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Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds, The Island of Always, Painting Sunsets, A Transcendental Journey, and Funny Thing Is: A Guide to Understanding Comedy

Same as it Ever Was

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"For a multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion, to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves."

William Wordsworth, 

Preface to Lyrical Ballads

1800

 

Image by " target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gerd Altmann from " target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pixabay

 

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Rosy Cole
...only, now, with added devalue. 'The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: ... Read More
Monday, 16 January 2023 15:35
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Fear is the Mindkiller

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Dune by Frank Herbert is one of the great science fiction books of the sixties, and I usually read it (and sometimes the entire series) once a year. It has never been adequately rendered on TV or film, perhaps because so much of the book deals with the interior states of the characters, something that narrative text can do so well, and visual mediums struggle with. 

One of those interior states dealt with in the book is fear. For the Bene Gesserit, the mystico-political sisterhood that haunts much of the book, the ability to control fear is the mark that distinguishes the human from the animal. 

For years (decades?) I have had what is called an anxiety disorder. The word anxiety brings to mind the feeling of anxiousness, but that doesn’t describe what I feel. What I feel is fear, sometimes panic.

Even ordinary everyday actions—turning on a toaster, leaving the apartment— can occasion fearfulness. I have been driving somewhere and had to turn back, because the fear is too great. These events are usually time-limited; often I am fine, with no trace of fear. Until the next one comes.

To some extent, the pandemic has both helped and hurt. I have a reason for my behavior. And an excuse.

For me this is a disorder of the imagination. My mind envisions all the bad possibilities. Rationally I know these are not the most likely outcomes for a particular action. But I can’t seem to convince my imagination. And this dialogue between rational mind and imagination becomes paralyzing.

I don’t take medication for this condition because I am afraid (that word again) that it will affect my imagination, which will affect my creativity. So I just try to get through the events as they occur. I try to sleep, or work (work is good), or have a cup of tea or listen to soothing music, or sing, or recite Shakespeare (the soliloquy from Richard III helps for some reason), or imagine the peaceful places I have been.

I’m not saying it’s a good plan, nor the best for everyone, nor even the best for me. But it’s the plan I have followed. I’m still here, and still writing. Though perhaps I would have written more, or better, with more or better help. Possibly. But a different plan would have required a choice, and choice often seems impossible.

In Dune, the Bene Gesserit teach a litany for dealing with fear. 

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

That is what I do: ride the fear until it passes and only I remain. And it does. That is what I try to remember each time.

The fear will pass.

And I will remain.

 

 Image by Aino Tuominen at Pixabay

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The Chipped Bowl

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Years ago I bought four small white ceramic bowls from Pottery Barn. I use them primarily for fruit, or occasionally chili or rice or vegetables of some sort. They are very handy and are dishwasher and microwave safe. Highly recommended if you need some.

At some point over the years, one of the bowls got a small chip along the top of the bowl. I don’t know how it happened. It’s not unusual for me to break something. I definitely got that dropping stuff gene from my Dad. Or maybe the bowl is not as dishwasher safe as they say.

It’s a tiny chip and it doesn’t really bother me. But I started putting that bowl down at the bottom of the stack anyway. Yet somehow, when I pick a bowl from the top, it often seems to be the chipped one.

How can this be? I have imagined various scenarios:

  • The other bowls feel sorry for him and let him go first.
  • Scotty beams him up.
  • The only time I notice is when the chipped bowl is on top.

Okay, I suppose the last is most likely, but I am hoping for one of the other two. But even the last one is interesting in what its says- about me I suppose, but I will generalize anyway.

The chipped bowl is the one we notice. Because it is different. Unusual. Unique. Not like all the other bowls.

In my life, I have aspired to be a chipped bowl. And certainly, given the number of chips in my heart and soul I have succeeded, in that at least.

So I admit, now I root for the chipped bowl to get to the top. Solidarity I suppose.

Then again, if you look closely at the bowls, you can see that they are all unique - each is imbued with a different pattern. Very clever of those Pottery Barns folks to include a life lesson in their dinnerware.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
We can only conclude that the aspirant user had a subliminal hand in it :-)
Monday, 19 December 2022 23:05
Stephen Evans
I can neither confirm nor deny any such activity occurred. I think I may have lived in Washington DC too long. ... Read More
Tuesday, 20 December 2022 17:26
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How Plays are Written

The Laughing String ebook cover - a red light wave symbol on the cover.

 

This is how my plays are written.

I was feeling pretty down today and not at all like writing but I opened the laptop and looked at some of my works in progress. I usually have three or four things working, so I don’t get bored with any one in particular.

I happened to open a one-act play I have been working on, thinking I would just see how far I had gotten the last time. I read the last line I had written and thought of a line in response. Then I thought, well, I better write that one down at least, or I will forget it. So I wrote it down. Then I thought of a response to that line, and I thought, well, I better write that down at least, or I will forget it. Ten pages, later I finally couldn’t think of a response, so I stopped.

This is the kind of in-depth planning characteristic of my work.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
That's typical writerly in-depth planning for many! I'm a great believer in writing yourself into the zone, as was Jane Austen, fo... Read More
Tuesday, 01 November 2022 13:56
Stephen Evans
I have always tried to do the first draft as fast as possible - knowing there are many more to come.
Tuesday, 01 November 2022 22:22
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