Ah, the old writer’s block. What does a writer do when his creative juices seem to be dried up or are at least dammed by a weir, caught in eddy while water gushes by, hampered by a net that prevents him from moving forward with his task? Not that it’s a formidable barrier. I have listened to author Stephen Pressfield who said a writer’s first task is to—I’m paraphrasing here—to park your butt in front of the keyboard, turn it on, and begin writing. No excuses. So, Steps One, Two, and Three. Done! Now what?
I think occasionally of Ahab in Moby Dick. Of course, he was obsessed, arguably paranoid dealing with a psychosis that compelled him to take on the greatest of endeavors: To slay the White Whale that was the source, the reason for all his affliction.
Ahab was a “grand, ungodly, godlike” man who had been “to the colleges and among the cannibals” and “used to wonders deeper than the waves.” Ahab, said old Captain Peleg, despite having “fixed his fiery lance into mightier, strange foes than the whale” had “his humanities.”
My kind of guy. So, when he speaks, I listen, unlike noble Starbuck who vainly tried to reason with an insane man.
“All visible objects, man,” said Ahab to Starbuck, “are but of pasteboard masks. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?”
My question to Ahab: What if one strikes through the wall, the pasteboard mask, peers out, and sees nothing? Only a void. Emptiness. Nada. Hmm…
Buddhism teaches that all things are empty. Quantum physics says that in the end material is insubstantial, mere potentials we project and choose among infinite possibilities.
Have I lost you? No? I’ll keep at it. Yes? excellent. Down the rabbit hole we go to the bottomless well to the pit of essence. Or nonsensical rationality. Or is it rational nonsense?
Starbuck. A common-sense, rational guy. Nice man, but not one I would enjoy sitting next to in a bar or on a plane and chatting it up with. The essence of boring. They’re the ones who make the world go around, the trains run on time. Functionaries. Sports-talk radio sorts. Incurious souls who accept what’s in front of them as ultimate reality.
I was sitting alone in a waiting area awaiting work to be done on my car. The TV was blaring an argument between two macho, handsome, serious-looking men about the strengths and weaknesses of the NBA finals teams. Of course, they were actors, spewing out mindless drivel to entertain the masses. I get that. Everyone needs to make a buck. But I thought of the thousands hooked onto what they were spouting as if they were disseminating some noble truth about life.
Joseph Campbell says life has no meaning, only that we each give it, and that all great myths are about making sense of the universe. But why do we have to make sense of it? We’re the only sentient beings that spend inordinate amount of time trying to. Coming up empty we invariably concoct crazy myths to justify that which we have already come to conclude. This and that are good and those and them are evil.
Many have found their truth. Perhaps in the Bible, the Koran, or Vedic Scriptures. Or they might have listened to some great orator or persuader who has convinced them that what he was preaching or railing on about is The Truth. And they’re comforted in it. Good for them.
I keep searching throughout the White Rabbit’s den. Traveling down and through every warren, peeking into every niche.
But why? Why bother? Perhaps the answer is as simple as the strengths of the NBA finalists.
As my old friend Clint always said, “You’ll figure it out.” Well, figure out an answer that satisfies my curiosity, which doesn’t seem to be likely.