“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” ~ Yehuda Berg
“We write for the same reason we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone – because we have the impulse to explain who we are.” ~ Maya Angelou
I know, I know, controversy is difficult on the nervous system, at least it is on mine, so how can it be a blessing? These are somethings I’ve been thinking about recently. At first they seem disjointed but they will come together, I promise.
A couple of weeks ago I met with my friend Debrah to discuss changes to my novel. She’s a writer too and extremely honest in her assessment, that’s why I asked her to give me feedback. What was supposed to be a lunch meeting ended up being a six hour discussion. One thing she said to me was that some of the characters are too good and everyone loves them. It’s her philosophy that writers need to beat up on their characters so that when they finally learn their lessons, the reader is satisfied. Hmmm, why do I shy away from putting my characters into difficult situations?
While I was ruminating on that problem, Donald Trump declared that he’d ban Muslims from entering the country, the latest in a long line of such declarations, which caused a huge outcry from individuals, newspapers, business owners, and religious organizations. Hmmm. Here we are again at another time of great upheaval. It seems like my entire lifetime has had very few peaceful times. I’d like to see what living in true peace would feel like.
Then I saw an interview with Deepak Chopra, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, on Conan O’Brian’s late night talk show. Conan said he’d heard that Deepak was meditating with members of congress and he asked if Deepak thought Donald Trump could benefit from meditation, Deepak shot back, “some people are past hope.” The audience howled with laughter. But something about that interview got me to thinking that Donald Trump might be a catalyst so that we are finally willing to take a good look at ourselves and our society. This is our time to evolve to the next level as a country, or to shrink back into fear, isolationism, and hatred.
It seemed to me that what Deepak Chopra was trying to point out was that some people choose not to wake up and some of them, like Hitler, and so many others throughout history give us the opportunity to make great changes in history. I think Donald Trump may be one of those people.
Years ago I read the book, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. In it he says that for some reason humans have chosen to learn through crisis. That’s what’s happening now. Throughout history people like Trump have brought us to the brink of a decision that we’ve put off for a very long time. We have to decide once and for all what kind of society we want to live in and we’ve got to take a good hard look at ourselves. How have we perpetuated discrimination, fear and all the other negatives about our society?
I look at myself and I don’t think I’ve done enough for those who are truly in need of love and compassion. I’m looking for ways to do more because I want to hurry up and get to the good stuff. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. I hope we can pull together to create a new friendlier society.
As I was thinking about this post, I remembered when I was in college and I became the center of controversy at two different times. One thing I learned from those situations is that controversy causes conversation and I think that’s a good thing. It’s one time when people get riled up and state what they really think and feel without reservations. They hope to change the minds of their opponents. That’s what we’re seeing that in our country right now. People are standing up and often shouting that we’ve got to protect ourselves, while others are saying that hatred is always wrong. I think Deepak’s point was that once a person’s mind is made up, it’s difficult to get them to change it and we should stop trying. The only person we can change is ourselves. It is sometimes possible to affect others when we do our personal work because of a ripple effect.
Which brings me back to my novel. It occurred to me that I wanted my characters to get to the good life quickly. I didn’t want them to have to suffer too much. I suspect it’s because I’m tired of suffering through all the unrest both inward and outward that I’ve witnessed throughout my lifetime. However, I’ve learned some great things about myself and about what it means to be a citizen of the world because of those struggles. Those insights didn’t come easily but I’m grateful for every one of those difficult people and situations. I wouldn’t change any of those situations now if I could. Which means I can’t deprive my characters and readers from going on the same kind of journey. I think I’m finally ready to go do those major revisions Debrah and I talked about.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015
2 thoughts on “The Gifts of Controversy”
This so resonates with me, both the discussion of compassion in everyday life and the treatment of fictional characters. I too struggle with putting my characters through too much and finding that right balance is so tricky. I wish you peace and many deep breaths as you take on your revisions. How wonderful to have a writer friend willing to go the distance with you!!
Julie, yes Debrah is a blessing. I’m glad I’m not the only writer who has a difficult time making their characters suffer.