Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Speech I'm about to Deliver

Three quotes:

Aristotle’s definition of man: “Man is a reasoning animal.”

Niccolo Machiavelli on the possession of power: “Some are born to power, some rise to it, while others have power thrust upon them.”

And the Dalai Lama on the voice of the universe: “The universe has no voice of its own. We are the voice of the universe.”

So if reasoning mankind is the voice of the universe, with our voice expressed in words, who is the voice of mankind? Nowhere is the devotion to expressing the breadth of humanity more masochistically obsessive than in the writer. This gives the writer a unique kind of power, not begotten, nor earned, nor bequeathed, but something different. The power most respected we reasoning animals is the intellectual heritage of our forebears, to which influence we bow more fiercely than to any living king. And it is said that history is written by the victor. This is not true. History is written by the guy with the pen, and he has the power to turn a fair and stately ruler into a conniving hunchback for all eternity.

A hefty power. And ironically an ill-respected one. The voice of the writer is always heard and his name oft forgot. In this soundbite world made of immediate colors and loud noises the writer is misunderstood. Writing is seen as esoteric and a luxury and in this heighth of literacy and age of easy publication everyone can write a book. And everyone does, desiring their voice in history they flood the market with half-conceived manuscripts. I have nothing bad to say about them. I believe everyone is entitled to not less than one pass at a book. But there are those who need to write as they need to breathe and now more than ever their voices are more difficult to hear above the crowd. Worse, the world, misunderstanding the need, tells the writer to stop--that they cannot succeed. A writer’s competition is more grisly than it has ever been. He must fight to be heard above those who would write because they feel like it and he must also fight against his own mind telling him that the world has predicted his failure.

Writing is necessarily, contrarily, and simultaneously a social and a lonesome endeavor. Its object is man so to be written of man must be observed, but to write of man a writer must find his voice in the silence. No one understands this contradiction better than other writers. The primary of humanity makes the writer feel himself alone, but the writer must have courage in order to succeed. Therefore, if you elect me to Office X of this fine body of individuals, I propose the invention of a statewide creative writing support program in which writers are given the opportunity to meet and talk and given tools to succeed. Writers cannot but write, and they will write about you. As it is, their climate of creation is bitter. We could improve it. Our great grandchildren will someday read what the writers of today have to say. So ask yourself: what review of the times would you have them leave behind? Are you destined to be a hunchback?

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