Friday, March 18, 2011

A SENSE OF CONVICTION II

“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” - A.J. Muste

This week I briefly jumped in on a Facebook conversation. One man posted that he liked plain old fashioned characters in fiction that are caught up in the human condition. Regular ol’ storytelling, in short. I agree with him. But immediately that puts those on the defensive who read ‘experimental’ fiction. “Why can’t we read both?” one asked. Well, of course we can read from across the spectrum and probably should do so. But to say I prefer straight storytelling should not offend anyone. It is coming from my sense of conviction. I have read much experimental and postmodern fiction and nonfiction and still, I prefer straight storytelling. Now here is what may offend: I do so from a sense of conviction about the way the world is. From my personal worldview, if you will.

Let me take a giant leap back to the beginning of existence. To the beginning of the universe, if you please. There are really only two ways of approaching the truth about existence. Either A) we have been created by God and that as those created in God’s image we have an eternal purpose and… greatness, as a result of that, or B) we are all just the result of some cosmic accident that leaves us living in chaos and absurdity, fighting our way forward – struggling just to live out our time of existence in the here and now.

Now, again, I am not going out of my way to deliberately offend anyone; but either we believe that we are a part of God’s great design and purpose for the universe, or we don’t. If our conviction is that we are part of a design and plan, then it is easier for us to find a design and purpose for our fiction. (Not that we can’t experiment within our structure, but the structure remains intact). If we believe that all life is absurdity – that there is no plan for anything and that our lives are over the moment we draw our last breath – then we are free to ‘experiment’ outside any kind of set structure. “The truth is relative. There is no definitive truth. One person’s truth is just as valid as another’s.” All of these ideas grow from the so-called postmodern worldview or sense of conviction.

I’m probably not going to convince anyone to change their worldview here in my little weekly blog post. I am only going to point out that there ‘is’ a difference. I will even go so far as to say that nothing great has ever been written that was not written from some deep conviction about the way the world is. That sense of conviction was certainly different for Tolstoy than it was for Kafka. Different for Hemingway than it was for Emily Dickinson. But each held their conviction deeply and attempted to convey what they believed through the written word – through the world of their writing. That is the way to literary greatness.

For many years my wife and I have held to the conviction that the way of nonviolence is far superior to the way of violence. (See last week’s post). Over and over again we have seen the ‘miracle’ of forgiveness and reconciliation in situations that might normally lead to harm and retaliation. We have put our convictions into practice. So, when I write, that is the place in reality that I write from. For many years we have held to the belief, the conviction, that there is no place for nuclear reactors on our planet. We are not capable of handling it or disposing of it properly and so we ought not be employing it in any capacity. Not many people listen to us about nonviolence or the nuclear problem or anything else. But hey, this is my written world. And in this world I get to say what is what. This is my island. And I say we vote everything nuclear off. And just like that… it is gone.

All the Best,

Jim

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