John Steuart Curry: John Brown (1939)
" … maybe we won't miss much of what we edit out for the purpose of improving the quality of our experience here."

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is said to have coined the term WillingSuspension of Disbelief when trying (and probably failing) to explain how a reader should approach his work. Poetry's like a joke. If you have to explain it, it didn't work. I believe that he probably meant that The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner should be read as a figurative rather than literal work; he didn't intend it to mean what it said but what it invoked. Most literature seems improved by reading with a fuzzy eye, not parsing it for too many facts, but perhaps for insights instead. Facts piled upon each other quickly become almost as interesting to read as a standard dictionary, plot line uninspiring. Theater, film, even television fail if perceived through any overly-critical eyes, for they rely upon a kind of conspiring with their audience, a tacit understanding that they won't mention the odd shadow the stage set casts or the obvious fact that no Martian would ever actually say THAT. We're pretending for some larger purpose, often, our own amusement. Of course the kids' improvisational after-dinner performance is lame. Parse for cuteness instead.

Following up on my yesterday's story, Disbelief, I spent my post-writing day considering Disbelief's accomplice, WillingSuspension.
I concluded that DisBelief seems to have become the default setting for many, their skepticism stuck in the permanent ON position bordering cynicism. It seemed that we might be taking altogether too much too seriously, and that we might benefit ourselves and everyone else by lightening up a little, perhaps a lot more than a little. It might be that these times, like many times before, have actually been too serious to take so seriously, that observing and even criticizing more generously might benefit more than the observed and the criticized, but also the observer and the critic. We seem to have steered disconcertingly close to the Once Sinned, Forever Shunned Shore, a treacherous and rocky one long avoided by ancient mariners and even Coleridges. We might instead choose to observe from a more secure distance and accept general gists as adequate.

One of my early mentors suggested that I first compare anything I'm evaluating to a blank sheet of paper. Was that paper improved in any way by overlaying it with what I'm reviewing? This check might yield no more than an infamous E for Effort, but I get his point. I'm apt to start comparing any run of the mill rose to an exceptionally iconic Summer's day when run of the mill never aspired to be anything exceptional. The chattering critics seem to often start with some exemplar rather than with where they or their target actually are. We're none of us perfect yet, and perfection usually proves unnecessary, the pursuit of it, self-destructive. We might ache for better, but we've certainly seen worse.

These seem to be truly desperate times. I need not go out of my way to find fresh terrors. I might need to perform some exquisite surgeries on my perception to sense anything reassuring, so I submit to my surgeries. I'm scared enough without holding myself to insist upon any truth, let alone any whole truths, and certainly not any Nothing Buts. I thrive better on a diet prominently featuring useful fictions. I seem to be better off when I cannot quite see through everything. In the immortal words of
Yip Harburg, I know "It's only a Paper Moon, hanging over a cardboard sea," but that reality seems beside some higher point. If it doesn't always seem to qualify as believable fiction, I try mustering a pinch of belief, anyway. Socrates postulated that the whole of human experience might amount to shadows cast on a narrow cave's wall. If that's all we actually see, maybe we won't miss much of what we edit out for the purpose of improving the quality our experience here. It might not be that smart to be able to see through every damned thing. Selective blindness renders no one a rube, but perhaps wise. My experience seems worth the addition of some WillingSuspension, especially of my burdening DisBeliefs.

Friday came after wading through a week riddled with curious propositions and self doubts. I've been accused of trying to figure out too much, of not simply letting stuff be. I readily agree,
and I concede that I might have come to understand my many enduring mysteries earlier than now. I write this play as I perform it.

I started my writing week by attempting to tackle
SelfEvidence, a decidedly curious basis upon which to found a nation, an eternally unfinishable proposition.

I next attempted to explain
WhyIAmNotACapitalist, perhaps utterly failing, but I felt compelled to explain even though every Why I Am Not explanation seems heavy on negation and light on resolution.

I thought my next piece clever and insightful. In
PandemicPete, I probably just sang to the choir, comparing our unmasked villains to the more familiar Typhoid Mary. I presume myself guilty because I'm unprovably innocent, the underlying reality of Our Damned Pandemic.

I made a distinction between reading and
Wreading, the latter being how writers use books.

My most popular piece of the week reframed denial into two varieties, the good old-fashioned first stage of acceptance and the eternally unresolved in

I considered my predominant form of presence in
AbSense. I've been gone much longer than I ever returned.

Finally, as I prefaced above, I ended my writing week by looking at our current contagion of
DisBelieving, wondering where the wonder of simple belief went.

My therapist suggested that I might consider lightening up, and I'm seriously considering it. I am sometimes capable of wit and even a begrudging light-heartedness, and I figure the loyal opposition might even benefit if I stopped chewing their sorry butts for a spell. Time might tell. I write as I am moved to write and, I suppose, you read as you are likewise moved to read. I accept that all of this, even this week's somewhat voluminous residue amounts to just raw material, depending. Depending, I reflect, upon WillingSuspension more than anything I might have intended. I deeply appreciate and thank each of you for following me through this fraught time.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus