by Jennie S. Bev
Every single incident captured through the senses has at least one meaning, if not several. Meanings are both attached and given. As a writer, I give both concrete and abstract meanings to many things, since verisimilitude is a principle that I always strive for.
The truth, or at least the sincere semblance of it, gives validity and credibility to one’s thoughts. More importantly, since writing is life presented on a piece of paper, it is being alive in a different format.
And in life, we need to be clear, honest and gracious to earn self-respect.
Some writers are strictly factual, others are philosophical and the rest combine both aspects. Whichever the chosen or the natural path is, writers write as the result of contemplative activities either immediate or through a complex process of filtration.
Rousseau in The Confessions, for example, admitted he must wait for moments when he had stopped thinking before he could jot ideas down. Other writers think when they write or vice versa.
I tend to write while thinking, so the creative process simply serves as the pipeline of flowing ideas. By writing down thoughts, ideas are captured and immortalized; otherwise they would evaporate and return to nil, a waste I can’t afford.
Rousseau wrote that he was somewhat puzzled that acuity is enhanced by sequential and extrasensory distance. In this case, he believed memory enhances observations. Often, such enhancement gives illumination and enlightenment as well.
His creative process seems to be mimicking a pond, which must be filled properly and where colorful ornaments complement each other prior to being flushed out with full force into a river of lively ideas.
I admire writers who are true to their senses, which are reserved for a group of selected writers who convey their ideas with a lot of realism and symbolism.
John Steinbeck is one of them, as his works have a good balance between the two. Princeton moral philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt is also impressive in his rare capacity to make philosophical topics realistically justifiable in everyday activities.
Their ability to capture concepts within the framework of a storyline and a truth-seeking framework is remarkable.
Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit is based on a simple premise;
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted.”
Perhaps because of ignorance or negligence, this common phenomenon hasn’t attracted much inquiry, hence his philosophical one. Yet he has successfully discussed this “taboo” topic in depth, peeling back layers of what is nonsense, what is bullshit, whether nonsense and bullshit are identical –and how they are related to one another and what the hierarchy of bullshit is in relation to lying.
As a writer, sometimes I need to place an affirmation with deliberate dramatization, or even exaggeration. Yet it would be cruel to label this as “bullshit” since misrepresentation is never the intention, which can be factually proven.
For stylistic purposes, writers reinvent and sometimes insert themselves into their writings, based upon the principle of verisimilitude. We do so because it wouldn’t be fair to readers if a piece of writing isn’t presented properly.
However, to some, anything stylistic is labeled as “nonsense,” thus it is advised not to judge a book by its cover.
Giving specific meanings or even redefining existing claims using workable postulates is a privilege reserved for writers. And truth is the most important element.
But aren’t we all writers? Don’t we give meanings to everything and anything? We sure are writers, all of us, regardless of our penmanship and familiarity with essay conceptualization and realization. We sure are writers, even though we don’t breathe and exist eloquently on a piece of paper.
We all are writers of our own life chapters. We have the choice to fill them up with truth or bullshit. I prefer to fill mine with the former, so I can live a meaningful life with a lot of self respect. How about you?
The Jakarta Post, November 12, 2009