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Accompanied by a disappointed look, a reprimand was recently given me for not more often writing about “nicer” things. Accustomed to such remarks, I call them the “hanging wish.” People (most of them quite decent) with the “hanging wish” idea would like life and those who write about it to focus on the positive, good, and beautiful. Aside the impossibility of the wish, its consideration places a burden on the writer to put pleasing content foremost. If you picture a hanging where a writer has to report nice (aka “correct” or “non-blasphemous” etc.) things the result would well be comment on birds twittering nearby, the in-tune chanting of the crowd, or loveliness of the platform construction. If the main event is not very nice then the gathering has to be explained some other way, say as an event to test rope taking a sudden strain. In any case, reporting the darker side of an event or reality in no way prevents others from making a hanging as sunny as they wish, so long as they don’t do so trying to silence others.
The piece that brought reprimand was the recent one about three boys desiring to be bad. If you were ever alive or were an adolescent male you’ll recognize such desire is hardly impossible or rare and requires no effort to bring to life, wanted or not. Now being honest, I admit having some difficulties with the piece myself. These, however, were not what the objection rose over, that being my treatment of topic was not uplifting (I ruled out their possible intention of pun). If the tale was morally uplifting or not wasn’t the question. The issue for a writer or reader is whether or not the content is true. In fact I’d been liberal with truth making the three youths of a same age when in fact we were assorted. As youngest I was technically most innocent but also the most willing to follow others and let them be culpable. The size of the earlier piece didn’t let me work that idea in just as I was unable to include some other elements of truth.
It’s not possible to include all truth in a single form. People who try this are not only annoyingly zealous in their single-minded devotion but in recent events show themselves prone to bloody acts of violence that are supposed to show how right they are. On them, I think, is lost the 99% of being human many of the rest of us hold precious as life itself. Along that line let me say that as a writer I saw the trio’s erotic peccadillo as virtually all and entirely fanciful. (If you did not see that you now know what to go back and look for.) There was about as much chance we’d actually push forward as there was of one of our rockets (another of the passions of our age and era) would roar up to Sputnik level instead of (as most did) rising very little followed by self-immolation near the launch pad. I’m quite confident that none of the three of us actually had the nerve to go through with the erotic plan. The real cherry (despite appearances otherwise, so reader be alert) in that thought pie was the challenge of planning and the contemplation of an adventure well outside our normal bounds. It was, in other words, perfect and pure adolescence
in the meaning of being “addled” and “lessened” in all proportions but one.
There was virtually no chance we were going to perform so ludicrous a thing, and furthermore we knew it and were each relieved (though visibly and volubly said otherwise) when a roadblock (Thank God) set us back. If teenagers “knew” this as in inner truth surely as they knew when it was time to eat then it was logical (if optimistic as it turns out in some cases) to think an adult of today would see that as well and know the erotic angle of the story was (despite appearance) a side event to the larger tale of imagining as a boy the actual life of an adult. It is part of human condition to try on other skins as we move along. Selection of clothes, friends, cars, homes, etc. each represents a form of skin we thought about and tried on before settling onto a particular as fitting for us. The tale of three boys planning to pedal off on their bikes to a wild tryst has all the slap of “the real” as if we were planning a three-man spaceship or turreted castle built of taconite tailings. To me it seems quite clear that some things are serious pursuits that are not to be taken seriously. Remember, rule one is we are human. Ease of understanding is greatly compromised from the start.
Because most all of us (I include myself) like a degree of order as we compose our lives we look for the obvious. In the story of the three boys wishing to be bad that took us to the front story that was the cover story of opener for a deeper dialog. The logical and obvious is a place to start, but it is not usually the place to put one’s conclusions, at least not if you want conclusions with at least a nodding acquaintance with observable truth (often quite different from the revealed sort of truth that once howled Inquisition and yet calls for Jihad). An account or story being about life should be examined at different levels. Say a story covers a horrific public execution done with strongly religious coloration. The grizzly barbarity of the act is almost the least part of the story because it resulted in the loss of only one life while having a horrendous impact on many, many more lives. I don’t mean family or loved ones. I mean in the lives of the uncounted who do not count in a system where that execution is stark warning of what awaits them for daring to step, speak, or act out of turn. When horrible acts are routinely used to keep the faithful in line you know you are facing not faith but tyranny.