At the most recent AML Conference, James Goldberg made a passing remark that has stuck with me. It went something along the lines of, “I’ve become bored with stories about doubt.”
The comment stuck with me because . . . well, I’m bored with stories about doubt, too. I certainly can’t write them anymore. And I’m wondering now what is beyond doubt.
Usually “beyond doubt” means that something is blindingly true. But in this case, I’m asking, “What is on the other side of doubt?” When you finally break through, what awaits? Enlightenment? Reconciliation? Rejection? Justin Bieber?
But most importantly, can you write about it? Because I like to do that sort of thing.
Let’s approach this question by batting a few metaphors around.
Mike Scott of the Waterboys famously tells us “That was the River. This is the sea.” Are the straits of doubt—quick, narrow, and jarring as they are—leading us to a vast undifferentiated space? What do we do in that space?
Winnie-the-Pooh, following on the trail of a heffalump, becomes lost in the 100-acre woods of doubt. Every time he strikes out for home, he finds himself back where he started. Is doubt an endless circuit from which only Christopher Robin can save us?
Alice stumbles doubtingly through a world of mad characters, only to wake up to normal life. Is doubt a strange dream from which we are glad to emerge?
In the movie Avatar, Jake Sully doubts the motivations of his fellow humans and eventually joins the Navi, not only in spirit, but in body. Does doubt lead us to reject the idea we doubt in favor of a different idea?
On the other hand, while wandering through a strange land, Dorothy, who had once doubted the value of home, decides that there’s nothing like it. Does doubt lead us back to where we started?
Maybe I am simply wrestling here with the problem of the sequel. Sequels are usually lacking because the first story dealt with the most dramatically charged values inherent to a particular character or situation. Any other value is usually either a repeat or derivative of the first story’s values. Once doubt has been thoroughly wrestled with, then, is it simply time to move on to other matters?
Or is there a change of soul at the end of doubt that opens up new possibilities, that reveals greater tensions and higher stakes, that allows one to access a dramatic palate different from what the pre-doubter would know how to work with?
I’m certain there is literature, film, or other art out there that could help me consider this question. Can anyone out there in Mo Lit Land give me some pointers?