The picture above is from Paria Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Colorado Plateau.
Seriously now, if you were making layered jello you might be able to get the kind of bend you see in the right side of the geologic column (at about 3:00). On the other hand, if you were making the same layered mould using cement instead of jello, allowing each layer to harden for a few million years before adding the next, how would you get that bend?
To ask this question is to invite ridicule. You might be labeled a religious fundamentalist who believes that the age of the earth is, I don’t know, six thousand years? Your sanity, as well as the thickness of your cerebral cortex would be minimized. An elite laugh would try to cower you, shut you down and shut you up.
Humans attack those who dare pose politically (culturally) incorrect questions. Especially in science. We can’t seem to help ourselves.
But if you have trouble getting along with your lover, a counselor will say it’s unfair to turn arguments from the potatoes to the spouse.
We’ve all done it…
“Pass the potatoes,” he says.
“Please!” you snap back – uh – innocently and benevolently.
“Please pass me the damn potatoes.”
“What’s wrong with you? All I ask is a little respect! I am not your servant.”
He yells over the thing you’re about to say. You hear the word, “potatoes” somewhere in the mix.
But potatoes, like the other things you can’t remember, are irrelevant. Yesterday it was… What was it? The TV remote? You really can’t remember. Tomorrow you won’t remember the potatoes.
What politically incorrect question could you raise here?
“Is it possible that our culture is wrong about the merits of a 50:50 relationship between husband and wife?”
To ask this question is to say, “I’m a sexist,” in western culture. But my mother-in-law doesn’t hesitate to ask it. She says that both husband and wife must be willing to give in and let the other have their way more than 50% of the time.
It’s part of love.
In some other cultures, to mention the western notion of a 50-50 deal between husband and wife is to demonstrate that you should never have left home and gone to America to be brainwashed. “Nothing good comes from abandoning our traditions.”
No matter what culture shapes our perspective, most of us feel we can’t afford to question local dogma when it comes to certain issues. It’s suicide, either figuratively or literally, and perhaps there’s not an infinite difference.
Story characters, on the other hand, can afford to ask anything. They’re expected to shake up our thinking and comfort zones.
Well, I guess Salman Rushdie proved I’m wrong about that. He’s the exception that disproves the rule, since exceptions don’t prove rules in some parts of the universe.
But for the most part, a fiction writer’s characters can push the envelope without getting their author into trouble.
And our characters must push.
As a fiction writer with readers, you and your characters are central to the evolution and hopefully the improvement of human values. You have more influence than presidents, preachers and all the cute yellow journalists who’ve lost their way and can only spout bias. Unlike them, you and your characters can still question the unquestionable without losing your job or being trampled by the IRS and other elite groups.
Your sympathetic round villain or misguided protagonist can be a hateful, ignorant, narrow-minded nazis with tiny frontal lobes and thinly veiled racism, but readers will be curious because “no one can take their eyes off a train wreck.”
And while you’ve got their attention, a few million of your readers will question a hidden assumption for the first time in their lives.
No matter our culture, we find truer answers when fictional characters show us our blind spots.
M. Talmage Moorehead
If you’ve ever suspected that the currently embedded host of scientists has a blind spot wide enough to fly a 37 foot UFO through, please read my in-progress novel Hapa Girl DNA, starting here (as a “one-page” document). I hope it’s a fast ride, but at this point it really needs more conflict – let’s be honest.
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