Each week I dive into a sea of humanity and end up alone, in the morning, writing about what I have experienced.
Whether the output is political, journalistic, scientific, culinary, agricultural or just being alive, what I write is grounded in a contemporary life viewed through sixty-plus years of personal experiences. It’s all the same process.
Humans are a rough and rowdy bunch. It’s challenging to capture modern life in a way that does justice to its complexity. Photos are not enough, naturalism is fraught with issues. Endemic to it all is the platform and perspective our lives create which position us to view society in the raw.
It can wear a person out. It can also invigorate us.
Each week I’ve been exposed to thousands of people from all walks of life. It is difficult to understand every experience, nor would I want to. It is hard not to cling to positive experiences and ignore negative. Some I meet don’t get outside home much. Others spend much time in the public arena. There are friends, neighbors and relatives with everyone mixed into a seasonal soup of life. Each week represents different ingredients, different flavors.
What matters more to a writer is having something unique to say. We know better what is not unique — set pieces, articles written on contract, photos of cats posted in social media. What it is, and should be, is articulation of experience that creates an understanding of an aspect of a complicated society on our only home and water planet.
It is modern to take raw materials of life and craft them into something readable, usable, and of value. The process is not always positive and writers should be cognizant of their impact in a constantly changing society.
I recall June Helm with whom I studied anthropology. It is impossible for an anthropologist not to influence the culture he or she studies, Helm told us. I took two lessons from this. The transient writer must tread lightly where we travel and work hard to do justice to what has been studied and experienced. The emphasis should always be creating something of value to subjects and readers alike.
As I prepare for this week’s dive into humanity I’m not nearly rested enough. My bones and ligaments ache from age and overuse. My cardio-vascular system seems okay, but one never knows. I can’t see as well as I once did and the looking I’ve developed has me ignoring much that would engage me previously. Imperfect though my platform and perspective may be, I’m ready to jump from the cliff it represents, hoping to avoid the rocks, and go deep into the sea of humanity once again.