A Moral Quandary
A Moral Quandary
I recall reading a review of Knausgård over at 3:AM some time ago, a few months back, wherein writers were described, not untruthfully, as the worst sort of person to have in one’s life – they reveal your secrets, they dig about in the soil of your hidden gardens, bringing the twisted, ugly little tubers of private personality to light. While I’m not in the business of writing such revealing and unapologetic prose as Karl, this craft requires that I take advantage, often on the sly, of the people closest to me. As per the tired dictum, “write what you know,” what else am I to do? What, or who, do I know better than my friends, my sibling(s), my partner(s), or my parents? Where can I look for the most colourful, deep and visceral of failings, of foibles, of manias but in those most intimate to me?
From a utilitarian perspective, the correct choice seems obvious – these are my relationships, these are the things that each of us looks for, and maintains, for the betterment of our own lives. One ought to respect the privacy of those that they profess to love.
Of course, I wouldn’t be so crude as to lift wholely from life – it smacks of a lack of artistry – but I imagine that, confronted with an allegorical or roundabout representation of the self, most would recognise the source. More often than not, if the representation is an uncharitable one, there will be some awkwardness. Questions as to whether the writer really thinks such and such a thing about the person, whether that is the extent to which they value them, and so forth. For those who are comfortable with their status as assholes, this is, of course, a non-issue. For those of us that continue to abuse ourselves of the notion that we are “nice people,” there is some desire to play the part.
So, it seems like one should pull the punch, that one should draw-back from a full and obvious expose. But, then, enter the converse of respect for the Other, that of respect for the Self. If the creative life is the sole one worth living, and I’m increasingly sure of that, is it not equally dishonest of us to skimp on our work? If we have the opportunity for greatness, is it not a moral failing of our own not to pursue it, especially when the cost seems so comparably light? And furthermore, surely it should be counted an act of disrespect to treat our loved-ones with kid gloves, as if they were spun of the lightest cobwebbing. It seems to me a poor estimation of their vitality, their robustness, to do so. After all, aren’t we seeking a deeper and more real connection with them? Isn’t this exactly what stayed our hand a moment ago? What, then, if the action offered up as solution is a worse problem? Clearly, if the relationship were a good one to begin with, this should be looked upon as further opportunity for discourse, and not an unacceptable breach of decorum.
Thus, I intend to make use of that which I have around in abundance, though not crudely, and not meanly, and not slightingly, but honestly. These things are perspectival, to be sure, but they also have about them an element of the objective. This will be, as per current abilities, the closest thing we have to immortality. Is it not then a boon to have such personal qualities as your own failings recorded in detail?