So it starts with the realization that nobody reads. I mean, there is a small percentage of people who buy books. Of them a smaller percentage who open them. And smaller yet who pay attention to the words over their own thoughts, and smaller yet who systematically attempt to reconstruct the meaning that the author may have put there in the first place.
And this is disheartening, don’t get me wrong.
But then you notice that in a similar way, nobody listens. All the empty faced people who walk by you every day — sure there is them. And then the people who’s attention you can get by jarring them in some way, maybe to tell them that they dropped a dollar bill out of their wallet, or they grabbed the wrong coffee at the coffee house. And then there are the people at work who trade platitudes with you, most of whom never even noticing what platitudes you are spouting, never examining their own.
And you can even head out for a drink, and trade stories after the job, but then there you both are, building your banal towers of self-congratulation. Complaining about the same 10 or 15 problems that you might find being discussed on the television shows, or commercials. Democrats agree with democrats, and argue with republicans. The libertarians and anarchists pipe in with their own age old plagiarisms.
And then, and you don’t have to go this far, but lets say you do, just for the sake of argument, then you go and meet your heroes. The people who have written the books that changed your life, and you quote that one passage that you have repeated to yourself every day since you were 6 years old, and find out it didn’t mean that much to them. You realize that even your heroes, who you worship and who have shaped your thinking, who you have suffered for and sacrificed for, they don’t understand you. You find that other people worship gods with the same language you worship your gods with, only they are different gods, and their gods don’t answer either.
So then, how do you write?
When the best you might hope for is that one out of ten of the people who even ever pick up your book might misunderstand you enough to really think that you’re a swell guy? How do you write?
I see you all, in your little glass boxes, going about your lives. Your lives look a lot like mine, but I recognize that there is not even any way that I can say that. I give you a flower, and you think it’s a tree, or a pig, or a gun. You ask why I gave you a pig and I respond that the bush doesn’t in fact have red leaves. I smile and you see silver, or a leer. I can hope that maybe one day, one of you, sitting in a room as alone as I am right now will read the most charged line of a work who’s only purpose is to convey that charged line from me to you will come across it and think a thought that I am thinking in a way that you wouldn’t have thought it without me. But if the thought came from the world, which it had to if it is meaningful, or another source of inspiration, then why should I interrupt it? Someone will have had it anyway — even if there is no trace of connection between us, we both will have seen the same star.
So how do you write?
At best redundant, at worse destructive. Mostly useless. Not really alone, but walled off by glass, party to a million misunderstandings, buoyed by accidents until you are sunk by one.
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