Pardon me, please, while I wax philosophical.
I’m so terribly out of sorts these days. The media-fueled and politician-stoked fear of any “Other” who doesn’t look like the predominant U.S. version of a “real” American weighs heavily on my psyche. And when paranoid, xenophobic posts show up in my Facebook timeline or Twitter feed from family or friends I’d always considered sane and rational, I’m even more confused.
How does this happen?
I do understand that we all experience reality from a personal perspective, but how can truth be so skewed as to be unrecognizable? Usually I feel fortunate to have left behind the distorted shadows in the cave, but these days I wonder. In the same vein as one of my professor’s contention that thinking outside the box simply puts me in another box, have I exchanged one surreal cave dwelling for another – like Dante’s circles?
Leading out towards the light of truth instead of further down into the pit, I hope.
Because of this mental and emotional turmoil, when I sit down to write my escapist fiction, the pessimistic (and much more dominant) side of me asks, “Why bother?”
During undergrad, I was infused with Horace Mann’s Antiochian edict to “[win] some victory for humanity.” Do I need to set aside my traditional police stories, my not-quite-cozy mysteries, and focus on serious social justice nonfiction? I can do that; I have plenty of ideas knocking around in my head. But again I have to wonder, why bother? Would anyone really listen? With the 24/7 news cycle and the endless Internet outlets for spouting personal opinions, would my words ever rise to the surface? Should they? And if they did, would they make a difference?
I don’t know.
Another of my learned professors told me writers can say things in fiction that we could never say in nonfiction. I can give my characters words and opinions and actions I wouldn’t dare express publicly in my own voice. And I do that, to a point, but there’s a fine line. Preachiness is never a good idea in fiction – or in life, for that matter.
And with more and more “good Americans” clamoring to deny aid to suffering refugees of whatever ethnicity, subtly is not likely to win out. We’re too busy taking offense over an imaginary War on Christmas, or railing against misinterpreted microaggressions* to realize the absurdity of it all. Civil discourse has vanished, and the growing weight of cognitive dissonance threatens to crush us all.
Yet here I am writing, and pondering, and searching for answers that remain lost in the shadows of whatever cave I’m stuck in.
Flannery O’Connor and E.M. Forster and Norman Mailer and Joan Didion and who knows how many other great authors all said something along the lines of “’I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”
I guess that’s as good a reason as any to keep writing – fiction or otherwise.
*A topic for another day when the philosophical muse hits. Hubby and I spent an interesting half-hour dissecting that phenomenon over dinner last night.