Why I Write the Way I Do
Why do I use this archaic and ponderous style of writing? Why do I insist on trudging along from equivocation to aside? Why do I avoid the stirring hook?
I've got to say the main reason is because this is the voice that shows me more than I would have found if I denied it. You see, we all have countless – well, at least a few! – different voices vying for our attention. This particular one has given me the most results.
How do I measure that? Certainly not by the success of numbers or the amount of feedback! You see while those would be nice to have, I'd truly be lost without what this voice has given me, access to insights I wouldn't, never did, have access to before.
Some voices insist. Others cajole. Some insinuate themselves. This one lay quiet, waiting for me to give it room to come out.
I trust this voice, where I don't trust many of the others that have tried to speak for me. It uncovers groundwork and cleans off touchstones that have lain buried and dusty from lack of use. It builds insights from those bases in ways that I can never predict, but that carry weight when they've arrived. It's a voice I can trust for these reasons. A voice whose idiosyncrasies I put up with because they seem to be part of what makes it work.
I've been looking for ways to proceed that don't rely on ideologies. I've discovered that the Age of Ideology is over. It expired after a prolonged and bloody struggle lasting all of the Twentieth Century, from 1860 to 2001. It's ghost still walks the Earth and its minions continue to spasm reflexively, but its ability to make contact with reality in any meaningful way has atrophied – if it was ever effective.
How do we think without ideology? How do we come to action?
I've been addressing these questions and positing some responses – I hesitate to call them answers…. Action without striving is one aspect. Another is to escape the phantom power of consensus and the entire political edifice built around managing it. A key element of the death of Ideology, a sure sign of its morbidity, is the state of consensus around us today. Some try to impose it, others wish to see some re-invigoration at its roots. Many simply go through the old motions hoping/wishing this will bring it all back to life.
None of this will work. It's all marked with the trappings of futility. Whatever utility it may once have had, though besides propping up Ponzi schemes of exploitation and deferred reckoning, I can't for the life of me tell what they might have been!
Consensus, and the movements it brought into being and maintained, places all of our attention on our wishes at the cost of losing contact with what is. At every step the social constructs built up around the generation and maintenance of consensus, or its counterfeit, draws our attention away from where we are and socially rewards what otherwise would be evident, that this is a recipe for psychosis and unmitigated disaster.
As we confront evidence of the depth of our predicament we tend to settle into stages of reaction as we attempt to respond. What makes our situation even more difficult than it might be is that we are ill-equipped to sort out how to frame a response that doesn't just reintroduce us to another level of the concentric traps our current framework leaves us exposed to. We find it extremely difficult to simultaneously absorb what is failing, how it's failing, why it's failing, and the ways in which our being mired in habitual responses, primed by our conditioning, restrain us from finding clear air.
Most of these failures to break free are variations on the reductivist reflex and our assumption that any and every difficulty is a problem waiting to be solved. Even as we tackle this directly it is incredibly difficult to break free of doing so as if this itself were not just another problem to be solved! Our inability to imagine action without striving, without putting ourselves into elaborate thought experiments, stems from this difficulty. Conditioning is a predicament, just as its effects are. We cannot solve our way out of our current conditioning, or replace it with something a bit less delusional, by attempting to solve a problem.
A toddler, before a certain cut-off point in their mental development, cannot hold onto key elements of object permanence. Show them a knife and a fork side by side with their handle-ends aligned and they can choose which one is longer. Shift them so that the shorter one's tip extends beyond the longer one and they will confidently choose that as the new longer one! They'll do this all day, well, not quite, they'll soon be bored! But they won't realize there's anything unusual going on, except to wonder what's such a big deal. Then one day, a switch flicks in their development and they won't be fooled this way again.
I don't think any of us remember what that moment felt like as it was happening. I would guess it goes something like this: One night they go to bed without an awareness of object permanence. The next morning they wake up with it! What got them there was a process of untold complexity and innumerable interlocking factors that took place while they were sleeping; during that time when our behind the scenes processes all take place, where our real insights come from, and where our authentic changes take place.
The same, I would say, is true for all of our development. It relies on all that we take in, all that happens to us while we are awake, but it only coalesces and coordinates with the rest of our organism during this part of our diurnal cycle.
Of course, even knowing this, we tend to want to make up a story that says this conscious "I" did these things! It's because "I" am smart! Because "I" was diligent, or have a powerful will! Any number of reasons why "I" did it!
"I" was sleeping! "I" wasn't really involved, except in trying to get in the way, and to hog the glory. That's hard to accept.
So much of what gets written here is about letting go. We tend to see letting go as giving up. No matter how many times the fork passes the knife we want to insist that we've got it right!
Letting go is really getting out of the way. This is the lesson of mastery within Craft. It's also the lesson of Art, if we can see it as something much more valuable than a game of Ego.
"Bad Ego!" "Go AWAY!" We might be tempted to turn our old habits on their major enforcer. That doesn't work. It only holds our attention, that which is all we have, on the dramas of Ego.
Ego is part of our existence. It is expressed from within the totality of our current conditioning which gives it the form it now has. Running a spike through the brain in some real or imagined act of lobotomy is only turning the habits of violent "solution" on ourselves. What we haven't considered is that Ego may have another function entirely in a different set of conditioning. Maturity, outside of insects who develop in discreet and self-digesting stages throughout life, does not amount to destroying what was there before but to integrating it into a greater whole. Let's reserve judgment on Ego for now while we keep an eye on its capacity to derail us.
Letting go is the way to do this. Neither indulging nor repressing Ego, we defuse it without destroying it. Letting go of the will-to-control it, which always must come down to an act of destruction since that is all control is capable of, removes us from Ego's domination.
As a young man I met painting the way elemental sodium meets water, in a shower of self-destructive sparks! I recognized a double bind, that whatever I accomplished as a painter fueled my Ego to ever greater heights while whatever limitations I ran into propelled me into a mirroring despair. To continue was to court disaster, a disaster all too familiar to anyone who's studied the history of Art, or read an issue of Rolling Stone. Some instinct for self-preservation, or mere cowardice, prevented me from following through. I've learned to see that as an example of our instinct for spotting futility and the way this mechanism can rush us into the shutting down of a cornered and dying animal, what we call depression.
Having been raised on double-binds, I had some experience with its demands. I'd developed a patience for its insistence. Like a soldier trapped in a minefield, double-binds tend to panic us into precipitous action when the chances for that action going well are infinitesimal. This, I feel, is how some of us are introduced to the capacity to defer our need for certainty, to develop a negative capability.
When I came to writing fiction it struck me as a calling. It came to me not as something I was doing, but something I was witnessing and birthing. The way it sidestepped the issues of Ego for me was as stark a change as any toddler's clicking that switch and "getting it." This has been the basis for any further developments I've been a part of. This was the defining moment for me in my ongoing process of integration.
"I" didn't do it! It happened to me when I was ready to let go of the bind Ego held me in. You see, those dramas that are so seemingly impenetrable and impossible to resolve melt away like the delusion of an undeveloped proprioception. No one or thing holds us in double binds, we do it ourselves. By letting go of the delusion that it is otherwise, they disappear – like all that "Wealth" vanishing around us!