I want to be a better person, so I hide my bad habits. When I lived alone, in a chilly, oceanside city, I let the evidence accumulate like flotsam around me. Now, I’m twenty-seven and I live in my…
I wrote this story in my parent’s unfinished basement during the second phase of the coronavirus pandemic. It felt like the end of the world, but also like a Beckett play. The absurdity of the president suggesting we drink bleach, the horror of the violence in American cities, the background rhythm of the climate chaos worsening and worsening. I wanted to write a story that didn’t shy away from the messiness of life, especially during that year. I wanted to write a narrator who felt as scared, angry, and confused as I did.
This was the first time I wrote a piece that started with the title. The paraphrased Bible quote spoke to the comfort and reliability of faith for those who believe, the way that religion promises to smooth and soften all the difficult parts of life, and the difficulty of not having this faith, not having this direction, when everyone around you does.
How does it feel to love and live with people whose beliefs are so different than your own? How do we try—and fail—to connect with others, and what small, cruel mistakes do we make in our daily lives? What does it mean to be happy, or to be deserving of happiness, and what happens if you think you aren’t deserving?
I used to program mathematical models that predicted the effects of climate change on different environmental processes. Writing a story and building a model work very similarly, in my mind. You input different variables and components, tweak algorithms, and with enough finite data points, can create a more and more nuanced interaction. All the aspects of craft are different layers within the model, different types of algorithms, data, operators, nodes. Sometimes, when you’re writing, something within the story just doesn’t quite work, and this is the role of editing and rewriting. Clarifying the model.
Perhaps we write stories for the same reasons we make climate models or go to church. To understand the complexity of the world around us, to reassure ourselves that there is a path through the chaos, if only we know what it is.
JULES HOGAN is a writer from the blue ridge mountains. They are the 2021–2022 Fiction Meets Science fellow at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst, Germany, where they’re writing a novel about whales. Jules is fiction editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review and a reader for Split Lip Magazine. Find more stories & info at seektheyonder.com.