ROBERT WALLACE PAOLINELLI
The day is warm and conducive to mellow thinking, for slow strolls, stopping now and then to admire some view or a plant, a flower or the erratic flight of a humming bird flitting from tree to tree, space to space; a day, also, for writing, the slow process of trying to say the impossible, the ineffable, the unutterable things which men think but never say. It is said that the school of realism in art and literature should conform to nature or to real life. That's laughable: Nature does not conform; it is rugged, violent, unpredictable, tantalizing to the innocent who see beauty in a hooded cobra which bites them and then the innocent die wondering how something so beautiful could be so deadly. That is nature. Life, that amorphous, intangible, tenuous something which savants and philosophers have been examining and writing about, does not conform. Only men and their tight little conservative ideas about what life is or is not, make tribalism and social convention and expect everyone else to live thusly. If ever a thing were undefinable it is Life itself and it can hardly conform to anything because it does not conform to any rule, law, system and the like, although there are many pretentious beings who will wax prolific on the nature of life and grow angry when you disagree with them.
Goutama Buddha, the great sage of India, and Lao Tzu, who wrote the Tao the Ching, have come closest to finding a "definition" of life and to offer a few ideas on how one should conduct one's self. But being largely ignored in the West, Buddha and Lao Tzu remain enigmas to the materialistic, competitive West and in the East, where Western materialism and Marxism have taken hold, Buddha and Lao Tzu become nothing more than ancient residue that people burn incense to as did those of old who made blood sacrifice to propitiate the primordial gods.
A writer simply writes. He may write a novel, a short story, a poem, a treatise, a shopping list a "things to do," or a letter. Writing consists of letters put together as words; each letter written one at a time. That's about as fast as any writer can write: One letter at a time, one word at a time; even if a computer or an electronic typewriter is used and the typist–writer can type one–hundred words a minute, it is still only one letter at a time, one word at a time, one sentence at a time and so on. That is not difficult to grasp; on the contrary, it is very easy to understand; however, it is quite another matter to sit down and take up one's writing instrument and begin the long process of one letter at a time, one word at a time, one sentence at a time and so on.
Life and writing are unpredictable. To think otherwise is to be foolish. There is, however, the predictable, academic method of writing and the journalistic method of writing. The academic method teaches, or rather pretends to strive for clarity and espouses the concept of a well–developed, coherent essay, wherein the first sentence is supposed to explain the rest of the essay and every sentence of every paragraph is supposed to define the entire paragraph; and the last paragraph of this academic, well–developed, coherent essay, is supposed to sum up the entire essay. That is the academic way; that is a lot of tripe. Then there are the footnotes. We mustn't forget the footnotes, which will appear at the bottom of the page or on a separate sheet at the end of the well–developed, coherent essay. Thousands, nay, millions of students in our education systems (it's all a system you know) are taught this method of writing, if they digest the rudiments of this stilted, academic method––well, they go on to become the teachers of the next generation and so on.
The journalistic school of scandalous writing is about the worst form of writing in the American language. Journalistic writing begins with the premise that the writer, i.e. the reporter is––must be––objective. What a lot of rot. To begin with every living human being has an opinion and point of view. Objectivity in journalism is a farce. When an editor authorizes the following headline that editor is not objective: "HUNDREDS FLEE KILLER FLOOD." The word "Killer" is not objective. True, floods kill humans beings and animals. But what should be reported––objectively is: "HUNDREDS FLEE FLOOD," nothing more. Journalistic writing wants to create an atmosphere with its first paragraph––usually in bold face type and, according to the journalistic method the reader should know immediately: Who, What, Why, Where, When. An example: "An army veteran, John Doe, killed his estranged wife because she would not let him have his harmonica collection in the couples home, last night, police said." Now that's a very good sentence for German syntax, but is most stilted in English. But journalistic gobbledegook doesn't see it that way. Now John Die was discharged from the army ten years before and his being a veteran had nothing to do with the murdering of his estranged wife, yet time after time one will pick up a newspaper and see that same method used over and over. In the first place to call Mr. Doe an army veteran is not being objective. The very idea of objectivity is an absurdity and to believe otherwise is arrogant and stupid. No writer is objective––writing can never be objective because a human being with an opinion is writing words.
