Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Helen

Since I read Gene D. Cohen's The Mature Mind, last fall, I have been keeping half an eye cocked on times when my own mind seems to be working maturely, i.e., when it seems the right and left brain function [so famous in the last ten years or so] actually are interlaced, when the mass of connections seem to be firing at a level of which I am not conscious. Times come up when I see evidence that, yes, my brain seems to be acting maturely. [Actually I don't doubt it but I like definite evidence.]

An example: For the last week or so, I've been writing short story to comply with "situation" which is a person sitting on the beach at dawn feeling elated. To me this could not be the beginning of a story, it needed to be the end. To get to a feeling of elation the person had to earn it by dealing with a difficult situation. To solve the problem I invented a woman staying at a beach house for a week, waking early the last morning and going down to the beach. She needed a problem -- her parents have both been killed in an auto accident. She is grieving and she must deal with their effects. The house is not hers but that of a lifelong friend who, hearing of the accident and understanding the strain, has offered the cottage for a week rent-free.

Fine, I've been changing and expanding and contracting the character's story. I knew, because I've lately read references to Homer, that I would use his phrases from the Odyssey, "rosy fingered dawn, wine dark sea, unwearying sea." I randomly chose the name of the friend, Helen. I had a cheerful Aunt of that name. I don't believe I've used it in fiction before.

Here's the ah-ha for me [not in the story] I realized today that those dendritic connections had grabbed Helen, not entirely randomly. It was Helen of Troy who is the ostensible reason the Trojan War came about; and in my story it is Helen who make it possible for the main character to be by the sea. No other name would have worked as perfectly in this situation. I did not chose Helen through a conscious process.

Perhaps I'm a little simple minded, but this kind of thing astonishes and moves me. The rightness of what seemed random as I discover the connections of which I was not aware. I think the logical brain would have come up with Helen if the little short stories had seemed to need that layer of meaning. Apparently something in me thought it did. To me this is very much like ESP, knowing something without knowing how you know it. That, too, has happened to me many times in my life. So maybe this instance is nothing remarkable. But then all brain function is, I think, remarkable.

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

I agree with your ending to your post -- the brain is remarkable. Good post -- barbara

Kass said...

Intriguing weavings in and out of levels of awareness. Fascinating.