Thursday, March 24, 2011


I felt stuck in my driver's side seat. I sat, holding hands with my coffee cup, soberingly awakened to the stakes of history, and my share in it. Horrible stories of humanity voiced themselves through wavering British chords. We are merely players and do not get to pick our stage -- but, this is unscripted...we chose our lines, and we can pencil in which little white-taped "X" we will walk to; and standing upon it, what words we'll say. A man's voice hemmed me into the blue fabric seat. I couldn't see him. I couldn't move. And it wasn't because of the old 2-point buckles my car has. You know, the kind that strangle you? Especially when you're short (like me). While this strangulation happens more frequently than I'd like to admit, this time, the belt wasn't at fault -- nor was my height. My ears anchored my body -- stay...listen...
The radio fuzzed on frequency fumes, lost in labyrinth fields. But the man's voice went on...

"Western civilization is a civilization determined to outlaw tragedy. If removed, the interpretation of tragedy and the presentation of tragedy promise shaman, who's sitting by the bonfire, you're telling the tribe nothing of real life. And it doesn't prepare us as adults. It's infantilizes us and it dodges an enormous responsibility.And all great mythology that we love and respect has included loss and tragedy, as well as great moments of salvation. It's braided in."
And my outlaw thoughts moved in...
...making room for sadness...for tragedy. As a culture, we like to lock them out though. Slam the door in their face before they can get a downer of a word in edgewise. Stick your head in the proverbial sand and everything is ok. If you don't see it, it isn't happening. We don't let ourselves sink into our thought troughs full of dirt. Sometimes, allowing the dirt to bury us...even, alive. No -- no, we must always be clean. Presentable. With it. Together. Dr. Jekyll's highs are never allowed to be Hyde's lows. Attach a disorder and medicate. That, is how we deal...
...we "moderns."
The diagnosis used to be one's "constitution," for everyone who makes up this world is made up differently. And the medication? Creativity -- music, painting, writing....the arts...they doctored, healed, restored, and grew acceptance of ourselves...
Is it silent?
Now, think...
...about the great works of literature, the paintings, and the symphonies, which would have been lost to modern medicine. Medicated away...medicated away along with genius. Tragedy. It is the foundation of all good art, all good stories, and all true beauty. It is the shaman's divination between generations. It is the storyteller's meat and potatoes...they get to add the spice.

Last night, I listened to a aloud. Darkness rose cloudy on a worried world...the wind raged obscenities, blowing in a wildfire's smoke from miles away. The storyteller brought a plate of food to the table. We shared, hunching over the frittata like two coyotes over a carcass. He took off his boots. And his hat. Leaning back, voice warmly whetted with wine, he began to speak -- of love and loss, of a river's question wondering in its wandering why, and a girl with a four-letter-E-name. Just like mine. His hands waved emphasis into the air and he conjured different voices, it was like he had a magic tracheal chameleon. I felt like a kid again and wanted to ask, "Just one more chapter...please"?!

But, I am in my own chapter -- my own story -- the sentences, words, and punctuation within it. I have been placed on this stage. I have played many parts. I am writing my script. And these stories, if they are worth writing, reading, and telling, somewhere along the line they bear the scars of loss...pain...and tragedy...the language of real life

Infancy, after all, should be outgrown…


  1. I think it best that our part in the play is unscripted. If I would have known some of the outcomes of my paths I would have stood frozen unable to proceed, to live life. Your life has been a hard one, but when you look at all you have lived and accomplished it has been a rich one so far and you have a thread to follow.

  2. "He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews xi.8.

  3. "A man with a pen in one hand and a club in the other can walk out not knowing where he is going...and it don't matter none." That ain't in the bible, I just said it. And it was so! The gist here is that a writer who is not scared is far more powerful than god.

  4. What I meant to say, without sounding like a drunken Neanderthal:

    Writers (wordsmiths) who are not afraid to use their craft (talent) to manipulate are the most powerful people. Be it selfless (good?) or selfish (bad?)....a great orator shouting direction and veiled encouragement to a downtrodden Berlin in 1941, or a great comforter giving hope to his fellow Jews in a dining hall at the beginning of The Modern Era. We communicators have the ultimate power to give and to take. For good or for bad. In our private lives, as well. Words are the lit fires in our dark caves...pushing back the scary darkness full of big cats wanting to eat us.

    So, a long-winded (wordy?) way of saying IPOY, Erin. You are an amazing writer and an even stronger woman.

  5. I listen to NPR all the time but I missed that one. Food for thought.... as is your writing.

  6. Reading more of your blog, I found this one interesting...from both an academic and personal perspective. Permit an old man's questions, though this may be so far back (in your blog) to go unnoticed.
    You start talking obliquely about the Holocaust, and end, if I understand it, with more general observations and questions about art, life and our philosophical state.
    How do the two relate? If, in 1933, the Germans would have had a more balanced view of philosophy, a less Wagnerian view, would things have been different? If Jews, living in Germany, Poland, Russia, and the other European countries had had a less religious-based and more secular view of the world would things have been different? Would they have fled earlier, when they could?
    You end with "the language of real life"...indeed. The language you use in this post is posed mostly as questions, asked and unasked. What is the use of the 'language of real life"? Where do we go from here?
    For myself, these questions remain unanswered. In the twilight, I know I have no answers to the larger questions of life, except for myself. I have no cures for the world, and few remedies, even for myself. I've found it enough to know that my children love me, and as adults they accept my foibles.
    Take care, girl. Keep looking.

  7. Mike - ah, nothing is 'too far back' to go unnoticed. The Holocaust and the wider view of our philosophical state related in my mind because of Ben Kingsley's quote. Especially in my generation I see friends and peers shutting out the ugly things of life. Growing up on a farm, I was not able to. And now, living with a chronic disease, I am unable to as well. Constantly, I am reminded of pain, and that I do not know its cause. This was all muddling around in my head, I remember, when I wrote this post. The 'language' of real life is pain and loss and living for the next 'beautiful moment' as Norman Maclean says...until the language of real life interrupts again...