The proximate cause

Though I am constantly amused by what I perhaps mistakenly call serendipity, the re-evaluation of the philosophic pursuit as investigation of the proximate cause does little if anything to enlarge upon the credibility of the result. Whatever the thesis, the overriding empirical data is conclusive; namely, everything is connected.  It is from this patent connection of incidents and memories that I derive the capital of my literary vocation.  Obviously each of us can say without hesitation that within our sphere of activity and acquaintance, everything is connected. If it were otherwise it would only be through the eyes of another, clearly a logical impossibility.  Yet to accept the more cogent conclusion that by definition we spring from all that we see or know is considered less persuasive or at least less dynamic.

A proximate cause is an event which is closest to, or immediately responsible for causing, some observed result. This exists in contrast to a higher-level ultimate cause (or distal cause) which is usually thought of as the “real” reason something occurred.

    • Example: Why did the ship sink?
      • Proximate cause: Because it was holed beneath the waterline, water entered the hull and the ship became denser than the water which supported it, so it could not stay afloat.
      • Ultimate cause: Because the ship hit a rock which tore open the hole in the ship’s hull.

It is important to recognize that whatever the source of one’s capital (whether for literary, historic or ancestral purposes) it is a headspring not to be ignored or diminished. It is the seat from which we direct all our attention; it is the baggage we unwittingly carry upon our shoulders; it is the liquor that nourishes our souls, the psychological strictures that insinuate our lives; the people who have elevated our thinking; and, it is the resource of whatever we are and whatever we will become. This however, far-reaching as it is, is but the first characteristic of one’s proximate cause. The second and maybe more nutritious element is that its unfolding and consciousness are the bases of our ineffable being; that is, we each have a unique story to tell. Very often there are those who for whatever reason and by whatever personal mental gymnastics succeed to convince themselves that they have nothing to say, nothing to account, nothing worth mentioning as though the Elysian nature of a tale were confined to those of current popularity or whatever hackneyed standards of wealth and beauty presently abide. Make no mistake; there is a reason Angela’s Ashes and Death of a Salesman were successes!

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir is a 1996 memoir by the Irish-American author Frank McCourt, with various anecdotes and stories of his childhood. It details his very early childhood in Brooklyn, New York, US but focuses primarily on his life in Limerick, Ireland. It also includes his struggles with poverty and his father’s alcoholism.

The book was published in 1996 and won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. A sequel, ‘Tis, was published in 1999, followed by Teacher Man in 2005.

Although I won’t profess a universal spirituality or any other distortion of the many already warped amplitudes of theology, I will nonetheless concede that whatever it is that makes this world go ’round is indiscriminate concerning the advantage and appeal accorded to one or the other. And from that equally serendipitous beginning evolves the manuscript we call life. So unless you can say categorically that you possess a more prestigious familiarity with novelty, I suggest you accept your recorded text as sufficient for the purpose.

Lest I be presumed to inflict upon others the cloak of submission as if we suffer the perversion captured in the quip, “You is what you is!”, let me be clear that the employment and augmentation of our individual talents are undeterred by other than pusillanimity or indolence. Ingenuity, industry and application are the keys to the mechanism we’ve been afforded. My simple point in all this wearing bafflegab is that whatever we are is worth investment, application and disclosure.