Mid-Course Corrections and Endings

I can hardly believe that, when I turn out the light to sleep tonight, there will be only nine days left of the month. Nine days left to steer my NaNoWriMo experiment into some sort of harbor. That fact dawned on me yesterday—I’ve been so caught up writing each chapter that I lost sight of the fact that I have to end the story soon.

If that isn’t material for deep contemplation, I don’t know what is. I suppose I could say that I enjoy writing fiction, in part, because it’s so much like living life, but with more control. Story as metaphor for life is nothing new. Mythologists like to point out that, throughout history, the human race has told stories as a way to make sense of experience. To some extent, I agree with that. We do tell stories, because in stories events make sense. If nothing else, they make sense to the author. If we have questions, we have the chance to ask the author, while he or she lives, or to consult the author’s full body of works afterward.

When we cast our lives in the shape of stories, we can superimpose cause and effect where none seems apparent. Thus we make ourselves the author of our own existence—which makes no real sense, considering the context of existence, but I’m not prepared to go there just now. I’ll only say at this point that it makes no sense to me because we have no “big picture” perspective on our lives. We’re grounded in each chapter as it comes, and our ability to steer the plot is limited at best—and at worst, practically nonexistent. There are too many other factors to control, like genetics and other people’s choices and environmental influences. We do our best, but we are so busy working our way through each chapter that we usually give little thought to the eventual end for which we want to aim.

The ends at which we aim are short-term: relationships, finances, promotions, and so forth. People don’t like to look beyond these. It’s considered morbid, or depressing, or fanatical to consider death and what might or might not lie beyond it. But when every chapter contributes to the climax of the story, and when we insist on exerting as much control as we can over the individual chapters, we will end up responsible for the ending whether we mean to or not. It strikes me as better to give some thought to the trajectory of the plot, morbid or not, than just end up at the end of your word count with a look of idiotic surprise on your face because you didn’t see that coming.

As it turns out, life is a choose-your-own-ending after all. Comedy, or tragedy? They say the difference between the two is that the comedy ends with a wedding, while the tragedy ends in a funeral. I think life will end much the same. Comedy, or tragedy? You decide.
Rev. XIX:vii


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