"She's still married to a guy in Mexico. She won't pay for the divorce...", says the wavy haired security guard pacing in front of the bookstore. For a split second, I understand why women swoon for men in uniform. I walk past with a copy of Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (a recommend by my poetry instructor Levi) in my hand. As handsome as the guard is, lust is overshadowed by a looming mysterious giant: the unfolding story hanging in the air. The "I wonder" factor lifts off from there.
In Cisneros' quasi-novel, quasi-memoir stands a blank page with one line: Tell me a story, even if it's a lie. In the next page before the book begins, Cisneros continues:
The truth, these stories are nothing but story, bits of string, odds and ends found here and there, embroidered togther to make something new. I have invented what I do not know and exaggerated what I do to continue the family tradition of telling healthy lies. If, in the course of my inventing, I have inadvertently stumbled on the truth, perdonenme.
To write is to ask questions. It doesn't matter if the answers are true or puro cuento. After all and everything only the story is remembered, and the truth fades away like the pale blue ink on a cheap embroidery pattern: Eres Mi Vida, Sueno Contigo Mi Amor, Suspiro Por Ti, Solo Tu. [I apologize that all the accents have been removed due to laziness and the English keyboard.]
Perhaps I have been influenced by too many artists, memoirists, poets, quantum physicists, and Sri Ramana Maharshi in the last two weeks. Not to mention my own mystical experience at the St. Francis de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos. What is time, anyway?
Perhaps "truth" is murkier if you are speaking about the truth as past, as history, and not exactly in Krishnamurti's "Truth is a pathless land" sense. The past that I remember is constantly changing. We re-construct the past in our heads. A running stream of continuous thoughts like the thread that keeps the beads strung into a necklace. I cannot grasp or bang against the past in any tangible way. It's slippery.
Something's shifted: the past doesn't feel as real to me as now does. Time stands still more (the present used to be sandwiched to smithereens between the past and the future for me). Today's metaphor feels more solid than yesterday's details ever were.
I can write into the now, now. I write into the experience I'm having now. I decided to write about the tsunami last week. Writing the past is difficult because it isn't happening now. It feels like traipsing into an musty attic pulling out scrapbooks while a sunny day beckons. Yet I was feeling sick to my stomach and sensing a rising resistance to writing on the topic now. I had haunting images now. Unmeditated, unplanned. Fresh like rain or a pleasant kiss out of the blue.
"It is of vital importance that a poet does not prematurely discover what his or her poetry is about. Rather, the poet prolongs aboutness as a state of becoming." - Dean Young, "Ten Tokes", Poetry, July/August 2005
Even though some of the contents were in the attic, the prose poem I wrote was definitely not a rehashing. I'd gone exploring out in the sun.
Tony Hillerman, last week's conference keynote, also concurs: He can't work within an outline either.
Cognitive psychologists say we can remember our experiences differently and we are changed. The story I would tell about my papi a year after his death, ten years later, last year are very different. I am different. When I began last Father's Day, I didn't think I had anything to say. My dad was mostly a figment. Yet, the tears as I wrote happened right in the present.
Maybe I'm just fooling myself. That I'm discovering anything at all. "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so," quips Douglas Adams. The past, present, future are simultaneous in the spacetime matrix. And what of kismet, fate, destiny? In The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, the Arabic philosophy, maktub, is invoked as if past, present, future timelines are scribed ahead. It is written, it is written, it is written, rings throughout.
Maybe we write our selves into existence like the Aborgines sang themselves into existence. An ad for Ojo Caliente's pottery and clay workshops promises: "Explore your soul through a 600 year old tradition." I laugh, six hundred years! Writing and speaking go a bit further: "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1:1). I prefer as Maharshi advises not to see my own self as the doer, but to identify with the current of the river doing. "I" am not the writer, "I" am a pencil in God's hand, Mother Theresa said.
I say the present can erase and redraw the past. Hillerman talks highly of the Navajos that feature in his best-selling mysteries. Albeit a Christian, Hillerman states that "Christians talk about forgiveness. Navajos do it." The Navajo language accords little significance to past or future tense. I wonder if this focus on the present eases one into forgiveness? Eases one into the future: says Desmond Tutu, "Without forgiveness, there's no future." I wonder if I write healthy lies if I will ease myself into acceptance, forgiveness, compassion.
I wonder then if they are lies at all.
I see the artist as a mediator, transforming ideas from one [tangible] source into another more esoteric, symbolic form. - Felix Virgil (Alas, the image to left doesn't do Felix's mixed media works justice. I love his work. This is Harvest Sun.)
p.s. Sorry I'm not ready to share the writing piece I refer to on a blog yet. Some things just don't work so well in this format.
p.p.s. How's this apply to business? Don't write about anything, write into it for a fresh outlook. For instance, I would like to discover a business plan (which slightly resembles writing one ;-)) out in open on a blog starting next week.