Writer’s Life #4 – Hecht and the presumption of values

It would seem rational that any creature capable of feeling, contemplating, and praising kindness would in fact be extraordinarily kind, but we are not. We may strive for true altruism, pure love, and total clarity, yet we can not possess these ultimate virtues; for some this suggests that the ultimate virtues exist elsewhere. –from Doubt, by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

typewriter-md As well written and educated as she is, you would think a scholar such as Jennifer Michael Hecht would refrain from making blanket statements she attributes to the whole of humanity.

At the end of her first statement here (above): “It would seem rational that any creature capable of feeling, contemplating, and praising kindness would in fact be extraordinarily kind, but we are not…”

Obviously she is not speaking for herself. She includes all of us when she says, “…we are not.”

Many people are not kind. But many are. Some of us attempt to cultivate kindness, though many times there are days we fall short. It’s like the idea of happiness. You see people taking happiness tests to determine how happy they are. Then come the suggestions: get a dog, a boyfriend, join a church. Then you’ll be more happy.

Unfortunately, life is not so simple. Happiness is not a constant, like hair, or eye color. Yes, we can have days in which we feel happier than others, but it is fleeting, like any mood. We can have a generally happy outlook on life, but we cannot maintain “happy” all the time. Though kindness is more trait than mood, it’s difficult to maintain constantly. Then again, I’m speaking for myself. In general, I like to think most people have some value of kindness they cultivate toward their human family.

She is right in that we strive for virtues [Def.: virtues: ideals of goodness]. We don’t always achieve them, because they are ideals. Ideals, we may never be able to live up to fully, but mentally present for us to cling to. They do not exist upon a higher plane for many of us. They are modes of conduct–perhaps codes–which we build our lives around. When making the statement that we can not possess (meaning to own?) the virtues, I cannot fully agree, depending on how the term ‘possess’ is being used.

We may not own those virtues individually, but as one of the higher forms of intellect on this planet, we have the power of choice and reason. Humans have the ability to choose how they behave toward one another, other beings and the environment.

Do we wake thinking, “how can I be kind or fair toward my fellow beings today?”

Probably not. But in our interactions with one another, we can note how we’re feeling and thinking and moderate our behaviors with those things in mind. We all have that potential. I think part of exploring the human condition is developing the potential we have within ourselves. But like everything we do in our lives, these are individual choices.

If we want a fairer world, I believe we have to make our own little corner of the universe fairer in the way we deal with others. Just because life is not fair, does not mean it’s okay to behave unfairly toward others. Or, a better example: because a thief steals your car, does not make it okay for you to steal your neighbor’s.

As far as those virtues existing “elsewhere”, as Hecht writes, I believe she is speaking for herself. I don’t have an Elsewhere. I do have a mind that holds those values clearly, though I don’t always behave in a fashion that upholds those values. And when I don’t, I have a loud guilty conscious (in the voice of my father, grandmother or HH the Dali Lama) that lets me know immediately what I could have done better.

But of course, all of the above is my own interpretation of life and the mind. I just don’t want anyone (presumably) speaking for me.

 

Borges on Sunday – Writer’s Life #3

Jorge_Luis_Borges Sunday I did absolutely nothing (but write this).

I decided, at some point, that I would take a break from worries and writing. That my attention would not be riveted to the page or problems therein.

I slept, drank coffee (decaf), sat out on the porch and ruminated about Jorge Luis Borges. His writing seems to be a continual source of internal conflict for me.

I like his work, then I hate it. A profound sentence or passage is replaced with a paragraph that makes no sense. Some of his work, I have to admit, I just don’t get.

Perhaps there’s a point. But there really doesn’t seem to be, in many of his stories. There may be a conflict (there are many), but the climax, followed by the conclusion is missing. Many of his works just end in a death of someone, followed by a brief statement like, “…On the 2nd of April 1898, he died.”

I laugh as I write this, because I wonder what other writer could get away with this today and still be studied so earnestly? No one. Not a single author could get away with the crappy endings that JLB leaves us with. Not any popular authors. We would stop reading. That would be the end of our relationship with that particular writer. Adios Senor.

But there is something compelling in JLB’s stories. The Library of Babel is a spell upon the reader. There is a tendency to want to figure it out. To solve the riddle of the structure.

Jose Saramago, though a student of Borges, is not as difficult. This author pushes through the wall of contemporary expectation and says, “the hell with you all. I will write what I must.” Then he does.

But the writing style, we know from reading both authors is from another time. These authors are not easy reads.

I don’t read them for style, but more because that kernel of story I must acquire. I must know the TRUTH of the work. I need to get to the meat of it, rend it from the bones, take it into myself and understand.

At the end of Saramago’s Blindness, I was not so much satisfied with that rending, as in love with words again. The story was told and I was grateful for it, though it was not an easy journey getting to that point. I worked for the understanding I found there.

Borges is difficult and I want to go through all of his work. The local library has his complete collection; I know, because I asked them to order it and checked it out when it first came in.

But I cannot get through it in two weeks. I don’t know if I could get through it in a month. Not because I could not read through it, but because I would not be able to UNDERSTAND it in that time. I must have a year, I think. Maybe two.

