Sometimes I take time off from political and social problems to blather about myself. I suppose everyone does this in one way or another. After all, even the most kindhearted and charitable among us sometimes like to boast about how much they are helping the world. If any of you have followed these posts (even just recently–thank you thank you thank you!) then you have probably noticed that the word ‘I’ shows up even in stories that have absolutely nothing to do with me. I suppose this is protection. After all, with all these claims of ‘fake news,’ and the increasing free speech challenges in court, I do not wish to be sued for saying something that is not exactly true about another person. This is why I call this site Recording Editorial History. Besides my more serious intentions, literally to be a historian of what people have believed, rightly or wrongly, throughout human history, I can also preface some nasty statement with “I believe,” or “Some people are saying–” any of those vague cop outs to take the pressure off myself. “Some people are saying” is an excellent one. Who are these people? Why are they saying this? Do they actually believe what they are saying? If so, how can I be to blame for “recording” them?
Okay, there is an idea of strategic promotion, so now I will continue to the larger point:
I am presently writing a very serious and professional biography on one of the most fascinating people I have ever met (if not the most fascinating). Currently I am deep into the interview process, talking with their friends and with family, several of whom have long since had a falling out with the subject. But unlike the present tone, me talking about what I am doing, I have to acknowledge that the story I wish to tell is not about me at all. And while there is a brief interlude, long before the book deal was ever considered, when I intersected with this person’s life (more than twenty years ago), even that can only label me anonymous. All of this is why it was so easy to write the preface to the book, outlining my personal experiences with them. It is so much easier to write and talk about ourselves than to completely submerge into another person’s point of view, even for those of us who prefer to lie, or exaggerate, or simply wish to cover up the shame of our past. We can always find something to say about what we think or what we have done (read a bunch of blogs to justify this. I will promote one, in particular: https://essayswsa.com/).
But this is my job–it is not about me, it is not about me, it is not about me! This mantra must be repeated prior to every writing session or interview I undertake. Thankfully, because my life has been filled with so much disappointment and rage against uncertain, shadowy entities that–even if they exist!–could not care less about anything I have to say–I am very willing to sink into a fly-on-the-wall status that is needed to be a proper reporter. The only way I might engage in the conversation is by saying something that I know is wrong, then sit quietly through whomever I speak with as they correct me with varying degrees of amusement or rage.
And yet, while I stare here and think about this project, which will consume at the very least the next year of my life (I have been told, more likely, 18 months to the completion of the text), I cannot help being self-reflective and wondering how I can benefit personally by chronicling another person’s life. I mean, I like this individual. We might even be considered friends, although from a distance, living in far off places from one another. I am here right now writing about my own experiences subsuming my identity in order to understand another’s, and this is the hardest part of the project. It is no doubt why I sometimes compose pieces like this, self-therapy, vomiting up all the bile and self-doubt I suffer with everyday (the picture I have selected to represent me, an old woodcut about excessive drinking, defines this motive pretty well.)
And this is what I ultimately mean about ‘self-absorption,’ those misdirected thoughts we so often have, entirely pointing at yourself when we should be engaged in the wider world outside of our own biases and doubts. It is about living in the ‘real world’ (whatever that means to each of us, individually.) Without the ability to see outside of ourselves, we can never progress as either people or a civilization. We can only muck along selfishly, as humanity has always been prone to do. If we hate ourselves, if the deepest root cause of all our anger is merely a reflection of what we cannot stand about who we have become, then we are lost in a projectile world, blaming everyone for everything we cannot help.
I wish to engage with this other person’s life. I seek to suppress all my own doubtful, negative motives, and enter into the core of another person’s life, complete with all their own self-obsessive quirks, and their disengagement from every world outside of their own perception. It is, I believe, the only hope we have for continuing as a species in such an angry world.