Guest Blog Post, Eric Maroney: Writing Under the Burden of Unity

I write with my fingers crossed. Because every time I write, I counter a cardinal point of the Judaism I practice and believe: that everything is one. That the reality we all experience — the very texture of this life we live, with its distinctions and sub-divisions, its segregations and partitions — is wrong.

I am a non-dual Jew: I do not conceive of God as a separable entity or force, somehow detached from the world and its multitudinous forms. Instead, God is the World, and the World is God and God is One. In Judaism’s most treasured statement of faith, which goes Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, we find the very script of this vision. God is One. Everything is One. Everything is God. This is a supremely mystical take on Judaism; it represents a minority voice in a religion that stresses the polarity between the sacred and the profane. When everything is one nothing is evil. When everything is one nothing is separate. When everything is one, the things we see in the world, and their manifest separate existence, is not true.

And here is the problem: this vision of uncompromising unity is the very antithesis of writing fiction. Writers broker in division and distinction. Writers take the elements of language and expression and reduce them to the most basic level. We must write one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one book at a time. This is a discreet enterprise, and it is based on the view of the wholly separable nature of reality. By contrast, the mystical view happens in a moment; it is the illuminating notion that everything can be absorbed in one overwhelming instant. Writing, instead, comes in drips. And one must digest it drop by drop. It is a discreet enterprise.

For the writer, to say that everything is one is to say not much at all. The statement reduces the very act of writing fiction to absurdity: words, sentences, paragraphs, characters, plots, and conflict become pantomime — mere reflections of a reflection. Writing becomes an illusion patterned after an illusion, which can be seen as basally unimportant. And here lies a problem that is worthy of great struggle.

To write fiction and be a non-dualist is to play two games that risk canceling each other out. So my aim is to play with great subtlety. In every story I write, I proceed as if the world is composed of wholly separable objects, often in conflict with each other, almost always nearly in direct contradiction to each other — while at the same time maintaining that this is a kind of illusion. The trick of upholding the illusion, no matter how dangerous or misleading, is critically important. The point is to suggest not just that this illusion plays a vital role in creating a compassionate Jew and a good human being, but to acknowledge that because the illusion is itself a part of the oneness of the world, even it has deep value.

Always, I  hint in my writing that there is more to our life than the unsettled sense of a reality in conflict. Often on the level of language, in the composition of characters, and the sense of the plot, I allude that this is not all there is; that beyond what is being read, and far beyond what the characters strive for and seek, is a greater vision of unity that can be had only with great effort and dedication. Fiction itself may be capable of only inadequately displaying that unity, but it can get close enough to offer hints and suggestions.  Inviting a reader to ponder the infinite edge of any story is the goal of my writing. I believe I have created a successful story when I am able to leave the reader silent at its end—momentarily aware of a vastness and connection and unity that can only exist when the words stop.

Eric Maroney

Eric Maroney is the author of two books of non-fiction, Religious Syncretism (2006) and The Other Zions (2010). His fiction has or will appear in Our Stories, The MacGuffin, ARCH, Segue, The Literary Review, Eclectica, Pif, Forge, The Montreal Review, Superstition Review, Per Contra, Stickman Review,Samizdat,Jewish Fiction,Agave and The Bellighman Review . His non-fiction has appeared in the Encyclopedia of Identity and The Montreal Review.His story "The Incorrupt Body of Carlo Busso" was the runner up for the 2011 Million Writers Award. He has an MA from Boston University, and lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife and two children. More of his work can be found on his web page https://sites.google.com/site/ericmaroney1/ and blog http://wwwtherighttowrite.blogspot.com/

3 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, Eric Maroney: Writing Under the Burden of Unity

  • December 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm
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    Wow, your last sentence conveys the intention of your work that I have not achieved in my own writing and hope to eventually do. Right now, I just want my readers to be able to understand my words and take any kind of meaning that speaks to them. Actually I suppose I’m still in the process of learning to write well.

    Great blog post.

    Reply
  • December 7, 2012 at 9:26 am
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    Thanks Joel, and Mai-Quyen for your kind words.

    To Mai-Quyen:

    A lot of writing is intention, the drive to reach a certain mark that the writer self-generates. Of course, it is not always reached. But when I read my best work I can see that I got awfully close. For some reason, in a particular story, I was mining a fruitful area, and getting what I wanted to get and something even more that can’t be adequately explained. This takes time and practice. And even then, there is no guarantee. As writers, we just have to keep trying and establish discipline to write. Eventually all the things you have read, written, thought, and experienced unfold in a particular story; that is the reward of the hard work. It is a great feeling.

    Reply

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