"Question number one: Explain Western history. Be specific; support your answer."
--History class pop quiz set by Chuck Noblet [Stephen Colbert], Strangers with Candy: "Invisible Love"
I read David Sedaris until midnight last night and fell asleep thinking of wicked funny stories I could write up about my relatives. But I woke up once again wondering, would any of these meet the Buddhist teaching "Do not use your words to cause harm"? Mmm, maybe not. But some of them would definitely count as "Meaningful talk."
So, this morning, I set myself a pop quiz.
1. What would be my intention in writing about my family and other animals, liberation and enlightenment or revenge?
I plead the fifth.
2. How 'bout if they never, ever read your stuff?
Uh-huh. Until you get famous and they're sitting in an airport lounge one day and overhear someone screaming with laughter, "Listen to this!" and reading out loud to a friend the part where you've most clearly and intimately exposed them.
3. If you write about people who're dead, does it matter?
4. Can I bear to muck about in this material from the past, some of which is radioactive?
Judging by how quavery I feel after writing even the most emotionally remote post I can, maybe not.
5. Can I bear to do the work?
I'm old enough to know that light, feathery writing appears usually only after you've chipped away a few tons of granite. I'm lazy.
6. Where's the line between honesty and privacy; between being funny and being pathetic?
I don't know, but I know what it looks like when you overshoot it. Example: a homily in which the priest told us--no doubt after making a brave decision to break a taboo--that there was a time when he engaged in a lot of "solitary sexual activity." God bless him, I think he was trying to talk about God's everpresent mercy, but for a long time afterward, any one of my pew-pals only had to whisper "S.S.A." to make the others writhe in exquisite embarrassment, like junior high kids.
7. How much do I want to expose myself, much less the others?
Yes, no, maybe, it depends.
Answers will be graded on penmanship.