Having been generated, along the lines I've set out over the last four posts, I return to the question - can Wilful Misunderstandings change the world? Not overnight, as stated somewhere below, but as a seed that has the potential to grow into significance?
Naturally, I'd like to think so. I've written the bloody thing. There must be some sort of use to it, beyond the gratification of my ego by having a book to my name. Will it entertain? I reckon so. I've had to read, re-read and re-re-read these stories more than any of you will, and they still hold my interest. I've read them to audiences who appear to have enjoyed and I've had some positive feedback on the published ones. That's enough to convince me. If I wasn't convinced, it wouldn't be worth publishing it.
But as I grow older, I find increasingly that entertainment alone fails to satisfy. Greedy me, I want to be left with something to think about too. Something that adds at least some little chunk to my understanding of how all the wheels keep turning, why shit happens, and who put the benzedrine in Mrs Murphy's Ovaltine. I want to be provoked by hitherto un-encountered trains of thought. I want the rug to be pulled out from under my feet and my view of all that surrounds me shifted out of its habitual perspectives. I like books that do this. To pick a couple of randomly selected examples... Brian Catling's 'The Vorrh' showed me how fantasy could be written without falling back on a single one of the genre's standard trappings, how surrealism can be explored with no lack of strong characterisation, emotional engagement or sheer humanity. Italo Calvino's 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveller...' blew my mind with its self-referential conundrums, its ceaseless exploration and exposure of how literature weaves into our consciousness whilst at the same time being literature that does exactly that.
These are the kind of books that change me. I am not exactly the same person I was before I read them. They propel me to try things that I wouldn't have considered trying before I read them. Calvino's book certainly contributed to my approach in 'Wilful Misunderstandings'. Catling's came to me too late for that, but will doubtless filter its influence into work I'll do in future.
Okay, but change the world? What are any of these books going to do about global warming, random bombings and shootings, the pernicious grip of the mega-rich on most of the world's resources, fanaticism, domestic violence etc. etc.?
Let's turn that question round. What is going to solve those problems? Politics and politicians? I don't think so. Even the few that appear to retain some integrity (and like many of us in the UK I'm pretty sure that applies to Jeremy Corbyn) have little chance of overcoming the impediments that politics itself puts in their way. People power has potential, I think, but it's a double-edged sword. Misinformation and manipulation can too easily convert such positive energy into destructiveness and oppression.
To me, the crucial change we need if there's to be any hope for generations to come is a change of consciousness. As a species, we need to re-set our moral compass, and having done so question everything that we ever thought we knew. Every premise that we build from needs to be examined holistically, and constantly re-examined for its appropriateness in the light of change and flux.
I'm skirting around the biggest issue we humans face, here, and I'll come back to some of this and explore it some more in a later post, but the point I want to make now is that mental flexibility will be crucial here. We need to be able to drop concepts at a moment's notice if they're not working for the general benefit of us and our world. And to adopt new ones with equal rapidity, if they show signs of standing up to questioning and proving beneficial. Politics is too mired in its tribal theatricality to even begin to do this. There have to be better ways than the ones we've so far tried or we've had it - and, this being the Anthropocene, so have vast swathes of other living species, possibly even the entire biosphere.
So my little games with words could just, if they're worth the paper they're written on, be agents of change. They could, I'd like to think, change your consciousness - just as mine was changed by the mighty and far superior works I cited a few paragraphs back. Whatever the scale, it does the job. You might find my work more accessible than theirs. You might not. But if it connects for you as I hope it will, by the time you get to the end, you'll be seeing things just a little bit differently.
And that's a positive step.
Well, where do I go from here? With still just over a month to go before my publication date, how do I keep this little pot bubbling? Find out next post. Til then may the road rise with you, but also descend when you get tired of walking uphill.