Friday, October 21, 2016

I Can Dare Myself

I was looking up some lyrics the other day, and on one online forum or another, I came upon some a singularly bemusing comment about a song I'm especially fond of — "By My Side," from Godspell. The spiritual message of the production aside, it really is a beautiful piece of music, with lyrics (written by original cast member Peggy Gordon, prior to the soundtrack being composed by Stephen Schwartz) that are not directly taken from Biblical narrative, like most of the rest of the production. The lyrics are not what I would call opaque — from my first listening as a teenager, it seemed pretty clear what they were about. But the comment in question came from an individual who believed that messages in lyrics (and, by extrapolation, one could conclude from literature in general) ought to be straightforward and easy to understand, rather than open to various interpretations.

I had to re-read the comment to make sure I hadn't misinterpreted it. Nope. And though the comments in the forum may have been many years old, I found it all too tempting to jump in and offer my two cents' worth. So, as my consolation, I'll offer my two cents here instead, if you've a mind to bear with me.

It is a creator not spelling out every detail, spurring the audience to engage its collective imagination, its intuitive senses, its powers of deduction, thus becoming an interactive player in the experience, that makes a work transcendent. Multidimensional. Not flat, even. Music, fiction, movies... it makes no never mind. In the realm of dark literature, T.E.D. Klein, in his collection Dark Gods, offers several tales that suggest he knows exactly what's happening and why — but it's up to the reader to fill in the blanks he intentionally leaves. If you've ever read a word of this blog or any of my posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc., you might infer that I'm a David Lynch fan. You would be correct. There are volumes of analyses of Lynch's work out there, and I've spent more time and energy than ought to be allowed by law watching, re-watching, reading about, and mentally wrestling with his films. (The prospect of a new incarnation of Twin Peaks is, to me, fucking orgasmic.)

No, I don't always want to have to work a puzzle when I'm reading or listening or watching something for pure enjoyment. But the idea that complex themes ought to be spelled out, that a work should leave little to naught left to the imagination, or that — God forbid — one might have to engage in critical analysis, draw individual conclusions, or deduce something altogether different than the next consumer, well... perhaps you can infer my opinion.

This attitude, this laziness, is symptomatic of a consumer base accustomed to being spoon fed every idea in miniscule, easy-to-digest doses via memes, click-bait headlines, and editorials masquerading as news. It's the heyday of short-attention-span theater. In the same vein as the original example of shallow thinking, I can't count how many times I've seen thoughtful, well-researched, fact-based editorials summarily dismissed — almost exclusively by adherents to a socially conservative school of thought — with this quip: "Too long, didn't read." My god, you dolts. You are our downfall.

As an author, I aspire to engage readers of superior intellect, those with keen powers of insight, those who might even say, "you dink, you have some ways to go, for your prose is shallow." Yeah, that can be harsh. But one doesn't grow without challenge. And if you're not daring to grow, you're stagnating, and if you're stagnating, you may be starting to reek. Let none of us do this thing.

I shall call the pebble Dare.

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