Monthly Archives: January 2009

Inauguration Day

Short thoughts:

Now that I’m unemployed, I was able to stay home and watch the Inauguration.  Brooke and I have commented to each other a lot tonight: the excitement that has overcome the country is palpable.  The inaugural event (by my guess, probably one of the most-watched speeches in history), I thought, was an appropriate beginning.  Obama struck a fine balance between hope and work, and I especially liked the shout-out to Washington before he led the troops across the Delaware.  It’ll be interesting to see what the next few weeks have in store, now that the actual work comes.

I’m glad that our daughter will be born into a country where race does not limit someone from achieving.

In some ways, this does feel a little anti-climactic: the election night was such a huge, watershed moment.  The tears, the relief, the songs, the fireworks (at least in our neighborhood).  In some ways, it’s sort of like a wedding.  The initial proposal usually is this ‘surprise’ emotion.  Then the anticipation.  Then the actual event, which is an immensely happy time, but doesn’t have the same ‘surprise’ emotion.  In my opinion, that surprise can be cathartic, in a way that anticipated happiness cannot.  With anticipation, I think it tempers emotions a bit.  Which, I guess, is impressive that such emotion is still on display today.

The only down note was Obama’s flub in his speech: “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.”  As we all know, Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th President, thus making it only 43 Americans who have taken the oath.

I don’t know how big of a dork it makes me that I caught this.

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A Grace

So, I’m in Vermont and the snow is falling.  And, I have a little extra time this afternoon to relax, before I need to do some reading and writing and attend another workshop.  Such is the life during a writing residency.

I wanted to post in lieu of emails to let you all know I am still alive.  Perhaps, more alive than I’d like to be, as my brain is drowning in literary and philosophical terms.  Basic ones like structure, detail, character give way to more esoteric terms: negative space, subversion, literary activism.  But, I’m alive and (relatively) sane, so I have that to say.

Plus, a quote by Simone Weil, who was a French mystic:

All feelings are mixed up with their opposites.

For those of you who read this blog and attended by writing workshop, or who read this blog and aspire to write, journal, think, or know yourself, I find this quote incredibly helpful.

From a writing standpoint, writing true characters demands a recognizance of this fact.  No character, however good-or-evil-willed, feels solely one way or another.  As I write a novel about a missionary in Africa, he continues to have mixed (and contradictory) feelings.  He wants to help others; he wants to merely help himself.  He wants to become great friends with his native interpreter; he wants to strike out on his own.  I struggle to write this, as this character is such a mix of feelings and emotions.

It helps to write when I understand that I am such a mix of feelings and emotions.  I can only think of a few feelings where, through discipline or intensity of emotion or simple plain stupidity, I don’t know the opposing emotion (these are easiest to think of regarding my wife).  But mostly, I am a mixture of wanting to please people while not wanting to rely on their opinions, of wanting to sacrificially help someone while wanting to help only myself.

It’s when I realize this and accept it that I’m able to write better characters.  And in some way, live a better life: a more authentic and honest life.  For this is when I’m able to accept grace as the gift that it is, a gift that surrounds me with love and hope.  A gift that lets me think about high and lofty thoughts when the snow is falling in Vermont.

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