Zschokke – A conversation in two voices

A conversation in two voices,  Autobiography in action, a writing exercise:

“But I don’t want to teach!”

“Yeah, you do. It satisfies your god-complex.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You ever notice how much you want to tell people how to do things? How to organize their lives, how to be more efficient, how to act?”

“But that’s …”

“No, let me finish. I know you think that’s only your persona and that you are reacting to people’s needs, to their wanting to be told what to do. The God complex starts out, often, as a sincere desire to help. And becomes the habit of being right, of having all the answers, of standing in front, leading the way. Doctors fall to it early so, too, do professors. And charter captains. Which fits you two out of three. After a while being right and telling people how to be, becomes a habit. And then a natural law. At which point anyone who resists becomes an enemy, or, at least, an ingrate. And you don’t need your podium any more. You feel that being accorded respect is your god-given right.”

“You done, then? You think you’re any better just because you sit at home all day long plotting those stupid stories? You don’t even talk to real people! You do it from behind the scenes, by manipulation. Making puppets do things and then rewarding them according to your warped worldview – giving some partners, jobs, and happiness while others get killed or come down with terrible illnesses.”

“At least I don’t mess with people’s minds.”

“Oh, yeah? You know how many times a reader snaps at her partner just because your character happened to get cheated? Books should carry a warning – the Surgeon General warns that reading can be harmful to the marriage, the self-esteem, or the life of the reader. You do it subliminally – make readers want to drink, or find sex, or have an adventure. And all the while you’re hiding behind the pages of the book … At least, when I’m standing in front of the class, my listeners know they’re being talked at, that I have an agenda they can, if they want to, reject. You, on the other hand, lead them like blind sheep.”

“It’s because I do NOT have an agenda as such that my audience can pick their own way. I do NOT lead them. I set out a scenario, a landscape, and they find their own way through and around the obstacles. I give them challenges and enrich their lives, while you shove your opinion down their throats. I give people alternate lives, you give them indigestion.”

“Ha, ha, that’s a totally meaningless crack. One of those only writers can get away with. It seems to make sense but, really, it doesn’t hang together. No more than this conversation which began with ‘I don’t’ want to teach’ and became a podium for spouting untenable oppositions. Unless we can agree on this: it proves that teaching AND writing turn us into empty windbags…”

“Now if we had a REAL topic with a first sentence…”