Week 22

I started this last week after Week 21’s posting with a plan to continue looking into quiet and the need for it. But, like the man says, “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft agley” (That’s Robert Burns from “To A Mouse”). You may know the translation and/or the novel by John Steinbeck that 10th graders routinely groan about reading (if they only knew what deep friendship the book reveals; G-d knows I’ve tried to show them). So my scheme of writing on control has in fact “gang agley.”

I’ve come to a climactic point in my current writing project that requires me to write a speech (or, as I call it in the story, a sermon) for the mouthpiece of a character I frankly despise. I’m not into giving out spoilers, but the argument is based on misinterpretation, cherry-picking “authoritative sources,” misdirection and constructing “facts” out of whole cloth (I’d prefer to keep this PG rated and so will not use the anatomical location from which the argument should sound like it’s originating). Frankly, the process is almost as hard as writing the death of characters I care about. It’s making me want to scream, “No! This is all B.S.!” but it seems, in this first draft, the sermon pertinent to the plotline.

Still, I’d rather have to recreate the 27-page research paper I had to do in high school on life after death than write this patriarchal smoke and mirrors. That research paper, by the way, only took two months of researching via card catalogs, note cards, short outline, complete sentence outline, handwritten first draft and nonelectric typing of the final draft. And it broadened my mind to new points of view, as opposed to what I have to write for a character now, which offers to slam the doors of social progress shut, padlock them with all the ills I mentioned before, and then try to solder the lock in permanent ignorance.

Like so much of what we hear and see today that is misrepresented by political candidates and the media that worships them, it has little to do with making life better for all of us. It has everything to do with maintaining control. When we’re young, we learn self-control in body and temperament. Well, most of us learn the temperament one. Given the schoolyard name-calling fest that’s passing for political discourse these days, I’m not so sure. Somedays, it seems the best we can hope for is bladder and bowel control from these so-called “leaders.” The self-control that causes people to tell the truth seems sadly missing from most of them.

Now, somebody once told me that control is an illusion. After a nearly eight-day stretch of trying to function with alongside these whirling dervishes I encounter every day, I suppose there’s some truth in that. However, let’s be clear: no one can function with no control over anything. Try typing a sensible sentence without controlling what keys your fingers hit. Go ahead. Try it. You get into the scenario of a large number of monkeys typing and eventually coming up with something resembling Shakespeare, but how many of us would sit at the computer that long without a break?

It falls to me to control my own aversion/nausea and finish it, even if it means letting this buffoon speak through an innocent without dissent. I have to hope that whoever reads this, should I ever get to a final draft that will be published (yet another thing somewhat out of my control) will be able to find the holes and extrapolate the faulty logic and other reasoning to other things they see and hear. That control is within each of individual’s grasp.

We cannot control things external to us. The only control, then, that I know I have and must believe that we all have, is control of our selves, our reactions, our responses. And I will go back now to controlling mine and finish that damned sermon!

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