great expressions of truth.
Most of my ideas are mere phantoms in contrast to THOSE minds that have already expressed their thoughts. Maybe, a cave human had endless things to express, but now? Great minds have already wrote great things, and sought answers before my molecules even had structure. That is the new writers problem.
Nietzsche had said we are a species with a consciousness that has been derived primarily (in Nietzsche’s view) for the purpose of needing to communicate with the rest. Nietzsche writes, “despite the best will to understand oneself, will always just brings to one’s consciousness precisely what is not individual in one.” And so, “our very thinking constantly follows majority rule”, which in summary means that my consciousness and will does not bring to my mind ideas and words that identify me as an individual with individual words and views. What Nietzsche calls the herd, is what I identify with. No wonder the struggle with creativity.
So, maybe I struggle with words, with writing, and ideas because my very nature is to think like others, to try to communicate with them, to appeal to them, to merge, and be the herd. And in someway, even if I do not always agree with Mr. Nietzsche, that is probably a very good opinion on the matter. There is also always a need to want to appeal to an audience. To write about subjects that are popular. To write on something that will sell. Of course.
Franz Kafka, at the end of his life, had said this about his work, “should they disappear all together that would please me best.” What did he really mean by that, one can only guess. But, maybe his words had not been satisfying. Maybe, he couldn’t say what he wanted. SPOILER: Yet, I can’t think of many writers who could put me in the mindset of a struggling individual, a struggling human being, who is not able to get up from bed one morning because he had turned into a bug. What an idea! What sense of morbidity, and helplessness. His own sister could not fight the repulsion of being near him (or it!). There is something deep about the image of a human-turned-insect. Pathetic! A bug with its many legs, struggling, not able to get up. There is a connection with death, ugliness, and loneliness. There is a deep understanding; the possibility of an eventual doom of suffering in death without reason or comfort; where everyone repulses the very sight of you (as a corpse). But, that is maybe for another time. I was writing about writing.
I have observed that artists seem to suffer the most with their minds. It is a psychological suffering that strives towards some completeness probably unattainable. So, at the near end of a life, or the eerie knowledge of it, an artist no longer is able to admire their work like before, perhaps never did. Why? Maybe, words do not penetrate. Maybe, they are just words.
So, I here it is then. The pen or the keyboard. Here is my brain too. What should I do?
“Kill yourself,” my brother would say, as a joke.
But, I know I can write something! I have ideas. I have images that I can tell stories about. I dream about it.
Yet, the art is to create it. That is what separates the dreamer from the artist. That is probably what separates someone who writes from a writer. And, that is always a struggle.
Perhaps, we do not perceive holes in thoughts, in day-dreams, or in dreams. Thoughts have no boundaries in dreams because we dream in images that float effortless through the mind. When we speak, in dreams, the words are easily spoken.
It is difficult to meet our dreams in the real world and structure them enough that they don’t lose that freedom. For words in dreams float like in an open sky. It is the sky of our subconscious, where maybe our great words truly come from.
But, when we write on a blank page or screen, we must think how.
If we brainstorm, we write whatever comes to our minds. But, still, even if we try to be spontaneous, certain thoughts and emotions shape our writing. And, if we do gain some inspiration, and dig deep, we find ourselves in a void of words, countless thoughts, and ideas. The need to write all these things down, and yet lacking skill to do so, makes us anxious.
And, in formal papers, we strive for coherency as well as content, but the words become rigid and lack originality because we strive for perfection. Sometimes we try to satisfy the reader and we sacrifice originality and maybe even fresh ideas. We want clarity and concreteness, but we end up bored because the sentences become just sentences.
So, how can we create a literary work of art or just a great essay with that balance between coherency, organization, and yet originality, from spontaneous thoughts?
I don’t know. But, here we are. It’s a struggle. Is it not? When I type, when I write, I see the incompleteness of my ideas, thoughts, and observations.
Maybe, the challenge is to never dig so deep that we realize that depth of our incompleteness. Maybe, we need to overlook it.
As a writer, poet, musician, artist, we are all magicians, maybe even wizards (if you will). We must create a work that speaks of the triumph over our incompleteness. In turn, we create something that speaks to the triumph over everyone else’s incompleteness. We triumph over our incompleteness of knowledge. Even if we argue later on, that the work is incomplete, we can say that a work of art is complete without being complete. We make it so!
Ha. That sounds like a lot of philosophy. It sounds like a lot of nice words!
The words smile. They have humor. They know I have just structured them nicely. They laugh and run away. And, sometimes, they don’t want to dance neatly. It is a hard routine, but I don’t know how to do it for them.
I am not words. I am a brain. I am eyes, ears, and a nose. I am waves, and teeth. But, I am not words. I can only speak about them, order them around, and point to them. I can hope that they are trained well enough for what I want to say. That they help me create that illusion of completeness.
So, let me make you believe that I know, and you know, what I’m writing about. That my words, and your thoughts, meet somewhere on the page, and create the illusion of completeness.
It is a work of art. It is a masterpiece! Because there is coherency, structure, but also magic! It is comprehension! We understand each in the chaos.