Sunday, April 24, 2016

For the Betterment of the Order...

I think it was Buddy Hackett who said the only book he read was the dictionary, because it contained the words of all the other books. I don't know why that would come to me this morning, but like all comedy that statement is complex in its simplicity. Since I am in the middle of the ocean on a Sunday with no sense of time, day or location I have the luxury to ponder such riddles. So if you will indulge me for a paragraph or two I am going to explore that thought. Or in the words of Edward Albee, "I write to know what I am thinking about." 
Right now I am gawking at a keyboard full of square buttons in an electronic framework. These buttons have various symbols and letters to identify them.  Individually they don't represent much by themselves.  Together in this keyboard arrangement they don't spell any words or communicate anything other than an order that is not even alphabetical.  However, if I press these buttons in a specific pattern they spell words that communicate ideas.  This process is happening at this exact moment in my life. You are decoding this pattern of letters at this exact moment in your life. We have come together in the abstract moment of now.  Simple enough so far but... 
In college I had an English professor named Mr. Roundtree. He pointed out that writing was all about the order of things.  It started with the order of letters.  Take the letters T-A-S-R, the order you chose to place those letters creates a word. The word is determined by how you use these letters.  If the order is Rats it means a group of rodents.  If the order is Tars it communicates a gooey substance of black.  If the order is Star it is a celestial body in the universe.  His point was: the order of these simple letters is ultimately the difference between communication or confusion.  
That was only the beginning of his thesis. The next step is a sentence, which is nothing more than the arrangement of words in a specific order to communicate an idea.  The order in which these words appear in a sentence is just as important as the correct order of the letters in a word.  The incorrect order of words in a sentence can be the difference between a Rat and a Star
Next comes the order of the sentences in a paragraph. Again, the correct placement of sentences in the structure of the paragraph is imperative, as is the order of paragraphs in a chapter, and ultimately the order of the chapters to communicate the story you wish to tell. So writing, he said, was the creative arrangement of letters, these individual symbols that by themselves mean very little but in a specific group order, communicate infinite ideas.
The skillful way a writer arranges his or her letters becomes a style that is as recognizable as the brush strokes of a painter or the notes in a song and the difference between artist and craftsman. As interesting as I thought Mr. Roundtree's analogy was, since I had no intention of becoming a writer It was necessary to me only long enough to pass his class. But, of all the things I DON'T remember from my college experience, this is one idea that has stayed with me.  
Here on this cruise we have added an hour to the clock each night for the last week, and we crossed the international date line and repeated a Thursday. So time for us is a very fluid and ethereal series in the moments of NOW.  In fact I would say that's what life is, only a series of present moment unfettered by time. We eventually gather enough of these life moments to assemble a story that becomes His Story or Her story much like a novel we are writing about ourselves.  Perhaps like the individual letters in a book the order of these moments determine our history.  Order becomes as important in a successful life as it is in successful writing.  
There are times we can affect the order of our lives by the decisions we make, and there are times we can not.  But there is no doubt that each moment in that specific order, in relation to all the other moments, makes us who we are. To look back with regret and wish this moment would have happened before that moment, or wish a certain moment had never happened in our life, is fantasy.  The order in which things happen in your life makes you the person you are. To change even a letter in one sentence of one paragraph of your life would make your life story different. You would not be the same person looking back on this past but a different person looking back on a different past. Our star can be come rats with very slight changes.
Our life, like a novel, is all about the order of small things building to larger ideas. Unlike a novel, however, our life has no determined ending. The future is only a series of now moments yet to be experienced.  We do our best to arrange the things we can change, knowing there will be plot twists we don't see coming.  But as long as we have the highest concept of the kind of character we want to be in this life, all things build correctly to that outcome.  
Edward Albee is absolutely correct, but I obviously have more writing to do.
As you were,

1 comment:

P. Grecian said...

I was going to comment, Jay...but as I read what you've written, I came to realize you've said it all.
Excellent, my friend. Bloody excellent.