Friday, January 01, 2010

Dark Night of the Soul
"In the Christian tradition, one who has developed a strong prayer life and consistent devotion to God suddenly finds traditional prayer extremely difficult and unrewarding for an extended period of time during this 'dark night.' The individual may feel as though God has suddenly abandoned them or that his or her prayer life has collapsed. In the most pronounced cases, belief is lost in the very existence of God and/or validity of religion, rendering the individual an atheist, even if they continue with the outward expressions of faith; compare crisis of faith."

-- "Dark Night of the Soul," Wikipedia Entry
"The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks."

-- The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams
There is a stage of the writing process where I know what must be done, yet I cannot seem to push through and do it. Unfortunately, this phase comes at the beginning.


cartoon by Hugh MacLeod: www.gapingvoid.com

I've hit the wall with Lang. How to put this in words? It's as if I have assembled all the elements called for in a recipe -- let's say I'm making lasagne. I have the noodles, the tomato paste, the ricotta cheese, etc. and they refuse to put themselves together. Worse, all those ingredients are frozen in a huge blob of gelatin, hovering out of reach.

Put another way, it's like a science experiment where you take all the elements necessary for life, the proteins and amino acids, and you put them together in a petri dish ... and wait. And wait. LIVE, DAMN YOU, LIVE!!!

It's very much a "dark night of the soul." The muse is out to lunch, and I'm sitting at my desk surrounded by note cards and books and journals and miscellaneous research material. I need that spark of life, that l'essence de la vie that will animate the piled up components. I know these pieces go together -- I've seen the end product in my mind.

Fortunately, I'm not alone in my frustration. Writers far greater than I have stood at this moment and pushed through. So I return to my "text book," a compendium of words of wisdom I keep in a notebook for just such an occasion.

Here's Philip K. Dick, and a speech he delivered in 1978, "How to Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later":
However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.
Hmm. Nazi Germany was incredibly structured and ordered. Frightfully so. Lang was at the height of his powers as a filmmaker, and the events of 1933 certainly contributed much chaos to the filmmaker's life. Lang had the choice of becoming entrenched in the merciless order or throwing his entire life into chaos. My play centers on Lang's "High Noon" moment, the Faustian bargain, his dark night of the soul. I think I can work with this.

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