“What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.” Salman Rushie Satanic Verses
Sorry, Bumblepuppies, but I can’t accept that whole romantic myth that only the “…cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze” idea changes the world. In fact, I think Rushdie presents a false dichotomy.
Over the years, I discovered the virtue in surviving. This past Saturday, when I received very good news about my novel, Martin of Gfenn, I was, at first, very happy. Then, as it sank in, I thought about where I stand in relation to the time of my own life. Then I felt very lonely. The people I would like to share that moment with? Well…”smashed to bits.”
At the beginning, there were others with me — three in particular. Kirk, my brother; Peter, my lover; Wes, my friend. All of us were artists and we were united in a fine and blazing mission across future’s infinite sky.
One by one, demons found us and pulled at our feet, hands, hearts and minds. Peter fell first, then Wes, then my brother. I fought and extricated myself from my demons, only to be trapped by the same demons time and again. My “idea” held me aloft. It always beckoned from that empty sky, blazing bright and waiting. Because there is a bit of the “…cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool…” in me, I never turned away.
Unlike my allies, I supported myself. In that I learned the usefulness of the other “idea” “…the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive…” What good are my dreams and aspirations, how can I “change the world” if I am not here?
So, Saturday night, I thought about how long it had taken me to write Martin of Gfenn. I started in 1999. I wrote it completely three times. It’s had a life of its own. In 2009, I almost gave up, let go completely of the whole thing. Then I thought I owed the experience of writing it, and the protagonist, more than that. Was that “cussedness,” stubbornness, some romantic notion of “unwavering faith” or was it love? I rewrote it.
And I am here. My friends are dead, their books unwritten, their paintings unpainted. I miss them. I wish I could share the good things that have happened with them, but…
A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed
A brave and calm man will always preserve life.
Of these two, which is good and which is harmful?
Some things are not favored by heaven. Who knows why?
Even the sage is unsure of this.
The Tao of heaven does not strive, and yet is overcomes.
It does not speak, and yet is answered.
It does not ask, yet is supplied with all its needs.
It seems at ease, and yet it follows a plan.
Heaven’s net casts wide.
Though its meshes are coarse, nothing slips through.
Tao Te-Ching, 73
I wrote about this topic in detail in another post — a talk I gave last spring at a conference. The title is “Old Heroes: the Heroism of ‘Mere’ Survival”.