Amazing. It happens that the tidal wave of paper I face on a daily basis occasionally leaves a treasure on the shore.
A number of years ago, a revered publisher-editor was kind enough to take a look at my ideas for a book. At that point, it had the working title “Touchstones”/or “Philosopher’s Stones.” Both those titles refer to the ancient practice of alchemy based on the belief that the application of the stone might have the power to change base metal into gold. The title options suggested that by applying some general observations or insights to very personal experiences, they might become more understandable, or at least a bit more transparent. In short more human.
At that point, the manuscript had to go into forced retirement based on the need to earn a living by starting a business. But the wisdom of that kind woman continues to ring true and provide me with a trusted guide to making the original ideas more accessible to the reader now that I may be able to revisit the ideas, armed with her insight. So, whatever this book’s future, what will not change is that it will be a better offering because it takes into account the penetrating vision of a person who was and remains a champion of clarity and good sense.
Let’s look together at some examples of how her penciled-in questions and observations will, I hope, make the final book worth the time of those who will read it.
Consider my original statement about the essentially mysterious experience of falling in love with one person and not another. Wondering in print why it is that an “us” emerges out of any number of people who were heretofore members of an amorphous mass called “them.” A process defined by the formula “if x, then love.”
I ruled out the suggestion that the people falling in love are responding to an instinct for recognizing an individual as looking/feeling/acting like one’s blood relatives. “Ying and Yan” were also ruled out as the explanation for recognizing a singular us versus the crowd known as “them.”
How about common commitment to an idea or ideal? Maybe not workable since people are not just minds or ideas. I suggested that laughter is the great aphrodisiac. Why? Because the act of finding something funny is to recognize that it is somehow incongruous. 35 clowns emerging from one tiny car; Lucy and Ethel forced to find alternatives as the candy came down the assembly line much too fast. But caution: if you and an otherboth laugh at these spectacles don’t expect the lights to dim, flowers to spring up from the pavement or the background music to swell. Suggesting that Voilà, behold a new and loving twosome.
What I wanted to suggest was/is that the shared act of recognizing the incongruous and laughing at it suggests that you may be starting from the shared ground of a world view about what is or is not congruous/fitting. The treasure of an objective view of one’s ideas is that it prevents you from short-handing hard-won insights. It prods you to take a hard, honest look at how you got from A to Z as if that were easy or automatic.
I still think of that shared laughter as a sign worth exploring to open the mystery of love. But I thank the generous mentor of decades past for reminding me of how important it is not to trivialize this mystery by suggesting that it is obvious or uncomplicated.
It is, however, potentially enriching to take an insight as a starting point and to let it draw you to thoughtful consideration. Take the time to differentiate between aphrodisiac and love potion. Portray it accurately. Listening to wise counsel I recognized that what I refer to as an aphrodisiac is not such a magic potion, but instead a basis for love; a signal that the conditions for love to evolve may be present.
Now to the “blame game.” Another simple statement the editor /publisher looked at when she was first invited to do so was this: “No one has to be wrong for you to be right.” Taking aboard the philosophy supporting all of her suggestions I responded to her generous investment of the time it takes really to listen, re-read and respond to a beginner’s proposal. As a result, I can today promise her and future readers that I will spare no effort to put appropriate distance between a conclusion and the long process it took to arrive at that conclusion.
So, no, I do not mean in the light or our current news cycles that pointing a finger at someone else absolves one from the need to take a hard and honest look at his or her own conclusions. And that such an exercise could well include the possibility that they rest on faulty or untrustworthy foundations.
Rereading the correspondence, both my broad statement and the muse who invited me to look more closely, has been a deeply valued experience. Relating it to the “Blame Game” issue, the process shines a light that reminds me to take a firm stand on some basic truths. For example: commitment to the truth is not arrived at on a sliding scale of how it compares to other opinions. There are certain realities that have their own weight and need to be respected.
I want to be sure that if I invite a reader to join me in the search to find and follow them, I need always to remember that I owe them as much honesty as I can muster.