Monday, 16 December 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Sixty-Seven: Light

I am grateful, today, for my life, and it is largely the result of reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," a true, fictional account of his time in the Vietnam War. I can't say for sure, actually, that he calls it true fiction, but I do.

It is a book that contains more (and deeper) truth than most of us will ever have to bear. The word thorough comes to mind. And unequivocal. Ambiguous. Outrageous. And although one feels, in turning it's heavy pages, that it is a book which cannot be read too quickly—full of imagery that winces and squirms, unsettling the senses and tearing away at moral ground—one finds it difficult to put down. I want to know what happens next. I want to know how to put such maddening complexity, such devastation and beauty, as O'Brien does, into words that never fall short.

Thankfully, we do not all go to war. We are not all forced to shine our brazen light on such irrevocable darkness. Still, there is something O'Brien's men carry that we carry with them, and perhaps the fact that we carry it together is what prevents our being crushed by it. We find within ourselves the same seeds of disparity and torment, of isolation and confusion, of love and passion and longing and tenderness; we feel the shame of cowardice and the inadequacy of courage. We find ourselves, despite our greatest efforts, full of contradiction, negotiating a world of insufferable injustice and breath-taking beauty. We find ourselves equally challenged by both, and up to our necks in the impossible truth of things. Today, I am grateful for that, for all of it, and also for the power of words and people like Tim O'Brien for accepting the responsibility of writing them down.

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