Robin Wall Kimmerer says that “writing is an act of reciprocity with the world.” She says that “It’s what I can give back in return for everything that has been given to me.” This is how I relate to writing as well; as a grateful returning, a show of thanks and connection to the elaborate interwoven-ness of all that I have been the recipient of. It is, as Parker Palmer says, a way to hold the pivotal paradox of community; an adjoining to one another in such a way so as to “protect each other’s aloneness”, coming together “in ways that respect the solitude of the soul”.
In the fastening activity suffuse within the written word we are softly un-individuated. We become, what Maria Popova calls, “unselfed-not persons”, healed from the lacerating scars of ego, identity, and ideology, in restorative “fields of grateful awareness“.
But, there are days when I’m tired. When I feel so unbearably slow. Days when my eyes burn, and all my atoms ache. When my skin bristles and stings. Days when everything hurts. When extinction feels not only eventual, but inevitable. When survival is almost always the exception, and almost never the rule. Days like today. Days when its hard enough to breathe, and even harder to write.
To not be able to write is to not be able to give back. To not be able to give back is to be broken off from the mutuality of exchange with the world. It is to come uncoupled from the earth’s orbit round the Sun. It is to be disconnected. It is to be an island; an island that is both desert and deserted, both uninhabited and uninhabitable.
On these days, I press my pen into the page with the lamentable angst and travail of David’s psalm: “How long…?…How long…?…How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?…How long…?”
I try to remember the words of two other David’s. David Foster Wallace reminds me that “Writing is very difficult…and it takes a lot of time and energy”, and David Sedaris advises me that “its important to not be in a hurry”. And so I tap out a penitent prayer for not only perseverance, but also patience…
To stumble across even just a few good words is to regain a revelatory sense of connected vastness, in which “hope emerges”, Matt Hiag says, “and…clings to you as stubbornly as lichen clings to rock.” Like tiny fragments of life clustered together in an indomitably effort to endure against every insurmountable obstacle, all in the service of an obstinate yearning to be whole.