Friday, April 02, 2010

Moving Mountains

My professors, collectively, at California State University, Sacramento are simply amazing. They are and have been professional, dedicated, informed and selfless… they are genuinely interested in the success of their students. These are attributes that cannot be faked. Although this is true for the vast majority of my instructors during the pursuit of my bachelor’s degree, it is universally so for every one in my postgraduate quest for a master’s degree. Every single one. All have helped to shape not my vision of the world per se, but my ability to critically form a vision of my own. All have had a profound and lasting influence on my life. Frequently - check that - daily, something one or more of them has said becomes real in that particular moment in time. Today is no exception.

I know how to write. I have been gifted with some innate ability to string words and punctuation together that seems to make sense not only to me, but to many others as well. It is not the artistic talent I would have chosen, but I am grateful for it nonetheless. But it is not as easy as it might sound – I still have to take what is in my head and articulate it. It’s the articulation that comes naturally; apparently, getting the thoughts out of my head is a different story. One of my professors acknowledges the simplicity of the act while identifying how complex it often is in one simple statement: “Know what you want to say and say exactly that.” Of late, that middle ground that exists between the knowing and the saying has been quite a challenge.

Another former mentor once told me that he thinks in pictures. He was not trying to say that I should or that everyone does, just that he has identified how his thought process works. It helped me to not only understand where he was coming from, but also to think about how I formed my ideas. After thinking (and writing) about it, I came to the conclusion that I do not think in pictures – not as a primary modus operandi anyway. I resolved that I think in words. And though I still put a large degree of stock into that notion, I am beginning to think it’s just not a simple as all that. If it were absolutely true, I would not have as much trouble extracting my ideas and setting them to words. In other words, my thoughts do not begin life in language – it is something more primal than that.

The first part of that statement my professor made it not exactly difficult – I almost always know what I want to say. The problem rises when that knowing doesn’t manifest itself in language, it is more an abstract feeling that must be further translated before it can be expressed symbolically. That is not to say what is happening between my ears does not get communicated in other ways; non-verbal communication occurs all the time. It may or may not be as precise as symbolic communication, but even words need to be translated and interpreted. And when I decode the words of others, I do not necessarily believe that they are taken in and processed as the symbols that conveyed the ideas – they are translated back into abstract feelings that I can relate to. It explains why a moving speech, or scene, or image is moving… symbols alone cannot do that, they only represent something else and what that is can never be absolutely, precisely represented.

But when those symbols are carefully constructed, what they represent can move mountains.


Belizegial said...

Mike, the past three posts you did, are uniquely yours and I need to ponder them a bit more.

Have a great Easter break and may all those swirling thoughts manifest themselves in exceptional writing. I look forward to reading more.

CyberKitten said...

I too have been very impressed with my tutors on my recently completed MA. They all went out of their way to be helpful and encourage their students not only to think well but to write well. It was a real pleasure to be there and I feel that it was two years very well spent.