Tag Archives: shock value

Critical Readership

In response to “What are some techniques to help me read critically?”

Read sitting up, not leaning back.

Read with a pen in hand, and point its tip toward the page, as if it's a knife, ready to cut.

Read with your mouth; read aloud sentences that might have rhythmic qualities.

Read Nietzsche or another philosopher who requires two or three passes over a passage, to fully grokk.

Read angry, filled with bile and disappointment.

Read as if the house is on fire. Read as if this text is a link to your mysterious past.

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Believing is like Dreaming: a byproduct of intelligence

In which I urge a writer to explore his character’s doubts, rather than the deploring of others’ faith.

 

My personal take on religion is that it is a housing for experiences of an extremely personal and powerful effect, and over the centuries it has moved away from that, to a more or less impersonal aggregator of communal opinion, that seeks to mold the internal verity to an external denominator.

However (and this again is my personal take), both the disbelievers and believers base their beliefs on their own experiences. And when your character declares that he does not believe, that is not a lack of belief, but a (positive) belief in the lack of reality (negative value) of the religious experience, based on his dislike/mistrust/refutation of the religious doctrine.

Were he challenged by a [man] who uses religion not as a way to constellate the self in a cult of belonging — but rather as a way to communicate “deeper” or “uncommon” notions of connection, meaning, faith, and self — what would your character say to defend his belief that religious experience is a lie? How would your character hold up under a patient, reasonable examination of his certainty (absence of doubt) that there is no God? If he were to discuss his “un”belief with an intelligent inquisitor who insists on the psychological value, rather than the cultural influence, of spirituality — what experiences would he share? In his past, were there any moments [in his church] where the rituals fell away and he merged with something greater than him? What were the instances when his doubt emerged—the first cracks, leading up to the final shatter, which forced him to be honest with his own experience?

Believing is like dreaming: it’s a byproduct of our intelligence and imagination. We can’t not do it. And if some are convinced they don’t, it is more likely that they are not conscious of it.

(I in no way mean to say we all believe in a certain Something, but that belief itself is an attribute of human beings)

And a parting query: Can we doubt our dreams, while still allowing for their significance?


In Defense of Myth

In a writing group I’m grateful to be a part of, I got called out for using masculine and feminine stereotypes. Here is the tail-end of my defense:

Literature follows an escalating curve: from myth to legend to romance to novel to “meta-fiction.”

Each tier has its own laws and guidelines, and when I go into myth and fairytale I assume a thicker pen, and a brighter palate.

In the beginning, there are binaries — single celled organisms who eat and poop and not much else — cartoonish representations that, as time progresses, descend/evolve into increasingly complex entities, with more dextrous appendages and greater amounts of volition and articulation.

Which all goes to say: I totally dig what you’re saying [about the adverse effect of stereotypes on actual people], but when we invoke the giants, they lumber about clumsily, tangling powerlines, toppling celltowers, smashing through our warm little domiciles with careless momentum. They have massive digits good for pushing and pulling, and use simplistic, deafening growls for words.

Likewise, there will be nothing so evocative as talking about “The White Man” or “The Angry Woman” — there’s something about these terms that move us on a primary level, and they force us to reckon with or reject them outright — but still, even when we deny them defiantly, they irritate us with their repulsive attraction.

As to why there’s such a breadth of form in this collection — I’m not a polymath, but I am a polygenreiste. I’ve always worked in multiple forms, partly because any given style doesn’t encapsulate what possesses me to be expressed, and partly due to my Intention Surplus Disorder (aka “over-ambitiousness”).

The problem, however, remains ‘accessibility.’ My myths always require commentary, and my commentary is too rapid and changeable to hammer down into a flat, print-worthy form. I blame this on the woman in me, who speaks in loops and purls — who the man in me can never peg down to just one definition, or statement, or even climax!

“Riddles and hogwash!” hollers the centaur, as the little girl draws her questionable answers in the receding surf.