Charlie's Blog: All My Love


All My Love

Yours is the cloth, mine is the hand that sews time
his is the force that lies within
Ours is the fire, all the warmth we can find
He is a feather in the wind

This song is one of the most heartbreaking songs Led Zeppelin has ever made. It was Robert Plant's song for his deceased son, Karac. The song stands in contrast to all of the rest of Led Zeppelin's songs especially the bluesy sexual songs. At the beginning of Led Zep's run, Plant was a partying young man given to the ephemeral. By the end, he had become very mature due to the death of his son and an almost fatal car accident. I suspect this maturity is what has made Mr. Plant less enthusiastic than his bandmates about taking the Zeppelin back out on another flight. Jimmy Page seems as youthful now as he did in the sixties and the seventies. Robert Plant strikes me as world weary.

I identify with that world weariness. I don't have much patience with people that are all about the good times and fun fun fun. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy having a good time every so often. But life is not always fun. Jimmy Page has said that he is not a fan of All My Love, and this does not surprise me. I love the song, but I suspect that Page sees it as sentimental and a downer. I just don't see how anyone can be a permanent party person after losing their child.

I have been writing more fiction lately. I posted two new stories over on the Noir side. I find writing fiction to be a difficult thing because of a perfectionist streak. This creates fear, and fear makes you not write. But I think every thing you make will be flawed in some way. You live with the flaws and embrace them as also being part of the creation. I believe in the Japanese philosophy of Kintsugi and Wabi-sabi that embraces imperfection. You can use the broken and the imperfect to make something beautiful. It strikes me as Christian as well as God uses the imperfect and the tragic to bring about great good.

My stories are not going to be perfect. By accepting this, I find myself able to write fiction again. I just write the stories as best as I can and then abandon them. They are what they are. I doubt I will ever win a Nobel prize for literature, but I am pleased with the results.

I like to contrast two musical groups--Boston and Tom Petty. Boston was the project of guitarist Tom Scholz infamous for perfectionism. Since 1976, the "band" has only produced six albums. People only listen to the first two.

Tom Petty is the opposite of Tom Scholz. Petty with the Heartbreakers and as a solo act has released sixteen albums over a similar time period. None of them are perfect and all of them are awesome. Petty's voice is not the greatest, and his music has a raw edge to it. But he ran with what he had, and he is considered one of the greatest rock and rollers of all time.

I'd rather be a Tom Petty than a Tom Scholz. Just put the work out there and let it fly or fail. Don't grind yourself to death with perfectionism.

Another thing in my thoughts lately has been the echo chamber effect. Basically, the echo chamber is where you watch Fox News and never watch MSNBC or CNN. On the internet, you may read conservative sites like National Review or RedState but never check out Mother Jones or The Nation. I am someone who in the past has eschewed these echo chambers choosing deliberately to expose myself to contrary ideas and thinking. But I noticed two problems with this strategy. The first is that I barely have enough time to keep up with the information flow from my echo chambers much less the information from the contrary sources. The second is that those contrary sources have never changed my thinking one bit. If anything, it merely reinforced what I already knew and thought.

A Catholic friend of mine took me to task over my insistence on drinking from these poisoned wells of contrary opinions. My view was that the practice made me stronger while he said that it made me weaker and prone to error. At some point, you have to put your chips down and live with where they are at. For me, I will always be a Christian, a Catholic, and a conservative. To keep reading Richard Dawkins is to entertain double mindedness.

I don't want to be dogmatic to the extent that I don't consider other viewpoints. I am not at all settled on issues of economics or science or what have you. But when it comes to the religious, the moral, and the political, my feet are stuck in concrete. This is because right and wrong do not change.

I'm not wasting my time on contrary sources. In the Catholic sphere, this would be the National Catholic Reporter and the Jesuit magazine America. Both of those websites/publications are modernist and heretical.

There is a virtue in the echo chamber approach to things. The right and the true are reinforced continually against a world hostile to those things. I don't have to worry about being exposed to contrary ideas because I endure them all the time in my day to day life and in the media beyond the political and the religious.These sources are more refuge than echo chamber. It reminds me of all those Old Testament commands to write the words of Scripture on the walls and doorways and to bind them to foreheads and hands. I can also speak from personal experience that the daily reading of the Bible produces great results in your soul.

People like to talk about mainstream media and alternative media. Now, I love alternative media but mostly for entertainment value. This is why I love listening to crazy shows like Coast to Coast AM and Infowars. It is a guilty pleasure along with my addiction to jelly beans and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I suppose I should be watching baseball or Game of Thrones, but I just don't care for those things. Baseball lost me with the steroids, and I don't watch any sports now. Those drugs just turned it into a circus for me, so I might as well tune in a real circus. As for Game of Thrones, I have hesitated to get into "commitment television" for the simple fact that the end of the series may not deliver. In the case of Game of Thrones, the series has already deviated from George R.R. Martin's books as they make the show faster than he can write those books. I just see this as a formula for creative disaster.

I don't believe in sequels. I have some writing projects on my list, and I contemplated doing a series of stories that would be a saga of sorts. But I am against that sort of thing now. This is basically what Martin has done with his Game of Thrones saga. Aristotle famously said that a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The sequel thing is basically a story without an end. Stories are now franchises like Star Wars or Harry Potter. The result is that they are simultaneously enthralling and not satisfying. Stories should end at some point.

People just keep wanting to go back to the well again and again to relive the experience. Eventually, this process breaks. It broke with that fourth Indiana Jones movie, and I read rumors of a possible fifth movie. I wonder if Indy will have a cane instead of a whip this time around. And Star Wars is now ruined for me with their rumored reincarnation story line which makes midichlorians and Jar-Jar Binks look good in comparison.

We need to get back to Aristotle with that beginning, middle, and end stuff. Stories can be long or short, but they should be singular. There should be no sequels, sagas, or series. It is to Shakespeare's credit that he wrote few sequels. Charles Dickens wrote none.

I consider the curious case of J.K. Rowling who seems to have been forced to write another Harry Potter book. I have read them all, but I don't care to read this one. Ms. Rowling has written some other books not involving Potter, and they sank like lead in the ocean. She is trapped in Potter prison, and she cannot escape. This is the peril of the story that never ends.

Write new stories. That is a bold concept, but I think it matters. The gray area in the debate on this has to do with characters like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. The weird thing about their stories is they are seemingly detached from each other. The stories are complete in themselves, but they contain recurring characters. This is especially useful for the mystery. Mysteries are very plot driven, so you don't want to spend a lot of time developing a character. You could have put Indiana Jones in with these guys or even Jason Bourne. But the key is that the characters never change. They always remain at a certain age, and their personalities do not grow or develop. This would be the comic book, the comic strip, the animated TV show, and the situation comedy. Change is the enemy in these stories. If anything, the stories involve the battle against change and the restoration of sameness and order. I'm not sure I care for such stories. I like stories where characters are different at the end than they were at the beginning.

These recurring character stories are pulp. Stories where characters change are redemptive. I think this is what separates serious literature from popular literature. Horror movies like Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth also fit in this category.

If you want to be a serious writer, never write sequels. Always write new stories with new characters. This is a harder path, but I think it is more rewarding.