Writing and Me

Writing is such a pernicious thing, isn’t it? Once it takes hold of you, it doesn’t ever truly let go. Donning the identity of “writer” is practically a surgery, a process that will leave the participant subtly changed in ways that they may never recognize. Maybe that responsibility to an identity is why it’s frightening to think about calling myself a writer. I merely write, arguably as do we all. Because ultimately we frame all thoughts — fleeting or lasting — into the context of words.

The skill of writing is just slowing down enough to capture those words into a script outside the mind. The science behind it is fascinating enough, studying the etymology and phonemes and diphthongs of every nuance in the study of language, but the art of it is almost impenetrable. Who can suggest why melodies sound the way they do except to throw their hands up and shrug? So what does that make good writing? The art or the science? The Taoist answer is that it’s the harmony of both; the Kantian answer is that it is the synthesis of both. Who cares? It’s enough to call it mystery and let flow good writing, judged only by the ability of that writing to most efficiently transfer the thoughts of the author into the mind of the reader, whatever avenue that happens to take. This means, of course, considering the sheer breadth of experiences in the world that writing has almost no meaning in generalities. The individual author has a task to throw into the zeitgeist of mankind their own stories, so that someone somewhere somewhen will be able to get something from distantly sympathizing with the mind of the author. In other words, it’s not necessary to write everything for everybody.

But going back to that efficiency factor of transferring thought into words… truly there is something lost in translation, right? Once we can read minds or upload thoughts directly into the brain, writing will be a dead craft, relegated to the same dusty shelf as weaving or coffee brewing. Well, certainly by that point humanity will have changed so fundamentally there’s a question of whether it’s even possible to fathom the similarities between such a society and ours. Techno-nihilism aside, converting feelings, experiences, expressions, and all of those undefined concepts into words is a process that involves analysis, which in Greek means to “loosen,” or more loosely, to break down into component parts. In short, it means to smash it apart and look at what’s inside, and this means that the gestalt of the concept is lost upon examination. Only upon examining can we then assign a word to whatever was inside, and that assignment even has a probability of error. To complicate things further, the reader then must take that word and consider the meaning of it in conjunction with all of the other preceding and succeeding words, which has its own probability of error, and it boils down to mere chance that any one person will understand the intent of the any other. Miscommunication should honestly be the expectation. How privileged we are as a species that it is not, though considering how often it happens, maybe we’re just entitled. I suppose we have thousands of years of evolution to thank for that, too.

To take apart something and transport it little by little to be reconstructed elsewhere is essentially the topographic map of communication. Creativity is its own special monster, as is story crafting, story telling, and all of the children that stem from communicating. Writing, however, is more than just the break down of ideas into words… it’s the distillation of the human desire to be remembered — to be acknowledged. Writing is the sublimation of the will to leave something behind and be immortalized, as well as the wish for an intimate connection with one other person, the reader. Should the reader respond back with writing, a two-sided relationship is made. It’s the crystallization of man’s loneliness and terror of an uncaring world, because while some writing is meant for a specific person to read, is it not the case that most authors and writers do not know the reach of their own words?

So I’ll continue to write, perhaps for someone in particular, perhaps for no one, but so long as I write for myself, I’m sure there will be like-minded people out there eventually who will read my work and think, “I understand you.”

That’s really all any of us want, huh?


Syzygy and Me

I am no expert in poetry.

The argument could be made that no one truly is, but moving past overwrought sophism, I think I can soon make it abundantly clear that my attempts at being and becoming a writing creative are somewhat juvenile. However, I will mollify my own defeatism by adding that I hold great respect for the written word.

The fact that what is deeply embedded in the mind of one individual can be transferred into the mind of another equally shuttered individual is a feat worthy of the title of “miracle.” Look no further than the prevalence of the idea that incantations can invoke magic, or more specifically the written rune of Germanic mythology, or the talismans of Fulu Taoism. Strangely, in this era of connectivity and interactivity and globalization, the shrinking world and the network of human lives that crisscross the 21st century experience can numb us to how uniquely profound communicating through words ought to be. You, the reader, capable of the super power that is mind reading at this very moment! And yet, when confronted, we all recognize such self-evident claims that words have the power to build and destroy. Then it seems paradoxical that despite this, the sheer preponderance of words produced, consumed, and recycled in our daily lives, much like the people we come across, will dilute their worth.

This isn’t really how it’s meant to be.

The history of any one word can be traced back to the very beginning of mankind. That is to say, it is possible for an all-knowing God to perform such a wonder, while we ourselves may never have access to such an archive of philology. However, conceptually, I am merely saying that any one word has behind it thousands and thousands of years of evolution that eventually brought it into the lexicon of the modern day. It is like beholding the branch of a massive, thousand-year-old oak, knowing that snapping it off harms the entire tree. How precious is any one leaf of such an awe-inspiring, ancient, living creature?

Any one person has behind him or herself a lineage of countless mothers and fathers, an immeasurable wealth of stories, each with their own soaring climaxes and settling denouements, all to produce one person. How precious is any one person, indeed. And yet, we treat our fellow man expendable, never able to observe in the heat of the moment the great pains, the twists and the turns of history that it took to create this singular, irreproducible individual. But even this, in the end, is a part of a bigger story.

I suppose to return to my original point, we may treat words and people in much the same way in that we are exposed to them so often that we take them for granted. Certainly, we do not take the few hundred or so people in our lives for granted! And more certainly, it is impossible to grieve for the two hundred thousand people who die every day. I would be the greatest hypocrite if I should say that I am an exemplar in this regard. I’m prone to the same numbness! Stepping on another human being in order to move ahead is just the way of this world, is it not? It is eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, survive or die and the strong will exploit the weak. Allow me for a moment to leave this point dangling.

What is the significance of syzygy? It is an astronomical term referring to the linear alignment of three or more celestial bodies. For instance, a solar eclipse is a syzygy of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, in that order. It comes from the Greek root word σύζυγος (pronounced suzugos), an adjective literally describing those who are yoked together, like cattle meant to till the soil, figuratively describing those who are united or bonded. It is further derived from sun- (together) and zeugnunai (to yoke), which later became syzygia to the Romans, meaning conjunction. More broadly, it is used in other fields to generally describe the unification of two opposites or paired entities.

The significance ought to be clear. It is a splendid word that could evoke so many different concepts, all conjoined into a single, odd, rare word — to an extent, a recursive word. It’s an ideal for which to strive. Joining words to concepts. Joining words to words to form ideas. Joining people to people through words. Any permutation would seem to be a valid thesis.

And to return to the dangling thread, it is this joining that can bring new life to numbness. We live on a world in which we are yoked together, in syzygy with one another to survive an existence that is unknowable and terrifying. Many of us have come to our own answers on how to live, but it cannot be shared unless it is first translated within ourselves into words and expressed. Then, perhaps we can start to understand and become the tiniest bit closer to seeing what binds us rather than what distinguishes us. To that end, it starts with me and my own words; I believe in that miracle.