Sunday, July 1, 2007

Some more feedback

Though this isn't much of a big revelation, I thought I'd send it out into the void....

I spoke with a friend -- Jo -- about a week ago about the work. She'd had a bunch of pages for some time, and when I got to her place the pages had a lot of comments and questions all over them. It's really heartening to see that. She asked me to explain a few things about what I'm trying to do, and as I explained the themes I've got, well, it flowed out of me nicely. So I guess I'll try to recapture that here.

I've taken the Noah's Ark myth and adapted it so that I can talk about what most interests me, which is the "mythological aspect," for lack of a better phrase, of: ecology and the environment; humanity's horrific impact on same; evolution; etc. I can't claim to be deliriously happy with my choice of original inspiration -- even when I started the project I felt that the biblical Flood Narrative is overused and a little trite [the recent movie with Steve Carell only highlights this, and deserves its own post].

Yet it's this particular tale that best suits my needs. The same is true of the central plot device: the backbone of my story is that the Termites eat the Ark. As before, this sometimes strikes me as a really overly-predictable and trite plot device, but everything I'm trying to do hinges on this choice that these characters make. They make their choice for two reasons: first, because they [feel that they] have no other choice given the circumstances, and second because it's their primary function to consume. It's the same for our species, and it's led us to the world we live in right now.

Though I could ramble on regarding the human situation here in 2007, it's back to the work at hand. In my story the world ends several times, but each ending is simply a transition to the next thing. If we look at the fossil record as interpreted by paleontologists, we see a series of mass extinctions (and if we look at that same history from the point of view of an artist, we might well think of different themes; ideas; attempts; paradigms; each tried out for a time and then discarded). There seems to have been five of these, and we are currently living in the sixth. What makes this one unique is that this is the first one to be caused by a single species of life, as opposed to, say, impact from an asteroid...
But in each previous case, when up to 90% of life on the planet was destroyed, enough was left to carry on. And what came next was completely unlike what had been before the event. In the current case, we won't be killing off quite that large a percentage, but it still might well be enough to ensure our own demise.

But again, I digress. The course of my tale thus mirrors what happens in Nature. There are other themes, but this is a big one: redemption through evolution. And, moreover, play as expressed through the medium of organisms. Now sure, some may say that this kind of talk is ripe for accusations of "Intelligent Design." I'm not sure of how to respond to that; on the one hand, I find ID to be an amusing, even pleasing notion because it helps me in some way to make sense of the universe. This follows the Vonnegut model propounded in "Cat's Cradle," wherein religion is a bunch of lies [read: a story] that makes one feel better. Well ID is just that bunch of lies for me, and perhaps for others too.

On the other hand, it seems clear that ID is most likely a sneaky tool created and manipulated by those who would seek to introduce some faith-based quasi-Christian thinking into public-education and general discourse, thereby displacing the good ol' rationality and egalitarianism embodied in the more neutral scientific-method approach. This is troubling of course. Not only do I have no problem with scientific thinking, but hey it's quite useful in many cases, and has gotten us out of some jams. (Gary Trudeau did one or two great strips on this topic in Doonesbury -- a doctor has to tell his patient about the fact that an infection has evolved in response to the drugs administered. I wish I'd kept a URL for that particular strip.) The fact that some of the craftier Jesus-heads may well be using ID for their own political ends is regrettable and unhelpful, but then people will tend to be disappointing sometimes, won't they?

As a consequence to this perceived attack on evolution, parts of the scientific community are lashing back, to the result that one who may wish to point out to patterns in nature may find himself in a duck-and-cover kind of place. I've got this group of essays I've been fooling with for several years now, and they focus on the recurrent themes found throughout Nature. I'd like to see them published -- or at least like to start sending them out there -- but I haven't researched the markets much, and I'd dislike the prospect of having to defend my views against those with better debating skills than myself.

Jo said she'd like to see more of the epic, which is great and I'm happy to oblige [I may well be reading some of her stuff too]. I told her what I've told others, which is that the sad thing about writing an epic poem is that it's the literary equivalent of an edible insect business. Meaning that it's completely unmarketable.

Or maybe it's just a longshot.....

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