Saturday, 20 August 2016

Fighting Fires

I have been suffering from Writer’s Block for a little over a month now. I used to like to think of Writer’s Block as a convenient condition where a writer is consistently not able to come up with any type of content, mostly because he can afford not to. Although, no matter how much I try to dismiss the idea, Writer’s Block is a real psychological condition where the writer simply loses his ability to come up with new work and its duration could vary diversely from a few days to years, and that is usually the problem, isn’t it? the idea that this might be it, the fear that your writing days may actually be well and truly over. As a writer, it is a horrendous situation to be in.
I finished a novel called My Sister’s Keeper on the 4th of August, it is written by Jodie Picoult. One of the characters, Brian Fitzgerald, who is the main character’s father, is a fireman and, well, a part time stargazer. His first statements in the book: for every nineteen degrees hotter a fire burns, it doubles in size... Then: It is the biggest mistake rookies make: the assumption that fighting a fire means rushing in with a stream of water. Sometimes, that makes it worse... Then: A fire can't burn forever.
Fires, as I intend to look at it in this post, could be several things.
The first fire is feelings. I have been talking about feelings on the blog for the last three or so posts because I think that our feelings are not things that we ought to hide from. Feelings, just like fires, are subject to a lot of assumptions. Just the way Brian Fitzgerald opines in My Sister’s Keeper that rookies have the wrong assumptions about fighting fires where to them it only involves rushing towards the fire with a stream of water, people also have very inaccurate assumptions about feelings: that Person A feels this or that way about them, that Person B would react in such and such a way when confronted with such and such a comment or such and such a threat; that Person C would get angry when they say this to him or Person D would love them when they do this for her. This is probably why people act the way they act towards other people and it defines even more important characteristics such as goodness, friendliness, kindness. These characteristics are interesting because they are subject to what different people consider them to mean i.e., they are also relative. However, a good person is probably not going to intentionally attempt to act in a way that would make Person B react unhappily or cause chaos in Person C’s countenance.
The next fire is pain and it is very different from feelings. John Green said in a vlogpost titled On Pain, ‘language is always inadequate in the face of pain.’ I have known a bit of pain and so I know that John Green cannot be any more correct about it. Words just do not cut it, there just aren’t words invented (this is assuming that words are actually invented) yet that even comes close to describing pain. This indescribable thing could be either emotional pain, the kind you feel when you lose a loved one to death or to over-inflated ego, or corporal pain, the kind that makes you writhe. However, just the way Brian Fitzgerald says it, a fire can’t burn forever, Pain can’t hurt forever. There comes a period, either due to passage of time or an effective medication, when pain just ceases, it just stops. A second thing about pain is its irreverence. Pain, no matter how used to it you get, is never, ever your friend. And this reminds me of a beautiful novel I read once called Life of Pi written by Yann Martel, where a young man named Piscine Molitor (Pi) Patel, after a shipwreck, sails on a life boat for 227 days in the Pacific with nothing for company but an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. For 227 days, Pi and the Tiger sail together, they get used to each other more than anything else so that by the time they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker, so extremely unceremoniously deserts Pi, the only living creature with whom he has spent the last 227 days. He wandered off into the forest. Richard Parker was never Pi’s friend, He was a Tiger, Pi was a man. This is how Pi describes it, I wept like a child. It was not because I was overcome at having survived my ordeal, though I was. Nor was it the presence of my brothers and sisters (fellow humans), though that too was very moving. I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. It is the same with pain. Pain is not your friend.
And the final fire, perhaps inevitably, is fear. Fear, just like feelings is very relative. Therefore, the fact that Person A has a fear for such and such does not mean that Person B would have that fear even if Person A and B are twins. This means that it is unlikely that fighting fear can be a group thing. Even if A and B have the same fears, the steps that A would take may not be the same as those that B would take. The absolute thing about fear is that it is a side effect of thought. You can only feel fear for something that you think about, and in this way, fear can be seen as a sort of clairvoyance, with your fear, even though it is mostly seen as negative, you are predicting what the future can be. Say Person A is terrified of snakes, and she finds a snake in her wardrobe, she becomes afraid because she is predicting that the snake she is so terrified of may harm her, this allows her to take some steps to avoid being harmed, it could be running away, getting people to help her get rid of it, etc. Brian Fitzgerald said for every nineteen degrees a fire burns, it doubles in size. The size of our fear becomes based on how long we let it burn. If Person A does not act quickly about the snake she has found in her wardrobe, her fear grows and grows until a point where her prediction becomes true. Fear is a rather complicated subject. Is fear a fire that we should extinguish, like the flames from a burning house? Or is fear a fire that invigorates and inspires and motivates us, like the flames of love? I will end with a quote I found by W. Clement Stone, Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.