As a humble sojourner, from an alien culture beyond the pale, I visited the locus of a convocational meld entitled literary nonfiction. Being a stranger in a strange land, I was bemused by the plethora of cultural contrasts.
In this universe city called higher education, where people agglomerate in designated niches for tutorial pedagogy and hortatory cerebration, the prevailing prototype is seemingly rectilinear. In the land from whence I came, the archetypes are round. Because form follows function, this means that whole concepts and complete ideas are routinely divided and regularly dissected, in order to accommodate paper parsing and blackboard diagrams. Rows are seemingly aligned so concepts can be ranked. The alleged roundtable discussions are always ostensibly headed in this protracted environment.
Where I hail from, an ear is politely cupped toward the speaker as a sign of interest, which gesture completes the communication circuit. My people also offer rotational movements, from modest eye rolling to ecstatic whirl dancing, as gestures of respect or approbation; but as a guest I realize that propitiations and unifications are moot in this context. For the culturally impaired participant-observer, whatever cannot be translated must be implied, and the rest ignored. Whatever is out of context, regardless of its value or intent, is a distraction or a disruption.
A seemingly random assemblage of modest professionals has conjoined, at a specified place, and for a defined period, to share their creative agonies. They enter the scholastic quadrangle through squared apertures, perch upon modified boxes facing a podium, with light cubes above and a grid work behind, then they grave heuristic dicta in serried ranks upon tablets. These intellectuals confront their erudite mentor with paradoxes, and talk about the impossibility of ultimate fulfillment ... like squaring the circle.
They consider the plausible motivations for undertaking such private angst to be so much more personally rewarding, when frictionless conjunction, when taking the easy way, when going along to get along is normative. Rationalizations about wealth and prestige, influence and expression, historicity and authenticity are mere counter pains on the window to the spirit of composition ... the one that invents what never before existed. Like an arrayed network, they respond to the probability of misunderstanding, to the inevitability of rude rejection, to the possibility of gratification; and are not dissuaded by fear and trembling. These stolid squares not only do not roll out of the way when nudged, but seemingly rest upon a solid base, a firm foundation, a peerless pier.
Bemused by these apparent disparities, I am nevertheless contrite about our contrasts. In this society, wordsmith is both a vocation and an avocation, a profession and a pastime, an obligation and an indulgence. In my society, nobody speaks unless they have something to say; and nobody writes unless speaking across time and space is impractical, or artistry commends it, or content commands it. We believe that knowledge loops in the same way that life cycles. We believe that ideas are inevitable and inexorable; so ownership of intellectual property, in our judgement, must be a publishing ruse to exert pleonastic influence upon the marketplace.
We believe that everyone is linked or overlapped with everyone else, so that nothing occurs in isolation and nobody is independent. Authors are not elevated in our pantheon, since they are just elements in the total exchange process; and editors are just conduits in the complete growth cycle. Every person has a role, and none is necessarily better than anyone else's ... classed only as potentially applicable or currently essential. This tribal accretion seems to confound the inherent egotism essential for competitive creativity, but we find it more harmonious.
Guests must trust the hospitality of their hosts, lest they misunderstand courtesy for conviviality, lest they misconstrue invitation for indulgence, lest they mistake generosity for license. I shall tarry among these fascinating aliens, seeking clues and finding abridgements, as part of my pilgrimage through the unknown world. Such objective faceting of my well roundedness will probably make me an unfit subject for any other world. But even in our holistic habitat, once the moving pen has writ, it moves on ... never going back to a perfect revision.