Friday, June 25, 2010

Loud Talkers, Tradition and Finding an Ending

Day 40 of 42… I think


I sat back in my chair, unable to tune them out. Despite it being the first day of the G20 here in Toronto (a colossal waste of money and energy) traffic was light down the 401 to Guelph, and I arrived at my pre-Boot Camp Starbucks in time to spend to spend a few hours writing before heading another fifty miles north to Harriston. There were three of them, young guys in their early twenties, that had sat down a few minutes earlier. One of them, who looked to be tapping out at two-forty, had a low voice that cut through the white noise blend of music and conversation in the café. Normally, I preferred to have some background noise. Writing in silence was difficult, which was why I usually found a Starbucks to work. Occasionally however, someone would sit near me with a voice like a chainsaw. I sighed and turned up my Ipod. Nope. I could still hear him. Finally I packed up my things and moved to a table on the far side next to the window. Maybe now I could- "the Blackhawks had to make that trade. Byfuglien's like Pronger. Big and fast but loses sight of his teammates."

It was amazing. I could still hear him! And that voice, every word spoken as if God Himself was speaking. This is the way it is, and you don't like it, too bad. I sighed, closed my novel and pulled out my schedule. It's hard to write fiction, to go to another world, when you're sitting next to a Loud Talker. I trained with someone like that once. No matter where you were, all you could hear was his loud voice. Oddly, he spoke with in much the same manner. This is how it is, and if you don't like it, too bad. I hated judging people, but I've never really liked people like that, and always found conversations with them an excuse for them to propagate their view of the world and every single event that ever happened and why they were absolutely one hundred per cent correct. Of course, I've been accused of that from time to time myself, so perhaps it's merely the case of it takes one to hate one.

Thankfully, they left after about twenty minutes, but I found it difficult to return from my researching (Read: mindless surfing). I'd been working on my novel ending for what seemed like a long time, but the words, which had flowed like a stream for the past two months, had been cut down to a slow trickle. I was finding it hard to stay focused and having an extraordinarily difficult time going into my world. The negativity pressed down on me – this is garbage, you'll never make it, why do you bother – and every time I brought my novel up on the screen I found myself staring at the letters like they were suddenly strangers. Writing a novel, like any creative activity, inevitably tests your resolve. Unfortunately, being aware of that didn't make it any less difficult.


Through my years of writing, especially this past one, if one thing has changed it's my respect for those who create something to call their own. Those who step outside the comforting walls (cell?) of a union or government pension to push towards their dreams. In that way, I suppose some of my past conservatism lingers, in that government, while necessary and generally helpful, still has the ability to interfere. In Ontario, the latest is the HST, a combined sales tax that will put a great deal of pressure on small business owners, people who have stepped out of a protective bubble to forge their own dreams. My respect for them had grown this past year. It takes a great amount of guts and courage to step out, to risk so much.

In other ways however, especially in writing a fantasy novel and creating a world, my respect for tradition had diminished. Traditions had a tendency to keep people in bondage, and most of the time, the origin and purposes of a particular tradition are forgotten. Take our wedding tradition of 'giving the bride away.' The one where the minister asks "Who gives this woman" and the father says, "I do." That tradition originated in Rome, where women were property, and were literally being given away. Like an animal or a slave. And yet, a large portion of the population clings to that tradition, romanticizes it. We call it sweet, when it's actually pretty disgusting. (It is one thing for the father of the bride to walk up with his daughter, quite another to claim that he is "entrusting" her to his new husband. Here's another disgusting tradition in that vein.

Another tradition that galls me is dress codes. Traditionally, dress codes have been used to separate classes. In our free market system, they are used to distinguish not only class but gender. Having worked in many church and "Christian" environments, these 'dress' codes are considered part of the school's/church's tradition. That this tradition is aimed largely at women (those nasty temptresses) is rarely mentioned. (Ironically, dress codes in schools generally act in an opposite manner for the students, at least in terms of uniforms. Uniforms can level the field between the rich and poor students)

You think about this when you're creating traditions for a country, and you realize how our traditions reveal about our national character. The next time you run across something 'traditional', don't be afraid to ask where that tradition comes from and if it's something we should still be celebrating. Chances are, you'll find that behind the façade it's nothing more than an excuse for a continuance of power.