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Ocean and humans,
Pacific, no more conflict,
World without stories.
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Dear Pacific Ocean,
I’ve been reading a book about you. It’s called Pacific, and it’s written by Simon Winchester. It’s also Earth Day, so I guess I’ve been thinking about you lately. My publisher,
, also lives about a ten-minute walk from you, so you seem to be dominating my life and my thoughts right now. But I also just kind of like you, and I’m beginning to believe that every wave can inspire a story. They might be able to tell stories too, but I don’t think they speak a language anybody else can understand.
There are a couple of reasons why you inspire me. The first is movement. When I’m in a boat, rolling along, the rhythm takes me to a place where ideas are as thick on the ground as snow in a midwest winter. You take me to a space of safety where only good things can go on. That said, I don’t want to be anywhere near you when you’re having a “tempest tantrum!” You were named “peacful ocean,” but sometimes, you act like you would rather make war. That’s not very nice, but I suppose you can’t help what you are any more than I can help who I am.
Another reason you inspire stories is your great depth. Your grandure is not to be diminished or ignored, and, being the largest ocean in the world, you command the title of champ, and you could be called Earth’s representative. You may wear that badge proudly, but with power comes a certain responsibility. I hope that you understand how big, profound, and beautiful you are, because all of that inspired me a while ago, and I still haven’t quite gotten over thinking about miles of water below a boat above the Challenger Deep.
Your job isn’t to try to be what you’re not, i.e., always living up to your tranquil name, but to thrash and roar when we pour pollution into you and to pound your shores with all your might when we don’t show you the respect you’re due.
Your twin nature of bellicosity and pacificity makes me think about human nature, and also about writing. Yes, I know, I’m always thinking about writing, but really, there’s a parallel here. Whenever I did book reports in school, I was always asked what the conflict was in the book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever once read a story that didn’t contain some sort of argument, problem, war, or disagreement. It’s what causes tension, even in a romance. It doesn’t have to be a fight between individuals or nations, it can be a struggle within oneself.
I love her, but what will Dad say?
I love him, but if we start a family, what will happen to my career?
Fiction is built on conflict and resolution. Maybe a friend spills the beans to Dad and he thinks the girl his son loves is great and asks when the wedding will be. Maybe the woman chooses career over a family or the other way round, or maybe she finds out that her boyfriend wants to become a stay-at-home dad.
Nonfiction also offers problems and their solutions. A surgical textbook explains the fine points of operations so that surgeons can correct problems in their patients’ bodies. A book about marketing strategies helps people to find ways to sell their products so they can solve their financial problems. In other words, every single book you ever pick up will contain some type of conflict.
With technological advances enabling us to kill enormous numbers of people and devastate huge tracts of land and put terrible amounts of pollution into your waters, there is the potential for severe global harm. COVID-19 certainly doesn’t make us feel confident about the future. And yet, fear and uncertainty in our conflicted lives lead us to write many stories that thrum with tension. Imagine a story without conflict. It would be a long list of things people did, and might read something like this.
She woke up and ate breakfast. She went to work. Everything went well during the staff meeting. She ate lunch, worked at her desk for two hours, and then drove home. Her children greeted her with delight, and her husband had also had a great day taking the kids to the park and reading them stories when they got home. The family ate dinner together, and then she put the kids to bed. She and her husband spent some quality time together, and then they went to bed.
An entire book that was nothing but a litany of what people did would be about as appealing as being caught out in a small boat in a big storm. Sure, a bit of quiet routine is great between tense moments, but by itself, it’s incredibly boring. So now, imagine a world without conflict, and I think that if there were no arguments, no dilemmas, no disagreements, and not a single problem to be solved, that our ideal world without conflict would also be a world without waves, without inspiration, and worst of all, it would be a world without stories.
What do you think about the Pacific, Earth Day, and conflict and resultion in writing? Please leave a comment.