Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ignorance is bliss ... maybe

A note from the point man in a veterans' writing project asked last night if I would be interested in working with a former Vietnam war medic who wanted to put together a book that would stitch together the letters between him and his wife during his tour of duty.

I said sure and then wondered at my audacity.

The written word is such a god in most lexicons. The internet is proof positive of the belief that written words can convince from a high and assured place. If something is written down, it takes on an elevated truth and credibility ... it becomes, somehow, truer than true. If something is written down, it codifies and enhances the experience it describes. That's one view.

But my view is that words are limping soldiers at best. From that perspective, words are OK ... they are second-class citizens when compared with the experience they describe, but even shadows have some usefulness when describing the sun. Frustration arises when people imagine that words can actually say what they are attempting to say. If you doubt this, consider the sentence, "I love you."

So perhaps this fellow will be in touch and perhaps we will work something out. Alternatively, perhaps we won't ... you never know why, precisely, anyone might say they want to write a book. Is it healing, self-congratulation, importance, sharing, caring, not wishing to let the past be past, invective ... who knows?

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a writer. I knew that's what I wanted to be. And now, so many years later, I have to admit that that's one thing that I am -- a writer. But what the hell a writer is I honestly don't know.

The same thing happens in Buddhism, I think. At first, everyone is sure they want to be "enlightened." Then they practice. And then ... well, maybe they still want to be enlightened, but the blessing has descended upon them and they haven't got a clue what enlightenment might be.

It's not exactly ignorance-is-bliss, but it's something like that.

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