Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chaos and Control

I hoped no one would say it but someone did declare that God is punishing the Japanese. There has to be a group of people who are getting God’s messages on their Facebook pages or maybe they come in tweets. Did individuals in direct contact with God ever look around and see that misfortune doesn’t always correlate with bad behavior or vice versa?

I can’t believe God sticks a finger through the clouds and says, let’s get Tom, Dick, or Harry because they don’t go to church on Sunday, or I never liked Haiti, New Zealand, or Japan so I’m going to make everyone living there suffer beyond what they can imagine.

Recently, I saw a TV miniseries, Any Human Heart. A man is imprisoned in a foreign country during WWII. When he’s finally released, he finds out the war is over and, in one of his wife’s last letters, that she is expecting their second child. He rushes home only to find out his wife, daughter, and unborn child were killed by a bomb. The man spends the rest of his life looking, subconsciously, for his lost children, and he can’t stop comparing other women with his dead wife.

How many young Japanese parents dreamed of helping their children reach their full potential and now can no longer hold onto that dream? So many citizens experienced overwhelming loss. Securities they took for granted vanished in an instant.

And all that is part of a Divine plan? More and more I believe man made God in his image rather than the other way around.

I understand that a fictional character who battles against odds to solve a crime and restore harmony to a fictional world through justice produces a satisfactory story. I enjoy such stories. However, stories that include the unforeseen, the reversals of fortune that most of us suffer, and a protagonist who has to reassess his goals and even accept what he doesn’t want stay with me longer.

9/11 changed the way I see the world. Now, Japan seems closer to my daily life. I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like if I’d been born in an African village, in China, or in Tibet.

Perhaps there are readers and writers who see fiction as something totally apart from reality. A writer who focuses on the market might see fiction differently from a person who writes what moves him. A hundred years ago, it was possible for a writer to sit in his or her room and write about society. Maybe there are writers like that today but I’m not aware of their books.

Does the shrinking world change the way you write?


  1. I don't think a writer can ever overcome his ethnocentricity, and I can't imagine writing a novel for the entire world as an audience. But that doesn't mean a novel won't appeal to the vast majority of the world's population.

    In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini bridged the Middle Eastern mindset to the Western world by showing that essentially all people are the same.

    I see the shrinking world as a division between good and evil--which means there hasn't been any change in the world's circumstances or situation. Maybe the shrinking world just makes that message more apparent, and in turn strikes home the message that the human race is playing an endgame.

  2. It seems to me that the shrinking world can lead people to wear blinders and limit their concerns what is me and mind or to become painfully aware of the problems of people all over the world.

  3. No matter what happens in the world we are shrinking. And my heart goes out to the people. Not the governments--they live in their own little worlds--but the real people do the suffering.

    I find it especially hard to watch suffering of children. I want to gather them up and keep them safe.

  4. I wrote a short story with Somali pirates and drug subs in it, and my latest WIP also has drug subs and mentions of the market tanking, so I would say that what I write is definitely influenced by the headlines.
    It's hard to understand how the Japanese earthquake and tsunami would elicit anything but compassion and sympathy.

  5. I wonder how many people are turned off religion by these self-righteous demagogues. I avoid them totally.
    Meanwhile, it's heartbreaking to see the pictures and read the increasingly bad news from Japan on top of New Zealand, Haiti, the other places hit by such terrible disasters. Even the picture of the dog who wouldn't leave his pal brought tears to my eyes. Some days I want to escape from all news and pretend it's not there. But it doesn't help.