Posted by Mike
He said, “Just start writing. It will come to you.” Optimistic fellow, he is.
Something has happened recently, however: I’ve been watching episodes of an Irish television program, Ballykissangel. As of today I’ve probably watched 20 or more episodes. It’s especially interesting because we’ve just returned from Ireland. I won’t say that I fell in love with the country, but it certainly has its appeal , despite the harrowing narrow roads – and the freezing mornings in late March required a little getting used to.
The thing about this television series – it’s about the people and the situations they get themselves into, in the little town of Ballykissangel – is that I have become involved with the people, their tangled relationships and convoluted situations, their crises; they’re like real people to me. When we watch an episode I periodically tell myself and Linda, “It’s not real. They’re not real people. It’s fiction. It’s not really happening!” My protestations don’t help much. For example, when the pub owner, the young lady Asumpta, died, having been electrocuted accidentally in her own basement storeroom, I was devastated. The young priest who was in love with her was devastated too, as were all her friends who frequented the pub. This is just one example of how I’ve gotten caught up in a story. The last time this happened to me was when I read the extraordinary coming-of-age story by Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage. When the young protagonist there was in trouble, recently in medical school but homeless and potentially suicidal and sleeping at night on park benches next to the Thames, I was ready to hop on the next plane to see if I could help him work things out. The novel was first published in 1915; too late to help!
I’m exaggerating, of course. My point is that we do have a suspension of disbelief at times when watching a movie or reading a novel; and we get caught up in the action. Most of the time we don’t get too emotional about it; we maintain some distance – separate ourselves from the events. Occasionally, however, the talents of the writer, actors or production move us emotionally either into or as close observers of the action – and we are caught up, spellbound; emotionally involved with the characters.
While in Northern Ireland, we visited a Neolithic site, the Ballynoe Circle. Bally by the way means town. The stones were placed there about five thousand years ago. We can’t get caught up in the lives of the people who created the stone circle, but they had relationships and lives full of what it takes to be human, far more than the fantasies of Ballykissangel or Of Human Bondage.