Yes, Virginia, Revisited
I have over the last several Christmases reposted an essay I wrote about the most reproduced newspaper editorial in the history of the English language: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. You can find that annual post here.
As I end another year as a writer of no particular fame or influence, I think even more deeply about the piece than usual.
Everything I opined in my previous piece stands up in my mind today. Mr. Church, the long-anonymous writer of the famed response to little Virginia O’Hanlon is no less a hero to either Christmas or the power of language merely because he was paid for his now immortal prose.
Yet the more words I commit to the paper/screen, the more I feel I am committing to the ether itself.
Marketing, marketing, marketing. The only three ways, aside from dumb viral luck or powerful connections that a writer can attain notoriety. Try as I may, I have not cracked the marketing code. Nor have I discovered the proverbial horseshoe of the internet age. I’ll not write merely to market, unless I am being paid for a specific purpose. But to write so much of what I believe should exist, and to have little to none of it achieve positive recognition does exact a toll upon my soul.
The first draft of I novel I at last finished this fall was years, not months in the making. False starts, long pauses, and for a while plain inertia of non-writing prolonged a process which, earlier in my life, took perhaps a third of the total time this cycle will require when all is said and done.
The reason is no singular for this sluggishness, but “not getting anywhere” is on the list near the top.
Which means I have come to think of Church and his editorial from an even newer angle. For the time being I, and the rest of us wordsmiths that struggle in obscurity must, if thee is any hope of accomplishing anything, embrace the very oblivion we scratch and claw to avoid.
By embrace, I don’t mean celebrate. You’ll find no toxic positivity from me, encouraging you or myself to feel ecstatic over failure and failure to achieve a goal. Rather, I am telling you, (in a circuitous fashion myself as well) that like a black hole pulling everything including light into itself, the matter of which everything is built is not destroyed. Matter indeed cannot be created or destroyed, as per physics.
Nor, in the end, can the words we put out there into the black hole or our own lack of success and recognition. Just as we still have no clue about what lies inside a black hole and in what forms, we may never know, probably in fact will never be blessed to know what vibrational change we set into motion by birthing out words into reality. For the medium of their record could in fact be lost to eternity someday.
But just as we can conjecture a more appealing alternative to the inside of a black hole than pure cosmic nihilism, so too can we entertain ourselves with the notion that out words may live on, without our knowledge, and beyond our earthly timeline just as those of Church did more than a century and a half ago.
To be sure, it stinks. It is often not sufficient to sustain me. I won’t lie to you, dear reader. And the second-to-last thing I want out of my writing if for it to obtain significance only once I have obtained the grave.
But of course, the true last thing I want would be for the words I have written to be entirely for nothing. Forgotten by people and the weird, heaven and horror of the cold black universe beyond today.