Dear Mudge, Extreme Stoic Expression?

How ya been, Mr. ‘Mudge?

How’s that mountain air, the wildlife and the local burgers treating you?

I’ll tell ya, it’s been a hella strange mix of spring into summer this year. Weeks of slogging through a dull, mundane existence, punctuated by bizarre spikes of unpleasantness. A crazy ice storm and loss of power and internet. My daughter rushed to the hospital for emergency appendectomy. The ever constant drone of Rust code in my mind and last weekend’s 115F degree heat. And of course there was the month after month of writer’s apathy and far too much television/youtube. Yes, I think one can definitely consume too much TV — life’s emotion and experiences fed vicariously through an aural/visual IV losing much of its punch and verve along the way.

And how can one forget the constant hum of covid news that appears to be finally dwindling. Being vaccinated certainly takes the pressure off keeping current on that front.

These days, I’m feeling around, like a mole probing for earthworms, wondering if I can write my way out of indifference. As I do, of course, I begin to ponder the philosophical aspects of the task. This latest is simple: can a Stoic, who prides himself on attenuating the highs and lows of existence, ever write passionately about anything?

If one never allows oneself to feel the ecstasy or the misery how can one possibly communicate such emotions through words? Can you write of pure joy without ever experiencing ecstatic bliss? Can you write of raging hatred if you’ve never let abhorrent loathing consume you? Even if only through imagination, could a Stoic ever allow himself to drift out of his narrow channel of calm acceptance?

Are the best writers always impassioned humans?

Stay cool my friend,
‘Mole

 


30 thoughts on “Dear Mudge, Extreme Stoic Expression?

  1. I’m not much help with deep, philosophical answers regarding the intricacies of the writing process but from what I’ve read of the thing in my past life full of differing aspirations the short solution is “yes.” In fact, it’s likely that the only way to write one’s self out of indifference is just to write. If you’re passionate about a thing write about it. If you’re indifferent about a thing write about it. The most important thing for a writer to do, I would say, is write.

    I am not a writer, though I conspired to be one once, so take that for what it’s worth.

    But there may be something larger at play here, too, for the whole of the throng: With Covid winding down, and restrictions lifting up, our year of solitude has ceased. Whether bon vivant or recluse, this shift in societal movement must have some effect on us all, deeply, on the surface or at all points in-between. 🤷

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Catching up I see… Good, no doubt you’ve been missed.
      The more I research, analyze and fake being a Stoic, the more I believe all Stoics are simmering volcanoes with emotions capped by ideals they barely hold onto.
      And indeed, to be stoic-like is to struggle with one’s humanity, one’s hormones, one’s urges — forever.
      Regarding covid’s impact on me personally, I may be one of the least effected people out there. I’ve worked from home, in a box, for years, rarely go anywhere, and cook and eat whatever the wife buys at the grocery store. Me two years ago is me in 2020 is me now.
      I pretty much suck at being an operative member of society.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Powerful questions, Mole. I’m no stoic, but then neither do I swing from pole to emotional pole…except in my imagination. There, I can be anything because I can conjure big things out of little experiences. It’s magic. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you raise a good question. The question you might ask yourself is do you want to feel the things you may very well be capable of feeling? Is there a happy medium between holding to stoic principles moderately enough that you can feel but not allow yourself to be dragged to the extremes? To keep everything in its proper place, where you can harness it for creativity? Are you completely at peace with the principles you’ve outlined, or does something nag you that what you envision as your own ideal writing might be limited somehow in its full potential if you choose to adhere to a strict stoicism? These are just random questions, you need not answer. Life is so short, I believe we should experience the full range of things if we have the opportunity, but no doubt reason plays an important role in keeping everything in perspective. Lately, in my own writerly concerns, I wondered if I could ever make anything of myself when I don’t have words anymore. You can’t write if you don’t have the words. I have to take antiseizure drugs and oh do they take a toll on your vocabulary and ability to express thoughts. Because of this, I’ve given up the idea of writing ever being anything more significant than writing in journals. There’s peace in acceptance. My only advice–if you are capable of feeling and you believe your work will benefit, then do it if you can, if the gift is there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, Hetty. That was great.
      So, tell me, that took intense cogent thinking and expression. If you could do that for a hour, you could write a novel, over time.
      I understand that your circumstances insist on a balance between acute lucidity and basic functional capability. But if the above is any example, I’d say you’ve whooped it.
      And yes, no doubt Stoics would indeed experience such sensations as love and joy and loathing and misery — but their reactions and outward exhibition would be the evidence of their stoicism. Their control should not preclude experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re too kind. If there was any cogency to be found in it, then that’s all I could squeeze out for the week. The day I forgot the word “crumb” and called it a “tiny food thingy” was the day I knew the jig was up.

