Icarus

Suppose you were told that you could fly. Would you believe it? Let’s say you even woke up one morning and found that you had wings. Big, glossy wings, with feathers of all the right kinds and shapes and colors that you could wish for. Let us even assume that as you walked around your bedroom, or maybe your kitchen, you could feel those wings and gained control over them. You could flex them, shift them, even open and spread them wide if you have enough room. Your wingspan, we can assume, would be wider than you are tall, so you may knock over your grandmother’s favorite flower vase and break it, but then you may discover how useful your wings are in sweeping glass up. No pesky little shards left on the floor with those powerful feathers getting into every nook and cranny between the tiles.
Are you convinced of your wings yet? Can you hold their image strongly in your mind? Can you feel the bones in your back adjusting to the new weight that is suddenly set on them? Good. Now, suppose you were told that you could fly. These new wings of yours aren’t only decorative, as you may have thought, but they can actually support your weight when you leap off the top floor of the tallest building you know of. Would you protest? Would you say – Surely not, for humankind has no wings and cannot fly, this is a well established fact! Or would you, without considering it too much, take a drive to the nearest high rise, or maybe go right up to your own roof, spread your wings, look into the sunlight, and leap?
What if you knew there was a safety net spread out beneath you, just in case it didn’t work? Of course, nothing is full proof, and you might say that even if you really can fly, the ability might disappear in a few seconds once you’re not even over the net anymore. Alright, I understand your concerns. They’re valid. After all, no one ever told you, and you certainly never expected it yourself, that you would one day sprout wings and be told that you could fly. Say I promise to have four cars drive around with a net stretched between them so that they could catch you no matter where you drift to? Would that be enough, do you think, to make you jump off that ledge?
I can see your concern. It’s true, there are many risks to flying. There are other birds in the air who know their business there much better than you do. They may laugh at your flapping efforts or they might squawk when they see how big and ungainly the rest of your body is. Then there is the danger of severe sunburn – although that’s easily fixable if you wear long sleeves and make sure to rub a lot of sunscreen on your face. Perhaps you don’t think you’ll be able to navigate. It’s true, bird’s eye view is very different than seeing things from the ground. Suddenly, things are spread out below you, and you may feel that things are getting metaphorical as you fly around, above and superior to all the pesky human who can’t do what you’re doing. You don’t want to turn into Icarus, after all.
Of course, you must remember that if you can fly, that means others may be able to as well. Ah, you’d forgotten that, hadn’t you? I’m sorry, I can see how disappointed you are. And just when you were getting excited too. It’s a shame, yes, but you must remember that you can’t possibly be the only one who’s suddenly sprouted wings. Think of how large Earth is! True, perhaps it’s not as big as some other planets, but it’s quite big enough in our terms, don’t you think? There are enough people on the face of it to make it statistically very unlikely that you’d be the only one who was able to fly.
I’ve gotten rather sidetracked, haven’t I? The first question still stands. What if you were told that you could fly? Would you do it? Or would you sever your wings off in fear and then forever hide the stubby feathers and protruding bones by wearing big sweatshirts and promising that you never really liked swimming anyway? It would be a sad thing to live with severed wings. Almost worse than trying to fly and plummeting to the ground. At least, if you try it, you’ll be buried with the splendor of those glossy wings, and I promise that no one will forget you.

Story? Novel? Book?

So here’s a question for all my fellow writers out there: what do you call the projects you work on? I mean, if you’re writing something that’s novel length, do you call it a novel? Or a book? Do you label it?

My current project, the main one I’ve been working on for the past two months, is now way over 100,000 words, and is over 280 pages. know the point to which I want to get with my characters progress before I stop and begin the strenuous and, I assume, long process of editing, fact checking and making sure that everything makes sense and isn’t total crap. I accept the fact that it might well not be worth a damn once I’m finished and that maybe I’ll put it aside and begin something new. The idea doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. It’s okay to write things that stay in the closet and never leave, because they’re practice for those things that are good enough to show the world and be proud of.

