Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

It's a joke, OK?  Today is, in much of the English-speaking world, a holiday called Boxing Day.  Traditionally, it is the day that people in service industries -- the butchers, the bakers, the deliverymen -- celebrate the holiday season.  It has nothing to do with fisticuffs.

I haven't written for a while.  Tolstoy argued that writing, perhaps all art, burbles up out of a deep well of opposition and sadness, that when we are happy, when things are going well, the source of Art dries up.  In Tolstoy's mind, the greatest works of art -- giving birth, for instance -- come only in the face of great pain and the potential for death.  Christ's atoning sacrifice, that matchless art of saving souls, caused him to "suffer both body and spirit," and to ache with a depth and intensity that moves the faithful in soul-stirring ways.  

Maybe I haven't been sad enough.  Maybe, like the character in Neil Young's "Hawks and Doves", "I just don't got nothin' to say."  That's probably not it, though.  I am convinced that our Eastern European heritage includes at least some strains of Judaism.  Given the places our family lived, it seems impossible for it to be any other way.  The world-weary outlook of the shtetl, witty and cynical and talking a wall of words, burbles inside me.  Poles, long oppressed and deeply devoted to their faith and traditions, rival Monty Python's Black Knight in their willingness to fight unwinnable battles.  That's there, too.  So is my father's Irish melancholy, and my mother's relentless optimism, her "The house is on fire; let's make some S'mores!" determination to see Hope in even the most dire situations.  Layered over all of these often contradictory outlooks is this heaping mound of Mormonism, its own contradictions -- guilt and joy, optimism and dourness, competition and cooperation, and always, always, an abiding sense of obligation, a knowing that There Is Work To Do -- smothering everything like a cheese sauce.  With all of that working, all of those emotional tectonic plates grinding grinding grinding against one another, there is always a touch of sadness, always something to say.

So maybe it's just laziness.

My audience is small, mostly indulgent family members and people who are either looking for a similarly-named wine blog, or who think "The Three Thousand Project" is a group bringing goats to impoverished Botswanan villages (Howdy, Mister Clinton!).  I don't aspire to Art, either the traditional, careful-crafting-brings-transcendence kind, or the American version, Fame and A Book Deal.  It's no more likely that some intrepid reader will see these words, and weeping, vow to Change His Life, than some powerhouse literary agent, having stumbled across this blog in his unending search for the next Julie Powell, sign me to a six figure advance and inform me that Meryl Streep has bought the movie rights.  I do, however, have some of the actors picked out for the movie version of my life.  My brother-in-law Mo will be played by Duane "The Rock" Johnson, to whom he bears a striking resemblance. My brother Nathan will be played by Matt Damon, mainly because I'm pretty sure the casting will aggravate both of them.  I will be played by either Garrison Keillor, who shares both my morose mien and my rebellious eyebrows, or the angry Elf Foreman in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", who has the build, the nose, and frankly, the fashion sense:
The one on the left is the cartoon elf.

This isn't Art.  I write because it makes me feel happy inside.  And I write because I hope that someday, my children read it, and learn something about who they are, and where they came from, and where they can turn for peace.  The scary thing about writing is realizing, once the words are committed to paper or electronic media or whatever it is you're writing on, you see that it's not as good as you want it to be, that what is in your heart and your head somehow does not make the trip to your fingertips.  Nephi wrote on metal plates, and he confessed that he wasn't "mighty in writing."  Someone -- Fitzgerald, maybe? -- burned dozens of manuscripts, because they weren't good enough, and their flaws tortured him.  In my own small and ineffectual way, I have been struggling with the same thoughts: this is no good.  This does not say what I want it to say, not the way I intended it to.  

But not writing is worse.    

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