Chimamanda Achibie leaves me feeling like like I did when I read The Lady and the Tiger, wondering what happens after the door opens. She forces us to write our own ending or endings … forces the thoughtful reader to notice what it is we wish for on the other side of the door. In all the years since I’ve read Frank R Stockton’s, The Lady and the Tiger, I’ve never settled into knowing what I hoped was on the other side of the door, and in fact the genius of the story is that our wish for what resides on the other side of the door may change over years of living. So in similar fashion to what followed The Lady and the Tiger, I am irritated – not with the story or the author but with my own vacillating … my own carefully nurtured reasonableness that makes many options possible, desirable even. Reasonableness cultivated to avoid being tossed on the waves of irrational emotions. I tamp down fears that I will be shipwrecked by my familial sickness, and that I will undermine whatever life I build. Pulp fiction calls me back after this battering at the doors of my psyche.
by Chimanda Ngozi Adiche
“The more she wrote, the less sure she became.”
I used to think I had to wait until I was certain about something before committing ideas to print and sharing them. What’s become more clear as I start looking over my shoulder at 50 is that my uncertainty is one element that links me to my readers, to humanity itself. In a world full of icons, idols, avatars, and virtual relationships, the need we all have to process our journey collectively and figure things out together is largely unmet.
Camu and other existentialists noted our alienation several decades ago, and it has only become more pronounced as we’ve isolated and anesthetized ourselves with the latest and greatest tech toys, sporting events, mind altering substances and corporate rat races. We all need to connect and process our uncertainties, and definitely to question any certainties we think we have. Those conversations that are begun virtually must operationalize IRL or they are simply digital flotsam…the detritus of our broken relationships.
One source of my perpetual uncertainty is the shere size and scope of the inequities and injustices I see in our world. I see those inequities and injustices in every nook and cranny of my virtual and corporeal life. Yet, if the outrage I post over the plight of any group of “others” doesn’t turn into action to improve their (our) plight, then my words are nothing but noise. While I’m no closer to solving the tidal wave of inequities and injustices I see, I have learned that together we can improve so much more than we can when working alone…and we can make those improvements amidst our uncertainties and confusion about next steps or the bigger picture. We don’t need to wait for certainty in order to share ideas and actions that will lead to a better reality. Reading Mother Theresa’s biography taught me that while I may not be able to do any “great things,” I can do small things with “great love.”
Boomers, X’ers, and Millennials can act together without a certain, grand plan or identical ideologies. Food banks, lunches in the parks, shelter support, volunteer tutoring, toy drives, political activism are all IRL venues for acting on our sense of wrongness in the world around us, and are places for connecting and figuring things out together. Small positive actions taken by many make for improved collective and individual realities. While sorting food from the annual postal food drive, I pick up a tip about a new parental controls software, and my teens pick up some ideas about making varsity in their chosen sport and managing dating in high school. All the while food is sorted, boxed and delivered to the local food bank. None of these benefits require us to resolve our conservative verses liberal politics, nor to have a financial plan for the federal government to resolve the widening income inequities in the U.S., nor did we have to provide immediate solutions for global warming. The people we work with during our food drive are not our most intimate friends or family, yet they enrich us as we do them – and empty bellies get filled.
I’m not any more certain about what I need to write than I was a decade ago, but at least now I’m making more of a difference while I ponder those ideas I’d like to put into print.
I read about “ghosting” today on Rochelle Short’s (Author of Letting People In) post. It’s a term coined to indicate that someone you’re dealing with is positioning themselves out of your future – hence the term “ghosting.” They’re making themselves into ghosts as far as you are concerned.
What I’m wondering about now is how many ways I make myself a ghost? How many ways do others do the same? I have friends who follow their FB friends, but rarely post … we used to call that voyeurism, but I wonder if ghosting isn’t a more accurate term b/c it implies hovering, watching the “living,” but being unable or unwilling to interact in the corporeal plan.
Many of our Western social mores dictate that we “make nice” or speak and interact in politically correct ways, and I wonder where the line lies between abiding by social mores and turning oneself into a ghost. It’s easy to say we need to speak up about what matters, yet shouting to overcome collective deafness due to mind blindness or tech-disconnect is certainly not acceptable, nor very effective. When does speaking more quietly about what matters, at the risk of no one hearing, lead us down the path to ghosting?
“Picking my battles” and not casting “pearls before swine” have always been internal mantras I’ve used to remain calm and reasonable. I try to give myself time to look for the teachable moment, even when my emotions are burning over any given injustice or immorality I’m confronting … is that wisdom or is it somewhere on the ghost continuum?
I’ll have to keep my eye on it because I’m really not sure. I appreciate Rochelle’s post for making me think not just twice, but many times about what makes real life, real.