Moral Bandwidth

Paying for it is as easy as ordering a curry. That’s the problem.

Curry is a national dish, men like you are a national problem.

Men like me need something back, something to build. Or it leads to problems.

Like murder?

I never murdered. But is it surprising that I find myself in this situation? Women who provide these services are considered expendable aren’t they?

In what way are they expendable?

What I’m saying is we are conditioned to believe they are trash. Aren’t we?

Are you?

And it starts young this idea that women are there to be consumed. You know? They are there to gratify. It’s wrong. But that’s the way it is. Come on, don’t pretend you don’t see it every day.

I think it all depends where you’re looking, what you hear.


from UNRELATED by Dan Horrigan

One of the pleasures of spending time on your own, especially in places where people gather, is listening to what’s around you – your ear is your moral antennae. It tunes in to the things around you, and it’s a kind of moral bandwidth.

What do we hear and why? What do we see and why? What stories do we tell and why?

Writing opens you up to all sorts of tests – your moral bandwidth is the aural version of the reticular activating system. You hear things for a reason.

Do not be afraid of what you hear – you hear it for a good reason. Sometimes when you tell stories involving moral issues, violence, amongst other things, some will assume the worst. They may well have good reasons – which may have nothing to do with you actually. And some will shame you for it.

You will expose yourself to scrutiny, mockery, accusation, and questionable moral assumptions. People will try to pin the tail on you, make you an ass and load you up.

You will face every test and do not be afraid. If we only wrote about what we could handle there would be a lot less understanding going around. Sometimes we have to go towards what we can’t handle, what we are afraid of, what we have seen and heard that appals and frightens us. The process of writing is never a process that makes us smooth all the edges, it’s the process whereby we put things together and show each other that the edges are sharp – some pieces are missing. Your feelings run along them and it cuts you deep. Yes, absolutely, writing helps us overcome what we fear, what makes us angry, and it never takes away completely the sting that compelled us in the first place to get that work down on the page. If writing were simply a balm I would not be as interested in doing it for a living. Neither do I consider writing to be exclusively about picking the scab. Writing is a tightrope walk between consolation and anger – that rope is placed high, there is not really a net beneath you, and meaning can only occur if you cross the wire.

You will meet people who read your play as if it’s your personal bank statement – and they will try to shame you for the things you have seen and heard and thought about – which you have carried as you cross the wire. They will attempt to shame you for taking a risk. They want you to sit in the shame chamber. Sometimes it’s correct to sit in the shame chamber because you are going to make mistakes – you will be called out. When you are wrong you will know it. Being wrong doesn’t mean you have written a bad drama. If you raise just one question, you have made a contribution. If you make 100 mistakes and raise one question that is worth asking, you have done your job.


Don’t tell us how to live. Help us raise a question about how to live better.