Narratives of Transcendent Origin and Power
Somewhere around a million years ago, I received a gift from a fellow writer, a book called Walking on Alligators by Susan Shaughnessy. I wasn’t familiar with Ms. Shaughnessy, but the book is subtitled A Book of Meditations for Writers, and it has a format similar to a lot of self-help/meditation books: each page features an interesting provocative quote from a well-known writer, a section about how and what we writers do, and then a kind of affirmation, e.g., Today I will write as honestly as I can, or Today I will honor my writing time, and so on.
I’ve never been big on the whole idea of writer’s block (do dentists get dentist block?), but I’ve had periods where I felt uninspired, and other periods where I got “stuck” in a story I was working on and had to go work on something else for a while. This book is a good resource for writers when they need a little inspiration, or even a good kick in the seat of the pants. Some of the readings are great, some aren’t so great, and a few are just plain weird. Of late I have used the book as a source of quotes for various social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Today’s quote comes from Neil Postman, an author I should probably have read by now, but admittedly haven’t. I see from Amazon that he has a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I like the quote, and decided to use it for an image post on Facebook. Without giving it much thought, I decided to use a mandala for the image in the background, and I posted it and moved on to start this blog post for the day.
Like a lot of provocative (and evocative) quotes, this one led me to muse about culture and politics, about the sacred and the profane. I started to go down a rabbit hole that I honestly don’t have time for today, but I still wanted to get the post out there and have it available for comment. I guess the most important thing it led me to, in my short musing time, is the notion that we need great stories. I’ve written about this before, and will probably write about it again, but “narratives of transcendent origin and power” like those that drove so much of Native American culture are difficult to find in current American culture, at least in popular culture. I hope my own efforts – Brothers’ Hand, Jana, and Miles of Files – have some of that much-needed transcendence.
What about you? What do you think about the need for transcendence, and where are you finding it today?