Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Musings about the abuility to muse...

I got criticized for my writing the other day. Someone who believes himself to be a qualified literary critic (don't we all think we are qualified for that?) decided that they liked the writing that I make for this blog (Thank you) but didn't like the writing I have done for the Karlin Gazette. Non-constructive criticism is always there so you pretty much need to be thick skinned about things, but in this case, I thought before hand that it might be obvious why there were different styles of writing. First if all, this blog is MINE, which means I am the sole responsible person for its content. In the case of the Karlin Gazette, because it is the representation of the Jewish community of Pinsk Belarus, I am not free to be belligerent, acerbic, condescending or for that matter, particularly truthful. Because of this, the writing must be done in a style that could be called "journalism". This is to say that I simply state the facts in an orderly fashion without editorializing too much, except of course to put a sort of positive spin on things. The point being that I AM trying to show people what is going on AND NOT trying to impress them with the outrageous and overwhelming nature of my bottomless wit.

This said though, it might also have been possible that he was actually inferring that I cared less for the Gazette than I do for my own work. This is a more emotional criticism and one that is more difficult to deal with because we must first deal with the idea of what is implied by the word "care". If for example we say that am happier writing for myself than I am for the gazette, well, let's just leave the obviousness of that thought alone for a moment. If we would simply speak in terms of where I place more hours though, the answer is that I spend far more hours on the Jewish community than I do on my own things. Far, far more actually and in fact the disparity is so great (especially when juxtaposed against my actual earnings for the work), that it creates a situation when I am lucky to find the time to make a BHTimes or to find the mind and energy to write something for the STORY.

However, my thinking is that the criticism really had to do with a third "element". This other is a quality in the writing that my critic perceived to be lacking in the one and perhaps more prevalent in the other and that this might best be defined as "soul".

So what to say about this? I imagine there have been countless times in countless recording studios where, while some young talent is wailing away about some lost love before the microphone, the financier, standing in back of the audio engineer, shakes his head at how little "life" there seems to be in the singer's voice. "We are not going to make any money off of this dead fish." He says to the engineer, "What can we do to perk this shrub up a bit? Can we dope him up a bit? Maybe I should play with his head. Maybe I should pull the money leash a little and see what that does to him. Maybe I should mess with his girlfriend and see if that doesn't light a fire under his ass…" and these sorts of things. The financier you see wants money. The singer, at least at one time in his life wanted to sing, but is now sort of crushed under the weight of his own exploitation and now wilts. You can always want money, everybody does, but you need to be in the mood to sing well.

I learned this lesson about mood from several of the older boys at the Jewish school. I hung around with them for a while and one of the fundamental discussions we had was about the difference between responsibility to the world around you and one's responsibility to him or her self. My side of the argument, as you have probably guessed already, is that we should have a profound sense of responsibility for our world and should be inclined to give far, far more than we should take. The boys however, and I am pretending for the sake of argument that it was not simple laziness, were very secure in their argument that an enormous amount of self aggrandizing was absolutely necessary to support a proper mood for doing things such as showing up for daily prayers or performing basic responsibilities. Of course they have the energy to stay up and drink, they like this, so they have energy for it, it is just that they don't have this same energy the following morning to do what they have to do. Being tired influences their mood and so they find it hard to play a day game after a night game.

Ok fair enough. Surly there are other fathers out there who recognize this argument when it comes to getting their kids to do their homework. I mean, you can bang your head against the wall all day and all night, but you simply can't get even a small percent of energy spent on the homework that the kid has for playing with his friends. One thing he likes, the other he doesn't and that is all you get folks.

So this brings us back to the question of the critisism: Did he have a point that the writing was indeed too "dry"? Maybe it is true. But maybe the kids are right as well: How are you supposed to get the most out of a situation where there are not so many things that have joy in them and many, many other things that straight away suck all of the joy out? This is what I have been thinking about lately. And during this thinking, I have come upon words and phrases such as "exploitation", "social and monetary discrepancies during business meetings", "ethics", "morality", and of course good old "guile" and "lies". Nothing in there to really make a guy happy, now is there? And of course having to deal with soulless fascists does have a way of being especially tiring, and even simply having to ponder this stuff is not a lot of fun either.

But then again, that Karlin Gazette might just be a gem just the way it is... (And it is in Russian now too!)

I am not going to pretend that I know the answers to these questions, but certainly it has most probably been a point of contention for time immemorial and in any case I am tying the best I can and continue doing what I can to work with what resources I have to work with. In the end, I suppose that is what The BEING HAD Blog is all about. Of course it isn't easy and of course I wish I had enough money to live properly, but in any case I am trying and hope I have done a decent enough job of keeping things together. I mean, I have to try; it simply isn't over yet, is it?

More soon…


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