Open Wounds

L is for Láthe biṓsas (Live hidden)

I might be stretching here but we’re almost half way through the alphabet and I’m still talking Greek so there’s something to say for that.

Live hidden is from Epicurus. He said this because he believed that politics troubled men and didn’t allow them to reach inner peace. If you’re watching the republican primary or have Barak Obama’s campaign on your radar perhaps you’ll agree. It’s like watching a train wreck and not exactly good for serenity now. So Epicurus suggested that everybody should live “Hidden” far from cities, not even considering a political career. I’m not saying everyone should be anti-epicurian on this political career thing but I do wonder how this works in my writing.

Once at a writer’s group (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away) I had the group take parts from a play I was writing that took place in Rome just about the time of Julius Caesar’s death at the hands of Brutus. I know. It doesn’t sound funny at all but I was taking a side-show perspective of a laundromat far down the block from where Marc Antony makes his speech and they were translating it back through the crowd by whispered word of mouth so that the folks in the cheap seats got a garbled message. Anyway, it was comedy. Slapstick. Pratfalls. One of the writers commented to me during the feedback round, “I can’t wait to see what you do with this piece when you give it the deeper meaning I know you’re striving for.”

There was no deeper meaning.

I was just trying to be funny.

Maybe it was the Caesar thing that created high expectations – or the echo of Shakespeare’s words. I don’t know but I nodded and said, “Yes… a deeper meaning.” And of course wondered, did I have to have a deeper meaning and should I just give up and throw the play away before someone got hurt?

I know, if I’m honest, I write fiction based on my values and life experiences – where else can my ideas come from?  But these are tempered by the needs of my characters. They are filtered and so they become both mine and theirs. Some represent me and some don’t (or better not – but what if they do?). I set out to tell stories. I don’t usually set out to be engaged in politics. But if I do, the ideas will certainly be welcomed into the fracas.

Did you know that Roman laundries used urine as bleach? It gets the whites whiter. Now what kind of political statement is that? What’s the deeper meaning in pee?

What do you do with your political ideas? Do they work deliberately into your stories or do they… live hidden?

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15 responses

  1. I try to weave things in as theme, as underlying subtext. I mean characters will be outspoken on certain things, of course, they’re human, after all, but as the author, it seems heavy handed to get preachy. On the other hand, I think it’s difficult to keep from implying anything at all.

    April 13, 2012 at 8:32 am

    • I just finished a book by Elizabeth Nunez called Boundaries that was a clear cultural-political (the politics of race) story that was truly authentic to its characters and yet didn’t seem forced at all. These characters lived and breathed it. She has something to say and deftly used her characters to say it. Very cool.

      April 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

  2. jaimeehunteronline

    I mostly write non-fictional memoir type pieces…therefore my politics are out there on my sleeve and up on that soap box. I like the point you make. I am keeping my fiction writing on the DL …maybe I will try a political piece…I am a colbert and daily kinda gal so I would probably use satirical humor

    April 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    • Memoir is so ripe for political statement. I find it also makes me vulnerable just because my “stuff” is hanging all out there. When people comment on memoir its so damned personal I find it especially challenging to take – probably why I don’t write much memoir. Glad you stopped by and thanks for the comment. – Joe

      April 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

  3. David M. Brown

    Great post. I think my political views live hidden when it comes to my writing. Any politics that do creep in are for the characters to worry about and not me. I’m just here to tell stories not to write novels with a political agenda.

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge 🙂

    April 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    • I agree, but I do have to answer to questions about my characters thoughts and politics because, well, they come through me. Hah. Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the post. best – Joe

      April 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm

  4. Okay, first of all, I know from experiencing manymanymanymanyMANY mornings waking up to discover that one of my kids has wet the bed that urine does NOT get your whites whiter. Maybe it helps if your whites are grungy to begin with, though. That would be pretty neat.

    As far as my political views go, I think they find their way into my writing, albeit subtly. Not all of my writing, but a lot of it. I don’t think I can bring myself to tell a story that says something I disagree with.

    April 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    • I’m with you on the whites whiter (my experiences mirror yours with my son) but nevertheless, urine has been used as a detergent, a bleach, and a whole lot more. Go figure. Maybe it’s a toga thing. I don’t know. But as a writer when I read about this it was like finding gold. Okay. That didn’t quite sound right. Glad you liked the post! Best – Joe

      April 14, 2012 at 6:16 am

  5. I loved this post, and I laughed at the whole laundromat while people were getting their lean and hungry on is awesome.
    “Deeper meaning in pee” has to be one of your best phrases ever. I think the uses of pee throughout history are really entertaining, and I think you should devote an entire blog to pee.
    Just saying.

    April 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    • One ode to pee coming up. Perhaps right after the A to Z is over.

      April 14, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      • Do I really have to say this? “P” (ee, iss) comes up on Wednesday.

        April 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      • I know, but won’t everyone be using pee as their word? Everyone?

        April 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      • Matthew – I will take P if Kristen will take T. I’ve been in a fog from lack of sleep (traveling back and forth to NO – I do not sleep well when I travel) and stress (conference presentations for my day job). That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I woke this morning and realized what you had written, what Kristen had written. Moments ago my dog Spike sat on my chest (he is small, thank God) and licked my face to wake me up, wanting to be taken out. It all came together for me. – Joe

        April 15, 2012 at 7:22 am

      • Either way is fine with me. All I really need is the title of the post so I can send traffic your way from the A to Z blog.

        April 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    • Kristen – I will take P if you will be so kind to take T. I woke this morning remembering much. – Joe

      April 15, 2012 at 7:16 am

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