My Wobbly Bicycle, 144

Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 | 4 comments

download-2Will I be allowed to mail a knife for Christmas? A really good chef’s knife, with ergonomically designed Fibrox handle that provides a sure grip even when wet, that has a lifetime warranty? The whole thing is embedded in clamshell plastic, which I hope is good enough to pass muster with the postal service. More and more, I’m beginning to be uneasy about who’s going to look in on my innocent life, who suspects me of everything, asks me questions, even at the post office. Will I tell the truth about what’s wrapped in the package?  I am guilty of so many things, some so small they won’t fit in a packing box, some over the weight limit.



images-1And now here comes the snow. Even the weather is blowing up trouble, hiding what’s underneath.


Accusation and guilt are raging, to all degrees, from possible collusion to outright treason. From slightly improper touching, to gross sexual harassment, to child molestation. Who can ever know everything necessary to make fair judgments? What’s fair? Who will judge? Will the judgments matter? I feel a bit floaty, my feet unable to touch ground, to know anything for sure.


Well, the law is the law. We need it. That said, the law isn’t always right or always fair. And has multiple interpretations.


download-3Colbert has a segment on his show called “Midnight Confessions,” in which he goes behind the screen of a confessional, as in: “Forgive me, audience. My neighbor asked me to water his plants when he was on vacation, but I’m pretty sure they all died in that fire.” The humor of this skit is our own awareness that we do stuff we wish we hadn’t. We fall short of our self-imposed standards. “Well, excuse me for living,” my mother used to say when she felt unjustly accused.


When the weather’s turning, snow coming in, when the political weather is turning, when life is turning the “wrong” way, I think sometimes evoking the auto-response of “I did something wrong,” is unhelpful. Our forebears slaughtered lambs and made burnt offerings to assuage the weather-gods. Not sure we’re that much more evolved. We feel we have to blame someone, and if there’s no one else easily available, we start in on ourselves. At least then we have the security of pointing a finger SOMEwhere. Shame on me.


But the causes of anything are so varied and complex it seems pure hubris for me to don my hair shirt. Should I blame my parents, my grandparents, my deep DNA, the weather? It seems to make more sense to just look carefully to see what I can do to ease the suffering I see, now, here.


download-6Which brings me to writing. Writers mirror. If they’re good writers, they mirror life as it is. As they see it, as they’ve seen it. When they bend and distort facts, it’s in the service of coming closer to what they perceive is true. You might call that condensation. The object isn’t to blame, but to show what happened, how it seemed to happen. To include as much nuance as possible, as much as can be understood.


This might be seen as copping out, but the way I see it, the only way we can be fair is to be clear, and that requires radical openness. Think of all the times all of us have made judgments, only later to say, “Oh, no, if only I’d known enough. I was mistaken.” What the writer can do is keep opening, opening, opening the situation. Leaving it open, against all the inclination toward sit-com closure.


  1. “Writers mirror.” Yes. Thanks Fleda.

  2. It’s not just when writing that we might incline toward sit-com closure. We tell friends our stories and manage to leave out plenty. Sometimes to gain sympathy. Have a good look at this week’s New Yorker story, “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian. Here’s the give-away line. “By then, Albert had heard a version of the story, though not quite the true one; nearly all her friends had” (p.71).

  3. Those last lines are so important: What the writer can do is keep opening, opening, opening the situation. Leaving it open, against all the inclination toward sit-com closure.

  4. About all of the drama in the news. I try to remember 2 things: 1) there is nothing new the sun, and 2) while we cannot ignore what’s going on around us, your suggestion for radical openness resonates. I also think it helps to reframe it as passing scenery. This is not to diminish its importance, but importance is very relative. I am working on not being pulled into the pundits, the NY Times, even NPR, without allowing things to percolate in mindlessness, without intention or grasping on to some sort of “meaning” and short-term resoluteness.

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