Sometimes it’s best not to bother with a title – tell a story instead

Started to host people. German friend here this week – he brought a load of chocolate, setting the bar high for future guests! Buying furniture with hosting in mind – it’s forcing me to stop being picky! My goal of having an apartment that feels like the inside of a ship, lit by candles to write books by, may have to wait. There will be a Bible study hosted here soon – I don’t know from where, or with whom, but I prayed to find an apartment for that purpose, and so it will happen. Friendships are being built at the church I’m attending and by the end of summer I’ll be part of an assembled crew.

This weekend I’m heading to Macau to meet a Catholic father I’ve been put in contact with by an acquaintance here in Hong Kong. He works with lepers in the mainland. My hopes are raised for this meeting. My local ‘Casa Hogar’, if you will, has been a long time coming, and I need to be proactive.

Personal status is cloudy. No rain, but a solid melancholy which is heavy, if not altogether unwelcoming. Rather, it sits calmly on the shoulders, not complaining, passive, but lingering as fog likes to do.

Gotta keep it short. Too many words gets noisy sometimes.

I don’t agree with what I just wrote, actually. Does that ever happen to you? It’s easy to say things you don’t agree with, or don’t actually think, because somewhere between 5% and 80% of what we say just slips out and can be pretty thoughtless. But you have less excuse with writing. In writing, you can pretend you have it all together, and are somewhat intelligent, and you don’t make the same stupid mistakes everyone else does. (I know this is indefensible, but sometimes I even feel sorry for politicians. I know, I know… it’s just I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t say offhanded things like “I wonder what the White House would look like with graffitti on it” or “Texas is the best country in the world” or “Oklahoma sucks”. And what Texan doesn’t say those last two things often? Just kidding, Oklahoma..)

I’ve just finished a book by Alexander McCall Smith, and I think he disproves that above statement in marvelous form. It was a book which consisted mostly of conversation between characters observing basic, everyday, seemingly commonplace happenings, and yet it pulled me in, magnetic, and was massively entertaining. I wondered at this, why he was putting in things which, in some limited sense, had little argument for inclusion in the story. The characters would observe and state things which a director would have cut in an instant if it were a movie. But books are not movies, and you can include those things, even when they don’t add much color to the characters or the story (on the surface). And I wondered at why he would include these things, waste the time and attention and consideration of the reader, in a sense. Wasn’t it a gift, a privelege, this attention of a reader to a writer’s crafted tale? Wasn’t it under-appreciating said readers to include things which were not, in any sense at all, central to the plot? (Don’t get me wrong, I was loving the book, but I did idly wonder at these things.)

There are two responses I had to that jarringly insensitive thought of mine. First, even these minor things do in their own way add to the story, in layers and layers. The author is deliberate in the journey he crafts for us and I’m not one to arrogantly question this. Second, a main friend of mine once said that when people let us inconvenience them, it shows that they care about us. I was confessing to her my reluctance to inconvenience people with a personal choice of something as insignificant as what one eats (I’ve been vegetarian-diet for about two months now and encountered the situation many times already). In response, she recounted that lesson to me, learned from a dear one of hers.

It is a curious custom of smiling Wisdom, that her words extend much further than the singular context in which she presents them. Which brings us around to words as noise. The author could include these things because the author and the reader are on a journey together, and it is up to the reader to grant the author their trust, knowing that there is a purpose to even those things which are loosely connected. In the end, it is those exact things which made me feel so attached to the story – it felt real, at times random and disconnected, just like a day in the life. Sometimes, words are too many, and they become noise. But, other times, it is the small, random moments we disproportionately enjoy most; the small, random observations that tell us who people are, and, out of all of it, what they are drawn to care about; the small, random memories that show us, ‘with all the certainty of hindsight’, what is truly valuable to us now. Sometimes, we may favor the stories told by the scenes that wouldn’t make the movie. The main story going on at any one point is seldom the one which is truly most important. In other words, the story happening is rarely the story happening, do you know what I mean? That main story lies under and over and inner and throughout, like the eternal roar deep underneath a waterfall.

I’ll put up an analysis of the Iceberg Rule at some point; it’s something which I think can apply to many things. The basic premise is that, sometimes, you need the 90% in order to have the 10%. That is, you need the 90% of under-the-surface, or background work, or clutter, in order to produce the 10% which is worth seeing, which is beautiful, which is there for someone to take away and accept into their lives. You have to write 90 crappy, cheesy songs to come out with 10 good ones (maybe, in this case, 99 to get one!). Think about a few books which have really affected you, or conversations… some hit you hard with every page and every phrase, but those were by far the exception to the rule. In most, you read through a hundred pages and found a paragraph that you’ll never forget. You scoured a hundred streams to find the first few flakes of gold, go through a hundred conversations to find a few that matter and deeply impact you, live a hundred days to appreciate the one that comes along when, truly, you look about and say (to God, more than anyone else present):

“It is entirely possible that today is the best day which has ever been.”

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