At one point in "The Name of the Rose," a novel I continue to nibble at like a mouse on Swiss cheese, the protagonist declares, "Books are not to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn't ask ourselves what it says but what it means, a precept that the commentators of the holy books had very clearly in mind. [A]s for the literal truth... we have yet to see ... what original experience gave birth to the letter."
Yesterday, with my computer at the repair shop and being reduced to using a laptop I don't use comfortably, I went for a blood test that happens periodically. I was feeling pressed to submit something for the column due to be published Wednesday and most of my ideas were stuck on the computer that was getting fixed. I couldn't summon up a fresh idea and so I asked Anne, a nurse who takes my blood, what topic she would like to address if she were writing a column and could sound off at will.
"You're asking a lowly peon like me?!" she replied, as if someone who wrote an occasional column were too elevated and credible and accomplished to compare, let alone find fodder in, her modest-by-comparison. "You up there, me down here," she said implicitly, although I was actually asking a literal, help-me question.
On the drive home, I found myself wanting to take Anne and shake her by the shoulders. No! No! No! Anne knows nursing and is conversant with her life. I know a little about writing and am somewhat conversant with my own. To claim an inequality is as wrong-headed as to claim an equality. But there is something to be said for ironing out the various wrinkles in life ... this life, not that life.
And as I chewed this cud on the way home, I realized that there is no transmitting this quite useful information. Each finds out -- when s/he does -- at a time of his or her own choosing. Until then, go ahead a bash your head against the wall.
OK ... I got home and rechewed an old cud about the high school's production of "Godspell," Got the column out the door. More second-hand stuff, just like relying on "The Name of the Rose" as a jumping off point for this blog entry. Bleah.