Saturday, April 28, 2012

1900 Typed Pages & No End in Sight

For those who know me they occasionally ask me how my book is coming.  They are referring to my book about ethics and values.  It has a tentative title that probably means more to me than others: Peace, Love & Democracy.  They are the three things we need to make the world a better place.  Others may add family, kids, religion, friendship, capitalism, sports and a long list of passions and institutions that shape who we are.  But I think most other things can be accounted for under each of the three areas I identified.  My answer to the dwindling number of inquiries is:  “Well, I have over 1900 typed pages written but I don’t think I’m halfway done.”

Every writer struggles at some point.  Some write too much and don’t know when to stop.  Others write well but need an editor.  Some get writer’s block.  Other’s can’t make the time to practice their craft.  The list—the excuses—goes on and on.  For me, it’s a little different.

The premise behind my book, which I began writing in college over 25 years ago, was that the world needs to be saved, that it was worth saving, and that it can be saved. I thought there must be a formula to be discovered that can right the world’s wrongs and shortcomings.  I knew a world of war, crime, preventable disease, and premature illness was one I didn’t want to live in.  I possessed optimism, hope, ignorance, innocence, and conviction.  I thought I held the ideas, the questions, and the power to make a difference.

I wanted to let my ethics develop from experience, as well as observation and research.  At some point, I thought I had a handle of how the world was and is and wanted to share a united vision of what could be.

Now I wonder if all I was doing was writing a novel, for my sense of truth was perhaps seen by another as fiction.  The world is too corrupt and set in its ways to change in a wide scale, meaningful way.  My glass went from being half full to half empty.

I see how hard it is, firsthand, to struggle with doing what is right, and avoiding what is wrong.  Ant once I come through the difficult process of securing my sense of truth I fail to live up to it.  Ideals lead to a theory of perfection that one inevitably falls far short of achieving.  Of course it doesn’t mean that we can just give up, just throw in the towel and let the world fall apart.  But right now—and it’s been several years that I’ve been afflicted by these conclusions—I am on pause.  I can’t seem to write this book without feeling like a hypocrite, without feeling like I come up short in a shifting, ethically-challenging landscape. Who wants to feel guilt of pain or loss?  Who wants to be criticized, especially by themselves?  Who wants to confront life and death issues and still not be left with answers?

I can conclude many things and yet noting seems conclusive.  Everything seems subject to so many conflicted sides of life.  The ego battles on.  Our need for pleasure, desire fulfilled, and comfort challenges our understanding of obligation, priority, fairness, and the ability to share. 

Lines get crossed.  Things don’t remain in neatly packaged boxes.  We can say hate, death, greed, and anger belong on one side and love, life, generosity and laughter on the other.  But then we look at the fine print for life’s contacts and look to make deals, to have exceptions written in, to make a sacrifice of one thing for another.  It’s hard to build a life when it seems there is not one thing, place, person, value or ideal that you can count on, that trumps all.  But we do live a life of “if.”  If you choose to believe person X or idea Q is of the utmost importance then the rest of life draws derivatively from there.   Right or wrong, good or bad, you have found an ethic or standard to live by and judge others by.  Until something happens—circumstances change, society changes, needs change—and suddenly you embrace a new truth, perhaps one exactly opposite of what you had embraced.  How strange life can be.  And how confusing.

I will finish this book, of this I am certain.  But I’m as curious as you are as to how it will end. 

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

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