This week was a big deal to me because I have given notice at work and am applying to graduate school. I maybe should have done it in reverse order, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the state that my work is putting me in is no longer healthy. So, back into the job market I go.

It was interesting though, because part of the reason that I want to go back to school is so that I can write more. But I want it to mean something, too. My fiance thinks that I can write things to change the world, and I’d like to think that one day I can learn how to do that. But I mostly think I want to learn how to write to understand people and have them understand other people too. Or at least make space for that to happen. I’m not sure yet.

It seems like the more connected with technology and everything that we get as a society, the further away we get from understanding each other, sometimes. It’s easier and easier to pretend that you know about someone or something because you’ve heard about it on the news or read about it on Wikipedia. But it’s not really the truth. I know what was on the sites and in the media sources that I happened to contact, but it doesn’t seem to really matter what the issue is, I don’t know enough about it. I certainly don’t know enough about it to make judgments. Sometimes, I don’t even think I know enough about where I came from to make a statement about it. I feel like I have to start everything with “I feel like”, even if it’s something that I lived through. (See, it’s a joke-thing.)

I think some of this sense of knowing what’s going on is the reason that it’s getting harder to talk to people who have different views, because it’s really easy to assume that everyone has the same knowledge base and backgrounds that you do, and to disagree at all is a stupid decision. Because no one really sets out to make decisions that are stupid.

Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that.

But it certainly seems like people have reasons for doing all sorts of things that I would find weird, or sometimes stupid, like the guy who was going WAY too fast even on the highway and weaving like the dickens, or voting opposite to me, or even having priorities that make absolutely no sense (to me).

They aren’t any less important, or less reasoned, though. And I think part of why I want to write in such a way that impacts how we interact with literature is because it’s important to make sure that there is still space to have conversations across divides, and across backgrounds. And I think even the stories we read are adding to the polarization more and more.

It’s like how if you read Finnish folktales, there are clever heroes who can lead monsters off cliffs and into other traps. (Not to pick on Finland. It just came to mind first.) There are also German wolves and Witches, and how in England you see Jack defeating giants and other such from lands far away. And how there’s the recurring theme of the monstrous, the foreign, or the Other, something that is more powerful or not something that can be understood which comes into the hero or heroine’s space and has to be dealt with. Often, it’s by death or banishment. Sometimes, you can appease the stranger. Then you have stories of snakes in India who are fed milk and become allies, or foxes who bring luck in Japan when they are left to live under the house, or cats who bring their owners help. Or even in Russia you have stories of young women who go to see the witch and by working hard and their own innate virtues are able to receive backing.

But I keep seeing things set out as either or. Zombies and Aliens introduce the foreign which must be killed in certain ways or warded off, vampires become sparkly and yet as deadly as before – as if we suddenly are star struck and must be drawn even more surely into the trap of an unnatural life. Fairies may not appear the same way as they once did, or Coyote, but they still have a presence that we feel.

In Disney, the princess can’t want to just find romance anymore without being seen as weak and one-dimensional. Nor can she be white. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for more and more diversity. I love the way it contextualizes our human experiences. But the definitions of what you can and can’t be are particularly strong in Disney.

We have Ayn Rand and Philip Pullman, J.K Rowling and Bill O’Reilly, and any number of politicians, and we also have Steven King, and Toni Morrison, and the diversity is not enough because as soon as you start down one train of thought you get set on the track.

It’s important to lose your way when you are writing, and moreso when you’re reading. It’s important to know why you think what you think, and why you feel fear or anger when something crosses that belief. I need to see more instances of people working with eachother from diverse backgrounds, and that doesn’t just mean race, or gender, or culture. I need there to be a populace of literature. It’s not a dying art, just because we are coming to the end of the Gutenberg Parenthesis.

Brief aside, since that is a nerd term and I don’t want to assume. The Gutenberg Parentheses encompass a period of time in which we have been able to change how we produce and engage with literature. Before the Gutenberg printing press came into being, words and language were preserved and treated as holy in many ways in the west, because the elite and the religious groups who had the time and wealth to produce and upkeep copies of copies of copies of what few texts were worth preserving physically chose which were worth preserving.

Oral storytelling and information is harder to keep record of in that way, but it is equally as important, as a side thought. It just chooses to preserve different information and tales.

SO, when the press was invented, it provided access in a completely new way than people had had before, and made it much easier for literature and writing to be shared in that way.

Now, we are coming to a period where more and more of our knowledge is being preserved online or on the cloud or wherever you want it to be kept. Books and the printing thereof had gone through traditional publishers, who could be the new gatekeepers of knowledge and the flow of access.

But now, if you don’t want to publish through those keepers, or they deem your work as something that they don’t want to have associated with their name, you can publish on your own, online through blogs or even through books. It’s still hard if you want book form, but anyone who has access and things to say can make a blog or a site or whatever it is, and share what they want to say that way. And so the parentheses close and we move on to the next stage of disseminating information.

I think that’s another reason why people are scared. What information do we preserve? Can we control who gets what information? Can we eradicate things that we disagree with, and if we can’t, can we shield those like us from things that might be upsetting?

I don’t think we should choose what to preserve or allow to be disseminated, necessarily. That doesn’t mean that everyone is right, because there are some thoughts and movements that we have as a whole in humanity which are cruel and lessen us by their existence, but to paraphrase an officer I heard on NPR, it’s important to know what those who are not like you are thinking so you know what you need to be ready for. Whether I like them or not, it’s important to understand where the person is coming from and then act accordingly. That doesn’t even mean that you have to agree or embrace the person who espouses those views. Sometimes it’s better for them and for you to make it clear why you think it’s reprehensible, or dangerous. But we all live here, and we all have space, and I think to deny that is inhuman in and of itself.

In order to see the best of humanity, I think you need to have a good idea of what at least conflicts with you, because otherwise you can’t learn. And you have to learn in order to get better. You can’t just pretend nothing has happened; you can pretend that you’ve found a better way to get through life and when you do that, you can find a new way to do it.

So I want to write stories and discussions that make you think about things, that make you stop and safely consider why you believe what you believe, and what you should do about that. Things that lull you to sleep and are pleasurable to read, and make it easier to create a peaceful space between you and your neighbor, or that one person online who you just have to troll, or talk about at work or with your friends because they are so awful.

I think we need more of it. I don’t want to see apocalyptic futures which fall further and further into darkness; they have their place and I honor the writers who are able to think in dystopian despair and grit. I can’t do that. I want to brainstorm a better future, even if it comes after apocalypse and complete disorder. Humans are really good at surviving, adapting, thriving, and rising above. Why would this be our peak?

I think we can do better.

I always find it funny how optimistic about that. I usually don’t think of myself as all that positive about things like the future or humanity’s life choices, but this can’t be the best that we can do. We’re too divided. If we weren’t, it’d be a different discussion.

So, that’s why I’m going to grad school. I want to hone my skill and continue to think about how the best way to influence our conversations into being healthy debates instead of heated arguments. If we can find a way to talk about the issues that divide us we can make progress. We can be well. And I really hate being sick.

So, the rant about grad school. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about gun violence, today, or anti-immigrant tensions, racism, or bias, or something else, but there’s been so much and I just actually want to make sure that my voice is being used, even if no one is listening? That’s fine. I will know that I said it, and reasoned it out somewhat, and then when I go out again I should be able to make a better foray into fixing all the things.

Again, please be safe, O Reader. There have been too many things lately for me to not worry.

Advertisements