Monday, June 14, 2010

One Weird Verb and One Strange Quote

I discovered a long-lost verb today:  cull. 

It's a weird verb.  To cull means to gather, in an organized manner, things that are unwanted, unnecessary, and harmful.  You can cull the herd of diseased animals.  You can cull your social networking sites of unknown followers.  You can cull your basement of broken toys.

In writing, you cull your essay of excess wording or cliché expressions.  Writing with flair is so close to living with flair.  How do I know what things to cull in my own life? What do I do that's harmful and unnecessary?  What do I do that I don't really want to do (but I do out of guilt or some misapplied sense of duty)?

Could I cull my day and get to the good stuff? 

Could I cull my life and get rid of the excess and the cliché?  Cliché, in writing, is that overused, predictable expression that has become so common it no longer has meaning.  It's language diluted of its power.

There's a way to live a cliché life.  I'm living in cliché when I do what's expected, when I live by some script, when I perform some stock character role because I haven't learned to be my true self.

A therapist I had talked about the "false self" early on in my battle with depression.  When your false self dominates, you relate to yourself, to others, and to God through an artificial and numb haze of experience.  There's no real life.  There's a fake life--the one you are trying to live--that robs you of the joy and peace of just being. . . you.

I'm thinking about this verb last night, and I read a funny little quote in an obscure collection of short stories by Jane Yolen.  She describes a writer finding her true story by introducing the reader to a Japanese expression:


She writes:
Saku--the special sound a mother hen makes tapping on the egg with her beak
Taku--the sound the chick makes tapping from within
no-ki--the moment when the tappings come together so the shell breaks


Jane Yolen tells me that when the outer "tapping" matches the inner response, the egg cracks open, and new life begins.  For writers, and for the rest of us just trying to live authentic lives, there's something about tapping on the shell of my life, waiting to hear how my heart responds, and continuing to work at it until my life and my heart come into complete alignment.  And then, life bursts forth.

It's a strange little Japanese quote matched with a weird little verb, but it made me crazy with flair all morning.  I want to cull my life so when I hear the tapping on my heart, I respond and break free from this shell.


Elizabeth White said...

This entry reminded me _so_ much of a Seamus Heaney poem, "Digging," that I could've sworn it used the word "cull." It doesn't, but it does speak to the same point you are making here. Perhaps you'll enjoy giving it a read...

Anonymous said...

Hey! This was great. I think that mental picture you wrote about so nicely will surely stick with me...thanks for the thoughts!