A Witness To Our Lives

Just this morning, I was thinking how odd it is that most of us feel incomplete unless we can put an experience or realization into words and share it with others. I marvel that their may have been hermit recluse types who lead a solitary interior life of the mind, and died leaving a trunk full of writings. Robert Ornstein speaks of T.W.I.T. (the Western intellectual tradition) to describe this show-and-tell need to verbalize, share and re-live. And yet, if this linguistic sharing were not part of our essential nature, then ideas would not be transmitted and reshaped. Then, there was that line from the movie “Shall We Dance” – “Everyone needs a witness to their life.”

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Last year I purchased my first MP3 and began downloading free public domain novels read aloud from librivox.org , one of which was Woolf’s Night and Day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I saw some DVD movie about Woolf (I think it was called Hours, not certain) and it flashed back and forth between Woolf’s own live (and suicide) and four characters the future who are somehow touched by her writings. The special features had many interviews with Woolf scholars and also the elderly son of Virginia’s lesbian lover. The old man reminisced regarding his childhood recollections of Virginia. Whenever she saw the children, she spent a long time asking them to recount what it was like waking up that morning, how they felt, what they thought. And VIrginia did this to gather “copy” for her writing; much like Annie Proulx who will sit in cafes and taverns in Wyoming, jotting down the dialogue she overhears. I have a coffee-table sized encyclopedia of Woolf repleat with photos and trivia, as well as their encyclopedia on James Joyce.

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since 1998, the Internet (first with AOL dial up) was and still is my only access to any kind of adult intellectual discussion of the sort I grew to love and need during my college years. You are doing just FINE and you should say exactly what you feel and dont worry about one-upsmanship or slamming because no educated intellectual person is worth their salt if they cannot endure discourse with those who see differently, and we are all doomed to see differently because of the diversity of our experiences and our essential natures. The liveliness and growth in discussions and essay threads is a direct result of our constant thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Several times Plato likens the process of dialectic to a weavers loom with warp, woof, and weaving shuttle. It is only a tragically small minority of adults who even care enough about these things to discuss or argue. And even is some says something which another sees as outlandish, the other profits from their endeavor to google up a refutation. So, carry on! And kudos to you for having a fine mine which is in proper working order and is not in the morgue of 20 reality shows and Judge Judy.

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Speaking of narrative style and dialogue, I met a fellow in high school years ago who was very active in the online-literature.com/forums . He sent me a short story which showed real skill in dialogue. When he was in college we reconnected and he sent me some writing. Every other word in every other sentence was the F word or the S word. I could not even bring myself to reply. It not that I am a prude. There is a side to me that is filthier than anyone could possibly imagine, but I don’t care to express it in writing. There is some British poet laureate whose most famous poem uses the F word FOUR times in the first stanza. There are some SJC graduates who think he is fabulous. I find that pathetic. When I started writing at age 12, I realized that I could easily write in that fashion, but I did not see Hemingway doing it, or any number of other writers, so I trained and conditioned myself to write and think as they did.

Woolf’s woman’s liberation essay “A Room of Ones Own is so fabulous! Every time I meet a young woman who seems at all readerly, I urge her to read that essay. Often when filling out forms in hospitals, people do not understand why my wife and I have different names. Sometimes I explain to them that a wife is not a dog. When you acquire a dog or cat, you give it some name. A wife is a person who already has a perfectly good name. And we live in a society where divorce and remarriage is the rule rather than the exception. Hence I think the whole practice is barbaric, antiquated and patriarchal, which smacks of chattel ownership.

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