Warning: this is a no-edit zone…
Back to work on Her Perfect Life today, and I’m in a bit better mood than I was yesterday. Holidays bring out the worst in some people, and while I’m usually not one of them, I’m finding I’m super-sensitive on political and military issues at the moment. I know it’s this book. It brings everything into such stark relief and while there are still shades of gray, beyond them is necessity and truth. And that’s what’s on my mind this morning.
When we write, we have a license to lie. We’re supposed to lie–to create a fictional world and fill it with fictional people that are rich in texture and substance–so real that even we forget that they exist only on the pages of our stories.
And yet for a reader to connect with a character and care what happens to them, the writer must create a character who matters to the reader. Today, I think that’s a lot more difficult than it was five years ago or fifty years ago. The rules society lived by were more clear cut then. This conduct was acceptable. That conduct was not. This most people find acceptable. That most people oppose.
But as I ponder different topics, and look around for prevailing wisdoms, I’m just not seeing as many this or thats as I used to see. More people are taking refuge in the gray areas, and if you’re standing outside them, then you’re deemed an idealist, a zealot, a person who can’t possibly be that altruistic. You’re deemed insincere.
In large part, this major shift has come from a couple generations taking a “me” attitude rather than a “we” attitude. I’ve seen more people in the last few years whose first question is “What’s in it for me?” Not too long ago, that first question would have been, “What’s in it for us?” The difference might seem small, but its impact is huge. Us might be a classroom of kids, a community, a church group, a band. It might be any group or even mankind.
There was a shift in this country to “me” and “my rights.” It has not served us well. We’ve been so focused on me and mine that we’ve forgotten we’re part of a larger group. Our bigger picture involves everyone.
You know, in this book, I’m looking at this woman and all that she’s sacrificed, and I’m seeing all the changes around her to everything important to her. And I find myself wondering how she, who has sacrificed so much, can return and still sacrifice more. Willingly. She’s not a martyr. She’s not sadistic or self-effacing. And as I look into her heart, I see why. She believes in the greater good. That by doing what she believes is right and good and true, she will leave the world better than she found it.
Some will say that’s idealism at its best or worst. But I think it’s actually just normal to human beings. When you take away the marketing brainwashing and social conditioning, you have truth at its purest form. I know this is true. I have proof.
Last night, before the fireworks, I watched a two-year-old girl, a five-year-old boy, and a one-year-old girl play. The older two were gentle and protective of the one-year-old. They shared toys, they laughed and played. There was no greed. There was no jockeying for power or control. There was no manipulation.
The kids were caring and compassionate, adjusting to play “older” or “younger,” and protected the weaker, smaller, preventing them from venturing out a door, from putting a small toy in her mouth.
People are naturally joyful, I thought. They must learn all the negative traits. And then spend a lifetime trying to unlearn them and find a balance that allows them to meet their eyes in the mirror and feel content and not shame.
So as I start my writing day–time to hit Chapter 15–I’m thinking about the kids. And I’m convinced that adults need to take lessons from kids on humanity.
c2005, Vicki Hinze
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