I just want to write: No method, no system, no objectivity. If I want to say that the Republican Party is the greatest enemy the United States has, I say it; if I want to say that Ronald Reagan's presidency was riddled with corruption because, at bottom, he was corrupt, I will say it. Nothing is sacred when it is public.
But writing is a lot of waiting and I know how to wait. A lot of writers feel they must crank out their fifteen hundred words or six pages a day, or whatever their daily goal is, If one is writing with a deadline with a copy editor or a publishing house breathing down one's neck, then the writer is forced to become a machine and give the "boss" his quota of piece work––such is it with all servants in bondage.
However, writing is a thing of leisure and of pleasure; it is a quiet time, a time of reflection, contemplation, a sifting through of thoughts, experiences or events. It should be done slowly with no deadline, for deadlines are for the harassed, hurried, henpecked hacks who have to please an editor when all the time the only person who needs to be pleased is the writer himself.
In ancient times when writing was only for the elite or the priests and scribes, it was made to seem esoteric, the common folk talked: They told stories, passing them down to the generations and if the story changed in the oral transmission so be it. The writing down of things fixes the subject written about; and when the written word is passed down it is done so sacrosanctly.
Writing and fishing have a lot in common: It takes simple tools and patience.
From the street comes the noises of civilization: The rumble of diesel driven buses and trucks, the roar of cheap motorcycles, the steady rumble of an endless stream of automobiles and the voices of humanity: Loud voices, calling back and forth in English, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese; the crying of children all in dissonant counterpoint with the cacophonous, raucous engines polluting the atmosphere which no one really cares about. Oh, we pay lip service to "clean air," and the august U.S. Congress passes a multitude of laws seemingly against pollution––but the laws don't work because the perpetrators of pollution don't want to stop their profits––and the people of America are hooked on their cars and their throw–away consumerism. Automobiles, chemical plants, nuclear generating plants, coal–fired generating plants, all of them contribute to pollution––but no one cares––it's the bottom line for the manufacturers and the convenience for consumers which counts. If the government and the people truly cared about our atmosphere and our earth, we would not have the horrendously deadly situation we have. However, as soon as someone can figure out how to make a profit out of cleaning up the air and the earth––well, then we will start to do something about the problem. Profit caused pollution and profit will stop it. Ironic, absurd and stupid.
I am no Marxist and I have no use for any form of communism––so do not accuse me of being a Marxist–Communist because I speak so harshly against profit. On the contrary, I like money, but I don't like my rivers, lakes, streams and oceans filled with deadly chemicals because the ugly business men who dump their poisonous wastes don't want to spend money to clean up their filth because it will cut into their profits! That is criminal, and every polluter is a criminal. We will all die buried in our own shit or choked by smog and while humanity gasps its last breath someone will curse because his profit margin has been destroyed.
One of the reasons we have so much greed is the stock market,. There men and women buy and sell, making enormous profits for doing nothing,. How can we talk about a "work ethic" when people only need to pick up a telephone or push a few keys on a computer terminal and reap thousands, if not millions of dollars while the workers of this country risk their lives in all manner of industries for a few bucks an hour? There is no work ethic; there is only greed which is now fashionable.
What is life all about? I haven't the slightest idea nor does any other man––but every man has an opinion––and an opinion about life isn't worth the price of a stale glass of beer or a cold cup of yesterday's coffee. I am the only human being who knows what life is not all about: Life is not about any of the things that any man has to say on the subject. Life is and will always be a great mystery. No one––not past or present––knows why humans are born or what their purpose is while they are alive; and although medical science knows a lot about why humans die, no man of medicine can say what death is––except in physiological terms. So what is life? Life is! Well, it just is and men go about acting self–importantly playing roles: Corporate men, salesmen, politicians, morticians, physicians, technicians, musicians, bankers, stockbrokers, real estate people.