These lines of D.H. Lawrence are taped to the wall of my office: ?What is the knocking? What is the knocking at the door in the night? It is somebody wants to do us harm. No, no, it is the three strange angels. Admit them, admit them.? I understand that failure is surely one of these strange angels.
This one truth, that the few people you adore will die, is plenty difficult to absorb. But on top of it, someone?s brakes fail, or someone pulls the trigger or snatches the kid, or someone deeply trusted succumbs to temptation, and everything falls apart. We are hurt beyond any reasonable chance of healing. We are haunted by our failures and mortality. And yet the world keeps on spinning, and in our grief, rage, and fear a few people keep on loving us and showing up. It?s all motion and stasis, change and stagnation. Awful stuff happens and beautiful stuff happens, and it?s all part of the big picture.
When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.
The society to which we belong seems to be dying or is already dead. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but clearly the dark side is rising. Things could not have been more odd and frightening in the Middle Ages. But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion-not to look around and say, 'Look at yourselves, you idiots!,' but to say, 'This is who we are.
We write to expose the unexposed. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer's job is to see what's behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words - not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues. You can't do this without discovering your own true voice, and you can't find your true voice and peer behind the door and report honestly and clearly to us if your parents are reading over your shoulder.
What you're looking for is already inside you. You've heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You can't buy it, lease it, rent it, date it, or apply for it. The best job in the world can't give it to you. Neither can succes, or fame, or financial security - besides which, there ain't no such thing.
When we think we can do it all ourselves--fix, save, buy, or date a nice solution--it's hopeless. We're going to screw things up. We're going to get our tentacles wrapped around things and squirt our squiddy ink all over, so that there is even less visibility, and then we're going to squeeze the very life out of everything.
You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can't fill up when you're holding your breath. And writing is about filling up, filling up when you are empty, letting images and ideas and smells run down like water - just as writing is also about dealing with the emptiness.
You've got to learn to let go and let your children fall, and fail. If you try to protect them from hurt, and always rush to their side with Band-Aids, they won't learn about life, and what is true, what works, what helps, and what are real consequences of certain kinds of behavior. When they do get hurt, which they will, they won't know how to take care of their grown selves. They won't even know where the aspirin is kept.
There is something so tender about this to me, about being willing to have your makeup wash off, your eyes tear up, your nose start to run. Its tender partly because it harkens back to infancy, to your mother washing your face with love and lots or water, tending to you, making you clean all over again.
This is the most profound spiritual truth I know: that even when we're most sure that love can't conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, in the guise of our friends, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds.
we all wanted this because let's face it, it's so inspiring and such a relief when people find a way to bear the unbearable, when you can organize things in such a way that a tiny miracle appears to have taken place and that love has once again turn out to be bigger than fear and death and blindness.
We cheated, you and me, and someone noticed. I noticed you; someone else noticed me. It hurts us. That's not so bad. So many people cheat. Everywhere on every level. Everyone's cheated. I'm just saying that you don't need to see yourself as a cheater. Because that's not who you are. You're someone who cheated. There's a difference, and you should try to get that difference, or that's who you'll grow up to be.
We live stitch by stitch, when we?re lucky. If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching. And maybe the stitching is crude, or it is unraveling, but if it were precise, we?d pretend that life was just fine and running like a Swiss watch. This is not helpful if on the inside our understanding is that life is more often a cuckoo clock with rusty gears. In the aftermath of loss, we do what we?ve always done, although we are changed, maybe more afraid. We do what we can, as well as we can. My pastor, Veronica, one Sunday told the story of a sparrow lying in the street with its legs straight up in the air, sweating a little under its feathery arms. A warhorse walks up to the bird and asks, What on earth are you doing? The sparrow replies, I heard the sky was falling, and I wanted to help. The horse laughs a big, loud, sneering horse laugh, and says, Do you really think you?re going to hold back the sky, with those scrawny little legs? And the sparrow says, One does what one can.