I believe it’s important to be part of literary community, yet I am often discouraged by the back-biting and competitive behavior of writers. It seems like so many writers would rather talk about who they believe is nice/not-nice or real/fraudulent, rather than having conversations about language or writing. Too often, I find myself falling into this same behavior. Is there any hope?
Discouraged and Bruising
There is no hope, but in its absence faiths proliferate. Hope is hard and solid, brittle and easy to smash. Hope is shellacked in thoughts and ideas. Faiths, on the other hand, are charged and dynamic negative spaces demonstrated by only by the behaviors surrounding them; these behaviors articulate the faiths, then in turn the faiths revivify the behaviors.
In case you are a North American human we would like to explain that “behaviors” do not need to be things you “do” such as “labor” or “gesture.” They do not necessarily require much energy, and can in fact “occur” seemingly passively in one of the semi-semantic lounges of the unconscious. The behaviors can be ideas represented as very short narratives, pared down almost entirely to theme. This sort of idea easily becomes a (dull) expectation and can rarely proliferate as a system of (vibrant) inquiries. Expectations, we have learned, are ‘resentments waiting to happen.’ And yet these behaviors (that are idea-themes that become expectations that become resentments that articulate a faith-space that reanimates the framing resentment-provoking idea-theme) are as impossible to stop as waves in the ocean. You are very small, D&B, surrounded in unlimited causes and effects, and nearly three quarters of you lives below the surface. There is no point, then, in trying to locate and eradicate the behavior that leads to the expectations. Most idea-themes are semi-conscious at best, and there are so many other sorts of behaviors (limbic, extra-corporeal, cultural, etc.) with their invisible effects, not to mention those infinite other effecting behaviors both invisible and/or preceding your very being. The trick then, is not in trying to remove the behaviors that shape an unlovable faith, but in designing additional behaviors to consciously and experimentally alter the shape of the negative spaces, which is therefore to change the faiths themselves.
What faiths are your behaviors articulating? It is a good idea to draw the shapes of your faiths, so you can see a simple representation of what charged and dynamic negative spaces your behaviors are generating. If you would like to change the shape of your faiths, you will have to layer in alternate behaviors and see what newly shaped faiths they produce.
To add behaviors, for instance, to the behavior of thinking “They should do x, y, or z” you might try adding the behavior of a search that begins with, “Who does do x, y, or z?” Another behavior to add new dimension to any should-thought is to develop a practice of nurturing and soothing the discomfort generated by the resentment resulting from the idea “They should do x, y, or z, but it seems that they often do not do x, y, or z, and I can not abide this dissonance between what they should do and what they often do not do, and yet I must.” This last idea has been named existential loneliness by some, but it has received a variety of names in every language. It is something all humans share, and therefore supports the largest number of members of any community. Its members are also members of literary communities, social clusters, and avoidance clubs, and it helps to shape one of the most sublime of faiths, which, if negative space could be transformed into words without losing all its charge and dynamism, might be loosely translated as “alone-together” or in a more literary mode, as you might appreciate, “heart contracted around a disembodied finger.”
That said, there were a few among us with a simpler set of instructions: Acknowledge it, accept the truth of it, grieve it, and let it go. Or, if that multi-part slogan reminds you too much of your decrepit economic system’s noxious enticement calls, we will say it like this: Teach yourself, Darling Discouraged, to stop arguing with the inarguables. First you have to acknowledge what the inarguables are. Develop your concentration so that you can turn it toward what deeply interests you, rather than what pokes and prods at you, and develop your compassion so that you can remain engaged with humanity in any capacity at all. Cultivate wise associations and avoid association with fools. Believe and respect your pain and develop a practice that will help you undermine the human inclination to soothe pain with blame and shame. Remember that this human inclination is something like “hard-wired” and nearly impossible to undermine, despite the fact that it never soothes. Weakening this inclination is a highly worthy occupation, and we’ve discovered to our great delight that it may also be one of the primary behaviors of reading, writing, and discussing literature.
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