Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Face in the Water is Not Mine

Remember the saying? The one about the flapping butterfly starting a hurricane a world away? It's hard not to appreciate so poetic a philosophical sentiment, but it's clearly full of shit. The one about ripples in a pond, though... that one's pretty accurate.

I can't recall the exact way Zen describes it, but it basically amounts to humanity being a pond, and the actions of individuals creating ripples. Ripples that traverse the width and breadth of that small body of water that is the world, affecting others along the way. Of course, we'll never see the distant changes we may cause, but they're there. A bad mood leading to words of anger leads to someone else's sad mood leading to tears, and so on.

And those are just the ripples we can see. Never mind the undercurrents.

I am not, by nature, overly sympathetic to humanity as a whole, but I do understand that everyone is connected somehow. That we are all six degrees apart is no simple drinking game. Or maybe it is, should one be drinking from the pond. I also tend to be overly sympathetic to friends in need, or friends who think they're in need. I've been rock bottom myself, both emotionally and pragmatically, and it's a shitty place to be... even if you're head is still above the water.

For whatever reason, and even I'm at a loss to fully comprehend why, I've been a "go to" guy since early in my Army career. And not just for technical or occupational reasons, but for emotional reasons, as well. Strangely, I usually found myself needing some sort of support from others, but people would still come to me for the simplest of things. The most complex, too, including things that I quite plainly had no experience with whatsoever. But, they came, called, whatever. And I was there. Even if I didn't really care, but don't tell anyone that.

Today, a rather odd thing happened. One of my readers confessed that a blog I wrote helped this person's relationship. I don't think there was any real danger of this relationship breaking up, but it was admitted that they were in a sort of a rut. Honestly, it never occurred to me that my writing had an effect on anybody, much less friends of mine. Sure, I've written things in order to try to cheer people up (see "Other People's Fires"), but they never seem to work. And, to be honest, such pieces were probably only written so I could make myself seem more important than I actually am.

Then again, maybe it's because my writing waxes poetic a little too much, and people take to that. I used to be able to write a fairly sterile piece, but lately I haven't felt like it. Hell, I haven't felt like it ever, probably. There's always some sort of anger, melancholy, false hope, etc. poking its oft-dishonest head into my work. I've been called melodramatic, despicable, crazy, stupid, inane, insane, arrogant, narcissistic, and foolish because of my writing, and while there's certainly some truth to those adjectives, I am most certainly not my writing.

That stated, this is not to claim that pieces of me aren't in my writing, and it's fairly obvious that I've been uncharacteristically "open and honest" in some recent works, but I do try to write in another pond, so to speak. Or, at least, I think I do. Perhaps my lack of sympathy in persona finds its way through fingertips into the gentle tapping of letters on a keyboard. More likely, perhaps I'm just full of shit.

Who really knows? The possibility remains that none of this is for me to decide. There's a point in writing when a piece begins to belong to its readers and no longer its author. Maybe that's what's happening here, maybe not. All I know is I'm staring at ripples distorting the reflection of a stranger.


  1. Actually, I've never heard that blog title or story of the butterfly but I get what it means.

    You know, every action we take in public has some affect on someone else, even those we do in private as it can steal from other's time, need of your attention or what have you. I often think whenever I get something really cheap that somewhere down the road I am, in myself, playing a small bit in the continuation of forced labour and child labour in some 3rd world country somewhere. It is tragic.

  2. It's just nice to know there is someone out there. If the someone out there reads what we write that is even better. If it somehow impacts on their lives and improves things, that's a bonus no banker could understand the value of.

  3. Ahh, but, you must enjoy the "other" reflection. None of us are one alone. Some are just more verse. The verse make it worthwhile.

  4. But one never knows, do they? Any piece, deep or inane, may just strike a cord with another. Just the way things work.

    I had a similar comment to a post of mine, Intermission. Knowing that someone is thinking deeply about something you write is thrilling, and a bit daunting.

    And one more thing: Thank you.

  5. You might like 'A Sound of Thunder' by Ray Bradbury, it's about those 'ripples'.

    And in regards to your comment on my blog post--
    It's funny because when you picture things like that you never really think about bodily functions, but you're so right. No toilet paper is scary.

  6. It's true, we never know who we affect with our written or spoken words. I'm a bit of an Agony Aunt as well and frankly, it's incredibly rewarding to find out that something you've written, done or said has struck a positive chord. You write beautifully and empathically, maybe that's what draws people to you so I hope there is some of you in your writing. I'd be disappointed otherwise.