Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why I have such a hard time praying

No better than usual, she thought, washing her face. Once you come up against omniscience, any presumption of dialogue collapses.—Bradford Morrow, Ariel’s Crossing

Finally, someone elucidates what I have been trying to figure out all this time. I never knew why praying felt so awkward, so empty. I always start out saying something like: “Hi God, I’m really sorry I haven’t talked to you for such a long time. I know I’m supposed to talk to you all the time instead of just when I want to ask for something, so I apologize; I’m probably not really worthy of asking you for anything, since I’ve been such a bad correspondent. But you already know I feel badly, so I guess I’ll just ask what I wanted to ask in the first place. Of course, you probably already know this, too. I mean, of course you already know this. So sorry again for asking. I’ll understand if you don’t grant it. But of course, you’re God, so you have infinite grace, and so I’ll be really appreciative if you do. But I guess you have your own plan for things, so there’s really no sense in my asking for anything, anyway. In that case, never mind. Thanks for listening.” Now I understand why everyone teaches little children all the formulaic prayers. “When I go to bed at night/someone tucks the covers tight. Just before I sleep I say/thank you God for this nice day. Amen.” “I close my hands/I bow my head/I thank thee God/for this good bread. Amen.” “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….” Formulas make praying so much less confusing. Of course, they sort of eliminate conscious thought from the equation, too.

That has always been my problem with ritualistic religions (i.e. Catholicism): they use rituals as exclusionary measures, as ways to keep themselves seemingly “higher” on the religious spectrum than other religions, but when it comes down to it, the rituals don’t actually seem to mean much of anything to anyone, at least on a personal level. Take the Eucharist: Catholics do not allow other Christian denominations to take Communion with them because they believe that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ (once the priest consecrates it, of course), whereas Protestants, alternatively, believe that the Eucharist is merely a symbol and that the practice of taking Communion is merely an act of remembrance (“do this in memory of me”).

I would be okay with this distinction if I truly thought that Catholics believed they were consuming the body and blood of Christ. However, I find this highly unlikely. What civilized person could, in good conscience, actually eat any substance that they truly believed was composed of human flesh and blood? Moreover, this distinction is not explicitly taught to most Catholics, from what I understand. Having attended five years of Catholic school and participating in Religion class every year, I never discovered that this was the reason why I was not permitted to take Communion with the rest of my classmates until I harassed my teachers to the point where they went and asked a priest for the proper explanation.

This is not to bash Catholics. Eating kosher is pretty outdated in my opinion, too, as is the Islamic niqab. But hey, so long as everyone follows George Carlin’s Three Commandments, we should all get along:

  • Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie.
  • Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course they pray to a different invisible man than you.
  • Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.
  • Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Warm Fuzzies #3: i.e. Why I should be a playwright

    Here are some of the comments I received as feedback on the piece that my Fiction Seminar class recently workshopped:
  • This narrator is very real and believable and I can totally see this very scenario unfolding in everyday life.
  • You are an excellent story-teller and the voice you give your characters rings true. The way that you juxtapose the ordinary and the dliberate dialogue with the frantic and passionate inner-dialogue is a difficult task and yet one which you accomplish wonderfully. The manner by which you meld these two literary elements together is quite impressive.
  • Your work has an easy quality—I mean it flows easily and smoothly, drawing the reader in. The detail is great.

    From what was said in class, I apparently rely almost too heavily on dialogue. “More telling detail,” my professor demands. “The character revelation is in the detail.” But at least I am telling a story people believe and are entertained by—in that manner, I am achieving my goal. However, I definitely have a penchant for dialogue. Perhaps I shall try my hand again at playwriting?

  • Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    My Favorite Comic...Enhanced

    One of the coolest comics, but now even better: Garfield Minus Garfield

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    A Writer's Agony

    Why is writing so terribly, terribly hard? I feel like I am being forced to create a mess while knowing that I’m going to have to spend just as much—if not more—time cleaning it up. The “cleaning” part doesn’t bother me, but making the mess does. I’m not a messy person; I’m neat, I’m organized, and I’m efficient. And it takes so darned much work to create this written mess, so much time and effort. Yes, cleaning it up takes a lot of work, too, but at least that time and energy have something to show for themselves, in the end.

    I understand that making the mess is necessary for putting up a structure. This is the case in physical building construction and it is the case in story construction, too. The problem with story construction is that this scaffolding is made out of rubber bands and clay; it can be moved around, and it will be moved around in the revision process. The “building” I end up with may look nothing like the way I first originally structured it. So why bother? Why build anything in the first place?

    Because that’s the only way to get started building, that’s why! It’s like going to the gym—getting yourself to go in the first place is the hardest part. Usually, once you’re there, it’s not so bad and you’re usually glad you went. But getting yourself out of bed and dragging yourself through the snow…that’s the hard part. Afterward, you’re ever-so-happy you went. Well, once I have a story written, I’m terribly glad I wrote it. I completely forget all the pain and agony that went into first trying to get that mess of ideas onto paper. But making that initial mess is pain and agony. I hate every minute of it. I have to nail myself to this chair to force myself to crank out the ideas swimming around in my head.

    If I could download straight from my head to the computer, life would be brilliant. I am constantly writing inside my head—when I am running, when I am swimming, when I am stocking the coffee shop, when I am drifting off to sleep—but because I am not actually physically writing, it’s all worthless, inconsequential, and abstract “idea-ness” until I strap myself to my keyboard and set the darned things into print. I cannot wait for the day when technology allows us to fit our brains with some wires and start mentally dictating books. Then, I will be the next Stephen King.