Eric Mayer

Byzantine Blog

Get Email Updates
Cruel Music
Diana Rowland
Martin Edwards
Electric Grandmother
Jane Finnis
Keith Snyder
My Incredibly Unremarkable Life
Mysterious Musings
Mystery of a Shrinking Violet
The Rap Sheet
reenie's reach
Thoughts from Crow Cottage
This Writing Life
Woodstock's Blog
Email Me

Admin Password

Remember Me

1481831 Curiosities served
Share on Facebook

Pillars of the Community
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (2)

The new issue of The Orphan Scrivener is out. Mary writes about the various professions represented in British sitcoms. I have the following:

Pillars of the Community

Last week after I had spent a couple hours on the roof of the sun porch nailing down patches, I found myself writing about a sixth century stylite who will appear in our seventh Byzantine mystery.

Pillar saints were holy man who sought to mortify the flesh and commune with God by retiring from the world to dwell on top of columns. The practice originated in the fifth century with Simeon who, according to Evagrius in his Ecclesiastical History, lived atop a 60 foot high pillar (40 cubits) for thirty years after having spent seven years on a shorter columns. Others soon followed Simeon's example. Saint Alypius reportedly stood upright on a column for 53 years, until his legs gave out, and then spent the last 14 years of his life lying down.

Walking around a roof would seem like good preparation for imagining what it must have been like to perch on a pillar and although I didn't stay up there for nearly as long as a stylite would have, since I'm afraid of heights it seemed a like forever. Writers are supposed to draw on their own experiences, after all, and this experience seemed apt.

However, when I began to ponder what I might have learned on the roof that could be transferred to my fictional holy man I encountered difficulties. True, I felt rather more exposed than normal to the breeze and the ground appeared to be a long way down. But I didn't have to actually get on the roof to realize things like that.

Then too, I'm not a holy hermit, let alone the particular holy hermit I was trying to imagine. In fact, a Byzantine holy man who disliked heights as much as I do would probably have chosen a less elevated form of self abnegation -- cave dwelling for instance. On the hand, I could also see how he might decide to torture himself with fear for the glory of God.

But having to guess rendered the whole roof exercise kind of worthless.

It may be that I was not sufficiently observant while up there. I didn't pay enough attention to my emotional reaction or look hard enough for telling details. I was too busy keeping track of where the edge of the roof was. That would certainly have been a telling detail if I had lost track, even if I may not have lived to tell about it.

Maybe I could really get inside a stylite’s head if I stood on my chair for a week. It would probably make the cat nervous. (And if I stood on the roof for that long the neighbors might notice.)

I once listened to a short woman who had written a fantasy novel about a tall hero explain how she had carted a stool around the house and kept standing on the stool while going about her business to see how it would feel to be taller.

Call me lazy, but that seems like overkill. I wonder if she actually had any revelations a few inches off the floor that she couldn't have reached by a simple thought experiment?

There are writers who won’t set a book in a locale they haven’t visited and if they have to vacation for weeks in exotic lands -- well it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it, even if only part of the expense comes off the taxes.

But since the sixth century Constantinople Mary and I write about has been obliterated by the passage of time and buried beneath yards of rubble and new construction, there isn’t any question of traveling there. I have lived in New York City and so I just imagine Constantinople circa 542 as being like New York City circa 1979, but with horses rather than taxicabs, hotdog vendors rather than purveyors of grilled fish, and stylites rather than Hare Krishnas.

Come to think of it I suppose the top of a stylite’s column had the same olafactory character as the 42nd Street subway station.

There’d be no way I’d ever find myself in the same kind of spots John does anyway. The closest I’ve ever got to an imperial banquet was to have high tea at the Trump Tower. And John will insist on venturing down dark alleyways. Never mind authorial responsibility. I draw the line at dark alleyways.

Sometimes it’s best just to use your imagination.

Read/Post Comments (2)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.