A few thoughts on writing and immortality

Drop a pebble into still water and the energy of displacement radiates out in concentric waves of increasing circumference and proportionately decreasing intensity.  That sounds so scientific, doesn’t it?  That image occurred to me while lying in bed with my dog pressed against my chest.  We live alone now, just “Bubba” and me, and although we have friends, relatives, business and social acquaintances, I began to wonder who might miss us when the inevitable time comes.  The ripples my life has generated in the continuum of space and time, as explicated by the waves in the gentle pool, are spreading wider and wider, and are decreasing in their crest and trough.  At some point their significance will likely diminish to the point of imperceptibility.  Will anyone remember?

As a writer, I go through those same ebbs and flows of confidence that all writers suffer.  (Did I just use another water metaphor?)  I have stared at blinking cursors without knowing where to go; I have penned loquacious pages of mediocrity; and written more than few things that earned kudos, appreciation and publication, but I have yet to finish any work of significance.

I do not write to boast that I am a writer, or to gain fame and celebrity.  I politely refuse the incessant invitations of circles and groups; I decline “author” interviews and requests for guest posts on other writers’ blogs.  I write because I believe I have something to say.  An audience is the end game for everyone who writes, without an audience, a writer ceases to exist.  But I don’t want to capture an audience for the sake of having them listen; I want the audience to come willingly and engage in the dialogue of my prose with the culture of society.

I am a literary writer of practiced discipline.  I doubt that the complexity of my style will ever result in a huge splash of popularity.  (Sorry, I had to throw that water balloon in.)  But I do aspire to the dream that long after my ripples have faded, that a student will pick up a piece of my work and analyze its craftsmanship of the words on the paper and the words beneath.

I have loved and lost, and I’ve been lost in love.  I have built and run successful businesses and failed at one or two.  I’ve been rich a couple of times and broke a couple of more.  I’ve taught young malleable minds and learned from them, too.  I have even pulled a drowning child from a pool as her inattentive parents busied themselves with a rung on an inconsequential corporate ladder.  With the passing of time, none of these things will be remembered for they are insignificant to society at large.

It is reported that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick did not achieve acclaim until nearly 50 years after his death.  Many writers I know would consider that a failure; I would view that as an ultimate success.  His masterful discourse on the hypocrisy of adopting Christendom not out of Faith, but to achieve social stature, trumpeting the attributes while ignoring the tenets for personal gain, juxtaposed against the genuine reverence and adherence to belief of the pagan Queequeg is as an important a lesson today was it was in 1851.  Unfortunately, society has de-evolved to the point where reading (including the video “reads” of television and cinema) has become mere escapism instead of a tool of acculturation.  I fear that the vast majority of students studying the classics today probably view Moby Dick as a tedious story of whaling and miss the significance of its lessons.  (Yes, I know that Moby Dick is a water allusion, must be the theme of the day.)

I doubt I will ever write that kind of masterpiece, as long as I write something significant enough to stand the test of time.  In the 1979 Soviet movie, Stalker, Anatoliy Solonitsyn plays a writer who, when the characters arrive at the mythical room that grants wishes, posits that, “Books are a writer’s immortality.”

I don’t plan to live forever, but I would like to achieve a little immortality before my ripples fade and disappear.

This entry was posted in General Writing by David Kent. Bookmark the permalink.

About David Kent

I promote and encourage the advancement and education of writers everywhere. I dream of a society that once again incorporated literature into the acculturation of their children, replacing the empty calories of 22 minute sitcoms and mindless reality TV. But first we write, then prod them to read, and finally hope for the best. Read more at http://writerinthemountains.blogspot.com/

2 thoughts on “A few thoughts on writing and immortality

  1. Such a fine post David. I completely agree with the point that reading for escape is how most people read. My favorite classes have been those that are not the survey of literature, but the ones where we have to find the message of the book and then write about it dragging out and digging deeper as we go. I don’t think that most are book scholars as say you and I are. 🙂

    I always enjoying what you have to say. Enjoy your day.

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