Skip to main content

On reflection

Right, I need to stop subconsciously assuming the characters of the characters of every novel I read. So much for all that chat about being intentional, thoughtful, processing stuff carefully, etc etc -- apparently that only works if the fictional examples I encounter behave likewise. Latest example, The Post Office, by Charles Bukowski (a postmodern triumph!). Lots of drinking, lots of fearless bluntness, lots of job dissatisfaction. Cue an evening of unchecked work-misery-plus-too-much-red-wine-fuelled mouthing-off and generally being an arse. Followed by a morning of self-reproach-plus-back-to-work-fuelled misery, and a definite longing to chuck it all in and turn poet, if only I had Bukowski's lyricism -- I never saw such stark, brief language used to such effect!
In the morning it was morning and I was still alive.
Maybe I'll write a novel, I thought.
And then I did.
Thing is, Bukowski's three-quarters-autobiographical lead character, Chinaski, actually hides a good deal of unexpected warmth and depth beneath his messed-up, seemingly careless presentation. Me, on the other hand -- I push what little good I can find in myself to the forefront, so if there's nothing immediately positive to be said for me at any given moment (as was most definitely the case on the evening in question) don't bother looking for it in hidden depths.

Why do I screw up so obdurately and self-destructively? If only I could write, I tell myself, the world would let me off for being such a mess. In fact, it would be almost mandatory. What great artist wasn't greatly troubled? Shame the implication doesn't work both ways.

So, anyway, there is one book I should be changed by every time I read it. As James says in his letter to the churches: doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
 And Paul makes it pretty clear just Whom we should be 'imitating':
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I guess/hope there is hope in that 'as beloved children' bit, even for me. It's not just something we do in our own strength -- as Paul says in another letter, "[He] is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). I don't think that grace runs out -- but I do run out on it sometimes, which saddens me more than a little.