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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
Fact or Fiction?



Creative Writing

As I watched the full moon last night, this is what I thought.

I thought of writing a book called "A History Of The Moon". It would be about the various ways in which people have imagined (either in story or in science, although the two overlap somewhat) the Moon throughout history.

Then I thought: Looking at “A History of (something, anything)” is necessarily incoherent because thinking of the “something” outside a larger context is like trying to look at all reality through one fixed lens: what you get is a very specific view of one thing at the expense of all the other things.

In thinking about the Moon you also have to think about all those other things in the world that we make into elaborate, meaningful-to-us fictions. That is, how we make meaningful symbols and myths out of the arbitrary facts of existence around us, like a glowing disk in the sky that changes its shape regularly. Obviously, the Moon is just one thing among many that we fictionalize with.

Unlike the Moon, the Sun is often associated with kings, high-gods and power. The Sun is, when present, like kings and gods, both a nurturing, warm protector and a harsh, overbearing, murderous force. It's also, when absent, a deserter which leaves you, literally, out in the cold. The moon, by contrast, is a soothing sight in the cold and dark. A guide in the night.

The Moon, complimenting the Sun's "male" power, is sometimes seen as a feminine force representing moisture and fertility. And, of course, the lunar cycle parallels the mentrual cycle.

Like our real-life moms and dads, we need both Moon and Sun together to sustain life. And like our real-life patriarchal social hierarchies, the Moon, in myth, is subordinated to the much more domineering male Sun. And myth is a reflection of human concerns - social hierarchies included - not of plain "fact" (which "natural male superiority" certainly is not).

Looking at the moon scientifically - as a fact instead of a symbol - is different. The Moon is just there: a fact without elaboration. A big rock in the sky getting further and further away from us with time.

A long, long time ago, when the Earth was an even larger ball of molten rock, something a little smaller (about the size of Mars, I've heard) slammed into it and what became our Moon flung off. That's why the Moon is slowly but surely on its way out of our orbit: it has escape velocity, meaning it will eventually free itself of the mutual Earth/Moon gravitational pull.

Lucky for us, we just happen to be here during the few hundred thousands of years or so that spectacular solar and lunar eclipses occur. Some may take that as evidence for Intelligent Design. "How nice of the cosmic designer," they might say, "to have put us here during the just the time when the Moon appears to be the same size as the Sun, giving us those wonderful flares during solar eclipses."

But I don't think that way. I just think we're lucky. Besides, what about the even more spectacular skies of other planets? Are there more beautiful skies out there, with many moons, on other planets, like Jupiter and Saturn? More to the point: are there planets with beautiful skies and with “intelligent” creatures living there to appreciate it? If so, does this life worship the sky with words, images and songs like we do, and make meaningful fictions from the bare facts of nature? Would such “intelligence” necessarily mean mean “art”? Is there life out there somewhere weaving fanciful myths from nature like us?

Or is it possible that, as in American sci-fi action movies, there are purely ruthless aliens out there acting with brutal, highly-evolved, technologically sophisticated efficiency, yet also acting as automatically and amorally as “animals” do? Actually, we ourselves seem capable enough of that. And of course there is the contrast, or rather, the similarity between “alien” and “animal”. Basically they are both not, by definition, people. Jacques Derrida said that oversimplifying by grouping all non-human life together as “animal” does a sort of violence to life. And of course enemies – human enemies – are often, in, say, war propaganda, referred to as animals or aliens, to whom violence can be inflicted upon with impunity.

Anyway. That's what I thought of last night when I looked up at the Moon.



Again, Matt Hogan manages to go on two separate tangents.Your conclusion about humans creating non-human lifeforms, has very little to do with the introduction on why we can't write the history of the Moon. It's ok though, I've gotten use to the Hogan style of writing by now and feel as though you almost do it on purpose. I don't mean to insult your writing but I'm wondering why I always feel like you write two separate articles in one? Do you smoke before writing this stuff down and just let the tangents come naturally?



Replying to Alamir:
You're right, Alamir, it was on purpose. These were simply my (dare I say it?) random thoughts, the ones that came to me while I looked up at the Moon.

My only goal was to write something interesting, not necessarily coherent. Was it at least interesting? Did it make you think of anything? If not, the piece is a failure, but a failure that has little to do with keeping it consistent or avoiding the two-articles-in-one syndrome I suppose I suffer from.

As for "humans creating non-human lifeforms", I'm not sure what you mean by that, unless you were referring to my comments about making art out of nature. And regarding the "why we can't write the history of the Moon", this goes for anything, not just the Moon.



Replying to Hogan:
I was referring to this quote by you: "Derrida said that oversimplifying by grouping all non-human life together as “animal” does a sort of violence to life."

I should have added non-human lifeform groups.

Anyway, yes, you made me think of stuff... You made me think of when I wrote a poem in a similar format. But "streams of consciousnesses" come naturally to every person, I think. That's why staying focused is a hard art form. I'm not saying it should never be done, there's novel's such as Mrs.Dalloway that do it. And even comedians such as Craig Ferguson who base their entire comedy on that format. As long as the purpose creates an effect, hopefully an entertaining one, then I think it was used effectively. Otherwise what's the point of making me think of 'something'? Everything makes me think of something. I don't mean to be harsh, or tell you how to write. But the irony with the "stream of conscience" style is that it needs to know where its going or else I can just do this myself... I can flip through Youtube videos and get a wild assortment of ideas. Or an even better example of throwing multiple concepts together is WordArc's "random article" link: /random ..that will probably make me think something too.



Well, It was sure nice looking up at the moon with you. I have to say that was warped; as ever. 'Warped' into frenzies of literary attachment to wanting to dissect every puny thing that revolves around something like a rock in the sky. You've got the moon spinning on a distant reckless meaningless pin point of satire bizzarrenessness. But you always got it going on, no matter if you were to write about a turd with an imprinted skull on it in a toilet made out of bones or a leaf on a branch after a storm of crickets you'll always find a way to be right. Right On! IT hurts to look up at the moon these days. Thanks for reminding me why it's there.

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