Saturday, July 20, 2019

10. Tell Me a Story

For July 20, 2019

I realized this morning, when I was in the canteen at the New York Blood Center, drinking juice and eating salty snacks after donating, that my post about the July 2019 issue of National Geographic was telling the story in a compelling enough way. There were multiple stories:
1. The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, the moon landing.
2. That self-involved Instagram thing that involves posting one's every moves, with a bit of smug self-satisfaction that I was spending a VERY hot summer Saturday morning donating blood (which, to the Blood Center's credit, I did because there's a huge shortage and the Blood Center was relentless in nailing down a donation time.
3. National Geographic's clean, graphic look that in part nods to strong typography in The New York Times Magazine and in the later part of the features, continues the tradition spectacular photography. I took photos to possibly show students and noted to myself I should buy the issue.
It's a gift and a discipline to be able to tell a compelling story. Today's fear—not yet conquered—may well be fear of being boring (or fear of admitting I'm boring).

But today weaves fear of being a dull story-teller with another fear: fear of Alzheimer's. My father died of complications from Alzheimer's, my father's youngest brother now has it, a cousin who is not much older than I has frontal lobe dementia. Never the sharpest knife in the drawer (or wooden knife-holder thingie), I'm terrified of losing my marbles. Forgive me for noting this fear before and for repeating it in the future.

What is the point of today's action, which is really active learning? It's to heed an article by Mark Singer in The New Yorker* about the brilliant writer David Milch, who created one of my favorite TV series, "Deadwood." Milch has middle stage Alzheimer's. Yet, he's continuing to write, continuing to face his fears while he can still reason or process thoughts. Singer asks if the mind-thief Alzheimer's has given Milch anything in return. The answer is:
. . . a continuous sense of urgency. . . . There's an acute sense of time's passage . . . "
Mark Singer writes, "Milch believes that time is ultimately the subject of every story. It is a conviction descended from [Milch's mentor] Robert Penn Warren . . . For decades, in classrooms, writers's rooms, personal encounters, lectures and interviews, Milch has cited its concluding lines:
Tell me a story./
In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story./
Make it a story of great distances, and starlight./
The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name./
Tell me a story of deep del
At  some point, I have to have the discipline that Milch has (or has had) in writing, or Christoph Niemann—who works steady and consistent hours—has in drawing/painting. In the meantime, I'll take Milch's advice—and story—to heart.

Darkness is coming. But as of May, 2019, life was not total darkness for Milch.


*The profile "Hello Darkness" is in the May 27, 2019 issue of The New Yorker. It's a brilliant interview and so moving on many levels.

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