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Some Thoughts on Historical Narrative by Rufus Rey C.

Montecalvo The problem with writing a historical narrative is that you have to decide whether you want it to be showy or boring. It simply cannot be both. Either you impress them with your wordplay, or write something factual and boring. So why choose writing this way then? Why not focus on creative writing such as fiction or non-fiction, not historical writing? Well, the problem is that I can't really choose what I want to write. I have to finish my undergraduate degree, and for this I have to constantly worry about writing in a 'historical' mode. Of course I write on the side of those topics that actually interest me, in a style of my own choosing. The problem is that lately my brain seemed to have dried up and nothing, no ideas come up. Writing in a historical mode means writing in a logical coherent manner. They always say how history is the best undergraduate major for law. That's what I like about history, the major in the university. It's so broad and it teaches you how to write. It teaches you to see writing as a craft. You are taught how to write argumentative essays. I had a teacher once telling the class that the best kind of essays are those that argue one important point. There are other types of essays, of course, you can write in history. Such as the interpretative and the narrative essay, which just 'shows.' I understand what she said now, and I'll try my best to explain. First off, it demythologizes (if that is a word) historical writing. It does not raise it to the level of an idol that should not be touched. You know, all those artistic side of writing. By writing in a persuasive manner, the purpose of which is to show in a logical and coherent manner the merits of your argument, you are showing that words are tools. Tools for your purpose. Besides arguing for your point, furthering your case through words and sentences and paragraphs of which your entire essay will be composed, there is no other use for words. Though of course that is the basic thing that is taught. Once you have mastered writing in a persuasive manner; that is, once you have written dozens of this kind of essays, you can then proceed on to writing creative works. Creative works will no longer then be just these exercises at decadence. It will have solidity now and moral weight. I know this sounds splotchy, but the idea is that once you have mastered the basics you should not go around writing in an avant-garde or creative manner. Show some humility by actually stooping down and writing boring papers. You will thank your teachers one day for this. After mastering it, you can be as illogical as you like. You can write entertaining yet informative essays. Your writing will actually have that weight that is the quality of fine craftsmanship, and which so many people appreciate. Seeing writing as a craft which you can improve actually is very inspiring and good motivation because you'll have something that most people in the world do not have, thus making it valuable, because rare beautiful things are valuable - the ability to write in a solid and coherent and logical manner. But what if you can write in a beautiful as well as in a solid or coherent-logical manner? This would be the ideal. If you can do this, you are a god among writers. [1] Rare are those writers that write in a sympathetic and deep manner, as well as in a coherent and logical manner. This ideal writing is that kind where you engage the higher sentiments and emotions of your reader, and would not let it go until you have shown to them your point. Rhetoric is essential to this. One recalls the importance of training in rhetoric in theological universities during the middle ages. To put it all simply: beautiful writing is a balance between logic and rhetoric. Aristotle has thought of this a long time ago, and yet it still remains of great importance. Aesthetics is related to logic and rhetoric. Rhetoric without ethics is sophism, and plain demagoguery. Rhetoric coupled with logic and a sense of sympathy for human beings and the subject matter being discussed is beautiful and worthy of eternal preservation as a testament to what

heights of beauty the human being, the human being's mind, is capable of. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about aesthetics. Japanese aesthetics to be precise. One phrase that I came up with to describe the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi is that it is an 'elegant mode of being.' I was fascinated when I was first introduced to this concept in an art class I had when I was in my second year in the university. The trouble with being so in love with a concept is that you despair when you think that you could never convey exactly what you are feeling about it. But you proceed, sadly, with this in mind. Wabi sabi is late afternoon, just as the sun is about to set. This is after a day of physically satisfying work. You sit on your porch with a cup of tea and watch the sunset with someone you love. Everything is illuminated with this rich orange glow. You look at your wooden coffee table, chipped at some parts and have seen better days. You look at the floor of your porch, dirty somewhat but that's ok. Everything it seems is soaked in this strange yet familiar beauty. And you think to yourself that if there is one moment in your life you would want to simply freeze and repeat for eternity, this would be it. But all the time you are aware of the transitory nature of this moment and you think to yourself that that is exactly what makes the moment poignant that things of beauty cannot last forever. So you accept this and is content. You sip your coffee. Glance at the one you love, smile. You finish your drink in silence. That is wabi-sabi. The trick then is to transfer this feeling of wabi-sabi into your writing. This elegant mode of being, we simply transfer into our writing. This is the perfect balance between logic and rhetoric, added to it is that feeling of mono-no-aware as well, the awareness of the transitory nature of things. There are simply a lot of concepts from Japanese philosophy and aesthetics that can be used in improving your craft as a writer. Writing should not be done in a hurried manner. Thoughts must be allowed to mature. Sometimes things must be allowed to take their own course, and all that you really can do is to observe it. You observe this and write it down and during uninspired days, or simply days where you feel really down, you can go back and look at it and realize what a brilliant human being you are (ha! Just kidding). No, you realize that you once were capable of such wonderful turns of mind and you gain more confidence in yourself. Especially so, when in that future time you will already have learned much more than before. So you can be better. The given is that you should be constantly and continuously and fearlessly learning. Endnotes 1. Aldous Huxley really came close this ideal in an essay of his, I forgot the title now, but it is about his trip in a laboratory in Calcutta where there is this Institute headed by this scientist who studies plants. And one of the experiments conducted by this scientist showed that plants respond to stimuli like humans and plants do, so that the implication is that plants feel pain just like humans and other higher forms of animals. I read this essay in a collection of essays I borrowed once in the College of Arts and Letters Library at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Reference is: (Ten masters of the modern essay : Forster, Lawrence, Huxley, Graves, White, Orwekk, Auden, MacCarthy, Baldwin [and] Gold.Davis, Robert Gorham PR 1367 D38Mar 10, 2011 Mar 17, 2011).