Anyway, the point is that my story is in advance stages, more than halfway through – maybe even three-quarters of the way. I know that if I choose to keep it, there will be a sequel or a part two or something of the sort, because I’ve simply discovered so many things that my characters need to go through that I didn’t realize before. But I still call the whole thing, all 285 pages that I have so far,  a “story” because it is. It’s a story, there’s no doubt about that, but I feel that calling it a novel or a book is… well, somehow it’s as if I don’t deserve those titles for it yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually gotten to the point where I actually do consider myself a writer, because, well, I write! I write two hours a day, and I enjoy it. I love the feeling the words coming out of my mind and suddenly finding themselves on paper or screen, the little sounds that they keys make as my fingers fly across them on my tiny little laptop, my sturdy companion. I love the way the pen feels in my hand when I write in my journal. I love the feeling of knowing that I write every day, and I even love the frustration and anger and hate that I sometimes feel when I try to write and don’t manage to. It’s all part and parcel of being a writer (not yet an author, of course, but a writer) and I love it.

But how about you? Do you put labels on your work? Are you scared to do so like me, or are you bold and courageous and agree to say that your project is a novel or book-in-progress?

A Monarch’s Responsibilities

History is a vast and incomprehensible mystery to me in many ways. We have facts about things that have happened in the past – we have dates, records of events, paintings reproducing the faces involved in those events, poems and diaries devoted to giving opinions and preserving what happened in a biased manner. We have all these things. Mystery, to some people, seems like a wide-open book, its contents there for us to look through, sift for what interests us, and indulge ourselves in knowledge of old.

I don’t feel this way. In my opinion, history is full of so much that we don’t know and so much that I wish I could know. True, we know when Martin Luther began to speak and write about his emotions about being a monk and part of the Catholic Church. In his instance, we can find quite a lot of emotional and sentimental writings from his own pen, or maybe quill, and we can see into his mind, as far as he lets us.

But what about others? What about the farmers and the spinners and the dye-makers that England had in such profusion in the sixteenth century? What were the children running barefoot through the streets of London, so much smaller than it is today, thinking? What games were they playing? What was the man smuggling illegal documents from Europe into the English Empire thinking as he worked? Was he scared for his life or merely waiting to get paid so he could go home to his wife and child? What were the nuns, sequestered in their cloisters, talking about? How did they speak to their young students, and how did they infuse them with a love and a belief for the divine? Through fear? Through love? Through simply offering worship as a fact of life?

And if these so-called simple people’s lives aren’t interesting enough for historians to dwell on – well then, what about the monarchs? How could Henry VIII hold such power in his hands and play with it so lightly at times? What did Katherine of Aragon feel as she was condemned? We can guess, surely, but how can we know? What of Elizabeth? How did she feel when she was sought after for marriage through the years? Did she decide on her own to remain a single ruler in order to maintain a stable throne? Did she, perhaps, not find men pleasing in the manner she would have been expected to? Had she fallen in love with someone who never returned her love or never could?

It’s bad enough, thinking of the power that politicians and governments hold today. At least it’s distributed power, and is more or less given by the people. But monarchs… They were born. Some of them believed they were chosen by divinity to be kings or queens. They held so much power in their cupped hands, that they’d let some of it run through their fingers to those sitting at their feet, just waiting for a pearl or jewel to drop from those mighty hands. I can’t imagine how such responsibility could be held without driving the holder mad with indecision, worry, guilt. Such are the things that the annals of history can’t reveal to us. Thoughts, emotions, private sighs of elation or grief.

Tha Language Barrier

Every country on earth has minorities. In every country there are people who don’t know the language well, who are living where they are because of necessity or family connections or a job. People don’t appreciate just how hard it is to live somewhere and not know the language. Working at the credit card company, I’ve found just how easily affection springs up whenever someone hears someone speaking their own language. For one, there are a lot of Russian speakers at work, and they’re almost always to be found during their breaks to be speaking with each other in Russian, even though all of them speak perfect Hebrew. But it’s irresistible to speak your home language while around others who know it.

Another example of this is how English-speaking clients react when they find out I can speak English. My bosses recently realized that I’m American and have since been foisting every English speaking client they can upon me. I don’t really mind though, because the rush of gratitude I can hear in these clients voices at being addressed in soft English, rather than garish and barking Hebrew, is a reward unto itself.

This raises a common question though – if you’ve moved to a country and are living there permanently, isn’t it part of your responsibility to learn the language? Or should you be allowed to expect that you’ll always find someone who speaks your language to help translate things for you?