confession: i feel too threatened by prolific published people and those who have good accurate thoughts but don’t particularly like me
it is difficult to grow aspirations
that are planted in unreality
sentiment is sunshine
will is water
but the stems won’t stand
planted in unreality
to puzzle over them,
to make things better?
And is that a good desire?
Dorothy Sayers said to me once (when I was younger, and possibly misunderstood her) that creativity is a better impulse than a “problem picture.” Thankfully she wrote down her words, so I can read them again. I would like to do that. *Puts The Mind of the Maker on my re-read list*
Being home in Jersey gives me the (illusionary?) sense that the ways I walk are sustainable, livable; and I contrast this sense of familiarity and warmth with the way I feel at school.
Specifically: I am perplexed, surprised at some of my friends’ ways. Are they also livable, more so than the ways I know, or do the roads I traverse and the rhythms I follow have any relevance to them? I ask, how I may be an instrument of peace.
Tangentially, I fret that my words are just a slurry of chopped-up sentences I’ve gathered from the groceries of what I read and hear. Orwell’s Politics and the English Language still means so much:
As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.
The worry stems from reading some letters to the editor in a magazine I will not name, which felt like trite repetitions of opinions that are often hailed in particular communities. What good does voicing such opinions do? The lack of originality makes me assume that the opinion wasn’t suffered for and earned. But in this critique, here I am piecing together scraps of memory, as I do.
I borrow from Christian Wiman, in his collection of essays, My Bright Abyss:
It is enough in literature—it is essential—to keep one’s little patch of language pure, to reconcile oneself to nothing that has not passed through the crucible of one’s own most intense experiences and thoughts. But that won’t do for life, or faith, which are defined by, and contained within, relationships.
(No, I won’t explain why life makes such hard-earned words insufficient. But perhaps you can guess that for yourself.)
Is it strange to have so much of life narrated to you by someone else, whose interpretation of life has already eroded a pathway in your mental geology? For example, when I see friends getting engaged, I already subconsciously know what to think because I’ve encountered so many people’s opinions already on the subject (jealousy, pleasure, congratulations, self-pity).
I can’t say this is necessarily a problem; after all, I’ll get excited if you ask me to talk about how we belong to our traditions (and I’ll reference Gadamer and Ricoeur as if I’ve actually read their work, not just quotes and paraphrases).
I’m left feeling understood by Wiman, eventually. He continues:
And to be in a relationship often means forgoing the self and its crucible of “truth,” learning to live with—and love—the very things that compromise our notions of what we need, what we think, what we are. I feel a strong need—and imperative, really—to believe something in common… .
These words suggest humility to me, and help me accept that I may sound as undefined as mashed potatoes to those who haven’t grown up around my tradition. I may have to slacken my conscientiousness in keeping my “little patch of language pure” so that I can talk within a traditioned community. Of course, listening can make me a better translator into whomever’s refrigerator I’m sitting beside. Perhaps, perceptiveness and creativity can find isomorphisms (analogical parallels) between languages and their respective lingo.
But the mashup is inevitable, as is its strangeness when put in new contexts.
Maybe everyone’s provincial, because every use of language is traditional.
Superficially I wonder if it is better to keep the old ways or learn from other traditions, but I know for my own part I must both entrust myself to the tried while also trying anew, and my pertinent questions are if these roads I walk are his ways, and if so, if my (much loved) friends will walk them with me.
what am I becoming?