On Writing (1)

Growing up in Oakland I was surrounded by people who used words well. I picked them up—words, that is—as a tool to express my agency (perceived or otherwise) very early on.

Constructing a sentence is like putting together a puzzle with access to infinite pieces and the ability to conjure specific ones at will. Or, almost at will. I find that inspirations that would produce good prose often happen upon me at inopportune times. But I also find that I don’t put myself in as many opportune positions as would be necessary to consistently produce good prose.

That, my friends, is no bueno. So I’m consciously moving toward bueno.

Lately I’ve been expressing myself by decorating my room. I started last year with my diploma and some Warriors memorabilia, then graduated up to stylized framed maps of my favorite places and wall shelves showcasing vintage LEGO sets.

I received my showstopper early in 2017. I’d been itching to commission a work of art, and sought my friend/incredible artist to paint a canvas for me. That yet untitled oil-on-canvas now hangs in my safest space, transporting me to a different time and place whenever I feel the whim.

A small portion of ‘Untitled,’ (oil on canvas) by Will Atwood

I watched the artist at work one evening. He had spent countless hours getting the gradient of the horizon just right before attempting to paint anything in the foreground. He was meticulous in every detail of his process. I considered it a great privilege to see that kind of dedication and passion in progress. Friends, he did work.

As I sit at my computer, staring into the horizon and its flawless gradient transitions, I think about my own art. I’m a writer by trade. My canvas is always available to me, on my desk or in my pocket. Canvases for the published word are available also to many who do not appreciate their power.

Far above the reach of my own prose, words strewn across great digital canvases are being used to warp the minds of the populace. Lies are truth, ignorance is knowledge, and tyranny is freedom. The oligarchs of our nation have bought Congress, stacked the courts, and taken the reins of the Executive. The traditional apparatus of the Fourth Estate is in shambles, drowning in a flood of imperatives as morally bankrupt as its talking heads’ asinine opines.

There is no “side” to this. Red and blue do not literally exist. They are perceptions based on purposefully simple and brightly-colored maps. Rather, a small group of selfish, entitled people are manipulating our very ability to think for ourselves as they pillage our lands and our bodies for profit.

They believe they have a right to do this. They really do.

To combat these sinister interests, which are similar to many wielders of great power in human history, we have to use our words to create firewalls against their manipulation and expand our perception of truth: Yes I am in fact an American citizen and I certainly believe in justice for all other citizens of this currently extant nation-state, but it is also a fact that I am nearly 100 percent genetically identical to seven billion other living creatures hurtling through the vastness of space on top of an infinitesimally tiny, highly volatile rock. In not embracing how small and alike we truly are, we reject the charge of the potential for our vast consciousness to create justice for everyone here.

To paraphrase my infinitely wise sister, “truth without compassion can’t produce justice.” The creator of my painting spent countless hours honing and crafting a truth, backed by real love—that humans are capable of tapping into something greater than themselves to reach a higher standard of expression.

The truth is as infinite as my puzzle pieces. Words need not only hinder our ability to discover it.

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