Something Like the Truth
LITERARY WORKS OF DONN K. HARRIS (1976- )
Fires rage; microbes hit randomly; the peace is now officially shattered. One more soft landing and I may be OK. I picked up a few tricks along the way: one of them is not to jump in tornado season. Of course that requires knowing the date, and at what latitude I find myself.
ABOVE: Donn K. Harris at a San Francisco elementary school on "Read Aloud to Children Day," March 2017. Recently retired from the SF Schools where he served as Creativity Director, and a former Chair and current member of the California Arts Council, he's a freelance writer and self-styled fly in the ointment these days. 'Let's make sure out of the box is really out of the box,' he says with conviction. 'We're slipping a bit. Recently someone was very clever and said "Forget outside the box, I want to build a better box." That's been tried and it was discovered that you had to go out of the box to get ideas about a better box. Because from the inside, it's hard to see the possibilities. So we're not abandoning the box; we're just reminding everyone that wild is good, spontaneous is good, weird is good. The box over time gets to be exclusive, very full of itself. We don't need that."
Putting the nickel in . .
the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation . . . . . (thoreau)
Put that nickel in, and you need to be ready for the whole story, the story of a man, and all that he brings to this world. Put in a dime and the time, and you're liable to get something like the truth.
Thoreau was right in his day and there is still much of that in us, but people are screaming now, and the evolution to rage from quiet desperation is upon us. So put that nickel in; why not a dime? It's the Random Age, and stories abound. I had a character speak for me when I wrote these Billy Merlin lines in Next Time, No Regrets: I just want to wake up every morning and look people in the eye and say I did my best and have it be true. That was clear enough, and when I achieved it I started to dismantle it, and had to build it back. And then what? I get edgy in smooth waters, I find myself rocking the boat for the hell of it. Or maybe it's when I begin to feel like a copy.
Originality for its own sake is merely contrarian, but that still beats becoming a copy, because as a copy you lend mass and strength to an already bloated paradigm of accepted practice and silent agreements, none of which are authentic. They are pacts between agents of the appropriate and the masters of mediocrity - what's the problem with mediocrity? has been asked recently as I sense people can no longer fight it, someone has to be mediocre, it's statistically unavoidable. True, if your only measurement is linear, mediocrity will secure its place, and if you use time as a fixed point, you can render judgment on the frozen moment in the same light. The alternative is to expand the linear and move into a time-freed continuum that gives space to the young thinker and later substantial depth to the evolving adult. We'll get to all that. In any event, to be born an original and to die a copy is unforgivable, and yet the descent from originality is among our most common patterns, aligned with the loss of innocence, the fall from grace and the quiet desperation we grow to embody. All of this exists, but there's much more. And off we go.