Buoyed by a weekend with precious family, I felt brave enough to read this.
And then I finished my coffee. Put away the laundry. Sent some emails. Not surprisingly, given that I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling lately, Cody Petterson’s essential question remained, however: “How do I tell myself?”
How do I tell myself this story?
Some instructive, guiding adverbs: Unflinchingly. Honestly. And perhaps most important, Humbly. To keep in mind that whatever I tell myself is simply my own, inadequate version. It is absolutely not The Story. Another version, guided by different adverbs, perhaps, may present itself over time. (Will Kindly join the mix? Would that be remotely possible? TBD)
Key elements: Change is inevitable. And impermanence is, to quote my current fave, Frank Ostaseski, “an essential truth woven into the very fabric of existence. It’s inescapable and perfectly natural. How we meet that truth makes a world of difference.”
Key Question: Do I insert “Nevertheless, . . . ” into my story? Do I unflinchingly list all the ways we’re doomed—but then employ that wonderful literary device referenced by Richard Powers in a recent interview?
Question: What moves you most in a work of literature?
Powers: The bending of certainty, the surrender of ironclad temperament and the surprise capacity of otherwise completely predictable human beings to forgive each other and counter the unforgiving world with a “Nevertheless.”
A couple of possible, key word neverthelesses: Indigenous wisdom. Women. Trees. Botanists. (Hmm. I think I just inadvertently googled Robin Wall Kimmerer!)
Ending: I won’t live long enough to see how this story ends. So I’m left with only that old, old way to conclude: ” . . . and the moral is:”
And that’s easy. Mourn. Now. Be grateful. Now. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with my God. Now. Shower the people I love with love. Now.
Wow. Unflinchingly is right. Cody Petterson doesn’t say the lengths to which we should go in trying to rescue what we can, but he says this is a struggle in which we cannot flinch. There are certainly things I think now in my comfort and denial that I would be unwilling to do, but I don’t know. I hope we humans don’t fall completely into redefining our neighbors more and more narrowly, and protect just our redefined neighbors and their stuff from others not our neighbors. This would be the loss of almost everything.
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