        I think maybe the answers you’re looking for are found in the questions themselves and in the process of trying to answer them. The way you phrase it in your post, that sounds like an existential novel in itself.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There was an essay on James M Cain by Joyce Carol Oates that bagged on and on about his slop and colloquial style, but in the end what kept him from being an artist were the very things that made him ring authentic with readers. The very things perfected by the Elmore Leonards of the “literary” world. Bear down in the meat, ease up on the potato salad.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All the extremes, the psychosis’ the “emotions” are merely conjurerer’s illusions. The capes and hats are words and phrases, tools of the trade. The question you need answered is when does that appearing magical become a skill – when does a trick become simple mechanics? When does process become invisible in the pursuit of desired outcome?
      Beats hell outta me, but it sounds more like a failure to launch than a philosophical issue. Never know where you’ll go until you throw the map away and let the voices in your head show you things you never imagined.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. Bottom line, if one can tell a compelling story, who’s to question the process?
        (We’ll be reading an AGI’s award winning narrative soon enough — and not realize that it’s a machine.)

        Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s a great question. I find it easier to write action scenes (like you mention in your comment reply to someone else) than to write emotions. It’s not that I don’t experience them but because I prefer for my emotional line to be as flat as possible at most times. I have to “think back” to certain events to figure out how it felt. It also helps to observe others and see how THEY react to certain things. I feel that allows me to stay stable and to be able to “feel” the emotions at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point.

      Here’s some more thoughts…
      What does it feel like to be a schizophrenic? Or have ADHD? Or be a sociopath or psychopath… If you’ve never actually experienced those mind-states? Can you really “image” being one of those in order to portray them accurately in writing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course not. However, if you do your research, you can get pretty close. Plus, what saves us is that most people have not experienced those, either. So, even if we’re not 100% accurate, many won’t know the difference. Sometimes it just has to be “good enough.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. What I’ve been finding is, yeah, of course we can’t exactly know of the mindsets of those conditions. However, it may not matter–not for the act of writing and portraying *something* that might represent those states of being.
          Like pretending to be a dog or a butterfly or ghost, presenting the imagined behavior and actions of a mind we’ll never get to inhabit is enough for the story. Who cares if it’s accurate, as long as it keeps a reader reading.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I SAW A CARTOON RECENTLY THAT SHOWED A CHARCTER TALKING TO SISYPHUS. THE CHARCTER LOOKED OVER AT SISYPHUS AND SAID TO HIM – “AND YOU THINK YOU HAVE PROBLEMS. YOUR PROBLE IS MINOR COMPARED TO MINE. I AM TRYING TO WRITE A NOVEL.”
    I MAY HAVE THAT SOMEWHAT OFF, BUT IT WAS SOMETHING VERY CLOSE TO THE ABOVE. AND IT IS ALAS SO TRUE. SISYPHUS MUST KNOW BY NOW THAT HE CANNOT SUCEED, WHILE THE WRITER CAN NOT BE SURE ONE WAY OR THE OTHER AS LONG AS HE OR SHE HAS A BREATH LEFT. THE GODS CAN BE SUCH DEVILS.
    A GOOD WAY TO BRING UP EMOTIONS IS TO THINK BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP OF EVERYTHING YOU REGRET DOING OR NOT DOING AND THE LOSSES THESE EVENTS INVOLVED. THEN ENTER SLEEP WITH THE INTENT OF LOOKING AT THE SITUATIONS WITH THE FLUID MIND OF SLEEP. OPEN YOURSELF TO THE DRAMAS OF YOUR LIFE AND LET THE BRAIN FLOW WITH THE ARISING MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL STATES. BY JUST WATCHING THE EVENTS UNFOLDING THE MIND WILL ON ITS OWN ENABLE THE FLOW OF EMOTIONS AS YOU WATCH WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST WITH THE PRESENT ASLEEP MIND THAT BRINGS ALL ISSUES TO CLOSUR AS THAT IS THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE MIND AT SLEEP.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Mike.
      Preloading the sleep-mind with future intent… Hadn’t thought of that. I’ve used the technique with logical problems, even writing problems, but not as a conditioner for emotional resolution.
      Maybe tomorrow, Monday, I could come by for a chat… Will text you.

      Like

    1. I suppose that’s the boundary I’m seeking to explore. At what level can imagination fail to provide the material necessary to evoke the appropriate depiction?
      Plot and caricature and events and devices seem like they can be assembled from pure imagination. If one has witnessed a falling tree and the butchering of an animal for lunch, one could probably combine the two.
      I wonder, though, if one has purposefully suppressed the extremes of emotion, to the point where they’ve faded from memory, (if they ever existed), can one propose to imagine the despondent depression of a lost love, one that could have been saved had you taken that final step toward surrender?
      At what point does imagination fail us?

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    1. Imagining plot, action, sequence is one thing. There’s a physicality to these things. Plunge a rusty bait knife into the neck of a tender young woman’s neck, the gore is gonna spill and drench her cornflower blue blouse.
      But what of the passionate aftermath, after Brian wakes from his drunken stupor, the remorse that he’ll feel, the dread, the emotional agony… Could the writer portray that if he had never allowed himself to experience crippling loss and heartbreak?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s nothing wrong with writing from a stoic perspective—a lot of people don’t like emotional extremes. But you can write what you don’t t know, I mean look at me. People tell me I’m not that funny in person but I write a humour blog. Yet another of life’s mysteries 😁

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I suppose I was considering someone who purposefully chose not to love, not to pine, or long for a deep emotional connection. No doubt Emily did which most likely provided her with the ability and material to express herself as she did.

      Liked by 2 people

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