May 21, 2006

For Whom Shall I Write?

Posted in literature, novelists at 3:51 am by Jerry

The ultimate problem in the rhetoric of fiction is, then, that of deciding for whom the author should write. We saw earlier that to answer, "He writes for himself," makes sense only if we assume that the self he writes for is a kind of public self, subject to the limitations that other men are subject to when they come to his books. (396)

Just finished reading Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth. I mentioned two posts ago that Booth reminded me of my concern about how reliable the narrator should be. But ultimately, I'm left with the subject in the above quote.

When I tell others that I'm trying to write a novel, there are the odd times that the question is asked. "Who is your audience?" or "Who's gonna read your books?" or "Who are you writing for?" I've given rough answers to these questions, but I suppose my current response would be, "First and foremost, I've been writing for myself. But eventually I want to discover who would appreciate not be able to stop reading what I've created, even if they hated it. Then, with them in mind, I'll try to finish the novel while intentionally trying to communicate to them, on some level, with what I've written."

I don't know how I'm going to discover these readers of my novel. Maybe it's a matter of trial and error. Who knows? My curiosity is growing, though. And if I were to guess, I'd say they will be a small group of individuals, not necessarily familiar with each other. Why? I have no idea. Call it a hunch.

May 20, 2006

Narcissus

Posted in mythology, psychology, religion at 1:27 am by Jerry

Is it wrong to say I enjoy reading my blog? I just read through it from beginning to end, including comments, and I enjoyed it.

I can see somewhat of a progression of thought throughout my blog. I'm glad because I wanted to reveal my changing perspectives. Besides, don't you love the portrayal of evolving thought in a person, just like the journey of a developing character in a novel?

Now, before I give the impression that I am ridiculously high on myself (or is it too late?), and the word "Narcissist" pops in your mind, I'd like to address in a possibly over-simplified manner a common misconception of Narcissism. Narcissism doesn't have to be a derogatory term. My Webster's dictionary defines it as "excessive interest in one's own appearance." But from what I've read here and here, there are a number of different understandings of Narcissism.  

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as Healthy Narcissism. Healthy Narcissism is a love of a true understanding of oneself. Unhealthy Narcissism is love of a fabricated understanding of oneself (most often seeing others as less in value).

Narcissism is important to me for a number of reasons. I grew up in a Mennonite community for most of my life. This community looked the same as any other small town community, including the people. However, I often found myself bumping into an interesting cultural no-no called "pride".

Though it may not be stressed as much today, 20-30 years ago I was a witness of adamant concerns to prohibit the complimenting of one's self. There seemed to be so much effort in not behaving in a prideful manner, that eventually I could recognize subtle expressions of people's pride in being "humble".

Humility is a strange word. Does being aware of one's short-comings have to exclude an awareness of one's achievements and praiseworthy attributes? By definition, I don't think so. However, I've witnessed again and again, humility being understood as this. I think it's sad, really.

I personally think humility is being realistic, acknowledging the low and the high, the limited and the potential. To me, watering down healthy pride in our achievements is counter-productive and devolving into a mode of apathy (which is pathetic).

Now, if there are any fellow Mennonites that read this and say I shouldn't bash my Mennonite heritage, "it's disrespectful," you should know that I still have an appreciation for my heritage. I'm willing to believe that all these good traits like "modesty" were foundational in the creation of Mennonite culture, and maybe the true meaning got lost by some along the way. (Another example of a virtuous Mennonite characteristic that may have also been misinterpreted by some along the way is "Pacifism". I struggle to think that our forefathers, and foremothers, understood pacifism to be a passive-ism.)

Here's the mythological story behind the Narcissus name, if you're curious. Just for fun, can you find any Christological parallels in the story? (Falling in love with his created image so much so that he immerses his self in the image's realm and dies within it only to be resurrected as a new creation.) 

May 19, 2006

Back to the Beginning

Posted in literature, martial arts, novelists at 1:53 am by Jerry

One of the reasons I haven't been writing so much here is because I've been immersed in learning. I feel like, in alot of ways, I've been returned to past beginnings. My Kung-Fu training is taking me to where I was before I had learned any Karate, a place that needed developing, strengthening, changing.

I feel like a martial art infant, learning to sit, stand, and walk. I can tell that I'm impatient, seeing others running and wanting to run with them. My teacher said, "You're moving like a tiger, and I want you to move like a dragon." I've got a lot of re-training to do.

Nevertheless, I'm just so happy to be studying what I've wanted to study ever since I was interested in martial arts. I feel like I've finally found what I was looking for all these years.

I've also been reading through Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth, and it seems I'm being reminded of the most fundamental aspects of how a written story is communicated. For instance, I've been returning to the question, "How reliable should your narrator be in the eyes of your readers?"

No person is completely reliable. And I struggle to imagine someone who is completely unreliable. I think we learn to expect certain qualities, good and bad, in people. And, for myself, I've learned to expect people to be themselves, changing in a way only they would.

I'm being reminded of core personalities by Booth (unintentionally) and intentionally reminded of my core body by my Kung-Fu teacher. The core (or center) is often a starting place to learn about life, and I've been returned back to those beginnings to learn.

May 4, 2006

Faith in God Trumps Bible

Posted in church, religion, scripture, theology at 7:12 am by Jerry

I've been part of an online discussion called "resonate" that I joined awhile ago. Up until recently, I never offered a contribution. Becky has been a part of this group for some time. While she was camping with the Girl Guides I found a thread that caught my eye, and I decided to make my presence known. The topic started off as a question about the discrepancy between the portrayal of God in the Old Testament versus the portrayal of God in the New Testament. It wasn't long before the discussion focused on biblical genocide and inerrancy.

Becky has revealed on her blog comments she had thrown into the mix, and I thought I'd show you the latest of mine:

Here are some questions that have been floating around in my mind:
1) Should we consider our faith in God no different than the faith we put in the bible?
2) what does it mean to have faith in the bible?
3) does it mean to have faith that God uses the bible to enlighten others?
4) or is it having faith in the human authors?
5) or is it having faith that God IS the author of the bible?

Subsequent Thoughts About My Questions:
I don't think Q'n #3 assumes the bible is of the same value as other tools God uses to enlighten humanity because it's probably the closest to an original, immanent photograph of Jesus. Q'n #4 is obviously not the same as having faith in God. But Q'n #5 needs greater elaboration. What does it mean for God to be the "author" of the bible? It doesn't mean there are no human agents. And it doesn't mean that the human agents' wills were overridden by God. God is said to have "inspired" the human authors. What does that mean? A simplistic answer would be that God didn't tell them what to write, rather, God showed them a portrait of true reality that, naturally, inspired them to write.

As a result of my explorations, I still remain to see a dichotomy of faith between the bible and God. And obviously, my faith in God trumps my faith in the bible, hands down. I think this is why I have peace over the issue of the biblical's portrayal of God giving direct orders to human beings to commit genocide.

As a result of my faith in God, my immediate concern is not the innerrancy of the bible, but rather how we use it to justify immoral acts by others and ourselves.

Note: if I had recent scholarly texts to quote and acknowledge in place of my own opinions, I would refrain because I want you to know what I think, not others. Therefore, this reverie is unabashedly subjective.