Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19: Turning Over Rocks, Soft Core Porn, Dung Beetles

If you want to find a species wholly new to science and have your name inscribed Latinly in some secular version of an eternal rollbook, then your best bet is to come to the southern Appalachians, climb some obscure and snakey mountain where, as the saying goes, "the hand of man has never set foot," and start turning over rocks.

Dillard is making fun of humankind's need to use things.  Here, she's talking about discovering something "new" in the natural world (although, really, whatever is discovered is probably pretty old--that's the way the world works).  Humans want to overturn a rock, find some heretofore unknown creature or plant, and claim it as their own.  It's all about fame and glory, being able to name something like an erstwhile Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Knowledge and understanding are secondary to the human impulse for recognition.

I certainly agree with Dillard, and I will admit that I am guilty of this character trait.  I have a blog.  Every time I sit down with my laptop to pound out a post, I would be lying if I didn't have some strange fantasy about the post going viral across the globe, waking up tomorrow morning to Matt Lauer on my doorstop, begging me for an interview.  Then the agents and publishers start calling.  Book deals.  Movie deals.  By this time on Friday, I'll be sipping champagne with Oprah Winfrey.

See what I mean?  As a writer, I want to be read.  By a lot of people.  Of course, I worry about the quality of my work.  I don't want to be the next E. L. James (although she does have enough money to buy a small African nation).  And, now that I've written the above paragraphs, it strikes me that perhaps I've approached writing the wrong way.

I want a wide readership, that's true.  But I don't want to write soft-core porn or novels about sexy vampires in order to achieve this goal.  Maybe, instead, I should simply write a book that I would want to read.  A book that excites me.  Then I wouldn't care whether it sells a million copies and get adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks.

Glory and fame would be great.  But how many people actually remember who helped the world understand the habits of the dung beetle (Jean Henri Fabre, in care you wanted to know)?  Glory isn't something to search for.  Fame can't be captured like a stray dog.  Instead, I should do work that fascinates me, makes me happy.

I know that this revelation may seem a little elemental to most people.  However, it's very easy for me to get distracted as a writer and person.  Worry about what other people think.  Get angry when "undeserving" writers receive attention.  Jealousy is one of my character flaws.  I recognize it, and I own it.

So, to sum up, glory and fame don't necessarily translate into peace and happiness.

Now, Saint Marty requests that you send this post to all the friends you have on Facebook, and ask them to send it to their friends.  By tomorrow morning, Saint Marty will have a million page views and be on a plane to New York.

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