To go through one story at a time and linger on each. Though that idea is a bit scary. Borges’s work has a haunting quality, that speaks a little of mental instability. Or, perhaps it’s that he unmoors my understanding of reality.

[An aside here] My brother was enthralled by H.P. Lovecraft
for awhile (many years ago). A friend of his ran across a book (of Lovecraft’s) that someone they knew attempted to burn.

So when I first heard the story, I thought it came from the annals of Lovecraftian fans, or was something the boys made up from their readings.

The friend was another Lovecraft fan. Someone else had told him about the Necronomicon and another (unnamed) book that was the REAL Necronomicon. It was said (by these several boys) that anyone who read through it became infected with madness. They would go insane, killing those around them, attempting to destroy the book; but somehow, no one was ever clear how exactly, the book came through it and moved along to its next victim.

So the idea was that the book was haunted by something otherworldly. Something strange, yet pervasive and on a mission to destroy humanity or the reality we have constructed.

My brother’s friend ended up possessing it, but the story about the book, by these other people had so cautioned them that no one was willing to open it, much less read it. By the time I heard about it, the book (conveniently?) had moved to someone else.

The point to this little aside, is this: Borges work could be maddening, I think. Perhaps not to the point of insanity, but something close. That to puzzle his work too much, too intensely in a short time, could be damaging in some way. That I would be left haunted by the tales without the satisfaction of understanding them.

I do not enjoy his work (much), but have a feeling I must understand it.

Saramago, though difficult, is not Borges. His style is unconcerned with the reader, but compared to Borges, his ideas float across our minds. They do not work their way into misunderstanding and leave us unmoored. We are on firm ground throughout.

Borges Collected Fictions sits on my kitchen table. I read one story at a time, linger a bit and read through the notes. I have read Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius three times, going on my fourth. I’m working on all the notes and doing the research to see what I’ve missed about this story. There’s something, not obvious about this story. A key to understanding it fully.

I’ll read it just one more time. To get to the point–or the meat–or the understanding. Or perhaps to just finally be able to let it go.

That’s how I spent my Sunday.

 

Fishing for Ideas or Writer’s Life #2

Portrait-Photo-Girl-fishing-Color-Photo-2

 

I’m sick to death of the Broke-artist title, so I think the blog may change.

Possible options:

carlaherrera.com
cherrera.com
carlarherrera.com
crherrera.com

I know these names don’t sound quite as glamorous as broke-artist, but that’s okay. At this point, I don’t think anyone doubts I’m a broke writer who keeps writing, despite the lack of sales or attention generated to my work.

Is that crazy?

Perhaps crazy-making.

Anyway, if you have ideas for a name for this blog based upon the personality or content, go ahead and leave it in the comments. It may be awhile before it changes, as paypal let me know (through the very convenient monthly updates) that my balance is $1.42. [Thank you Paypal].

In more recent news: an editor for a NY publisher, I met on Twitter, sent me a DM recently and through email, I ended up sending him a copy of Nexus, along with a synopsis and all other relevant information. [Did I mention he’s from a NY– that’s New York–publisher?]

I don’t want to jinx this, but from what I understand, some of the new publishing ‘houses’ are more like PublishAmerica. BTDT.

They don’t offer advances to authors, require a long-term contract and don’t market well.

I’ve only seen a couple of blurbs about this particular company, but most of the information has been speculation. So for now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping this turns into a genuine offer.
————-

The job hunt: I’ve applied to several different jobs in Siloam Springs and am seriously thinking about writing about this experience. It’s amazing how many companies paying minimum wage ask you to devote your life to the position.

In fact, an app I filled out this morning for a food service position had the little agree/disagree buttons you’re supposed to click on.

“I want nothing more than to work in a restaurant.”

I checked the disagree button. I know they want the agree to be checked, but I just couldn’t do it.

Next week, I may post a list of the different types of positions I’ve applied for, along with some of the crazy things they ask on the questionnaire/personality assessment.

 

More posts coming soon

raingirl

Rainy days don’t last

UPDATE: I’ve finished the material for Kickstarter and just awaiting the review process. The video may hold up that process, because it is really amateurish. I’m a writer, but unfortunately not much of a film maker–yet.

I haven’t been writing many blog posts lately, because I really have been working hard at getting things done with Taria of the Dead.

Some of it has nothing to do with writing. I’m waiting to launch the Kickstarter project until Friday, so I have everything in order. Plus, I’m working on another video about the making of Taria of the Dead. It’s challenging, but slowly getting done.

Plus… I’ve been conducting an intense job hunt. I can’t even count how many resumes I’ve sent out at this point, or applications I’ve filled out at local businesses.

So, the blog has suffered for it a bit.

But more posts will be coming this way soon.

In the Huffington Post

An article in the Huffington post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yolo-akili/black-female-super-powered_b_2659118.html

This difficulty to write white female superheroines (or, depending on who you talk to, Kryptonian and Greek superheroines who look white) has fallen down even more so on black female superheroines, who not only become victims to the white male sexist imagination, but, among other things, it’s racist stereotypes. In fact, with the exception of the X-men’s Storm, there are not any other widely recognized black superheroines in American culture.

Let’s see if we can change that.