- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Most of the time, I am in awe of the world. A hundred times a day I fall in love with the grass, with the birth and death of flowers, with the ever-changing and simultaneously constant sky. My heart is heavy with delight for the senses, for the sights and smells and tastes and sounds and feelings of existence. To be alive is a wonderful thing, even in times of darkness, even in days spent nowhere but my own bedroom, even in moments of uncertainty. It is amazing to be a living, breathing creature on this planet. It is amazing to feel joy and pain and hope and reverence. It is amazing to feel.
I have read five books in the past two weeks and I spent this morning working my way through number six. Some were silly and short and read within the course of an afternoon. Others required closer reading, time to reflect on passages already read before continuing on, moments to laugh and cry and sigh in admiration for a simple turn of phrase. What I enjoy most about reading such an eclectic mix, enjoy most about reading in general, is that in some way or another, I find reflections of myself in each story. Every character, whether real or fictional, felt something I have felt in my life. Every author, whether through the first or third person, touched on thoughts and emotions and ideas that I have had. I could relate, in some small manner, to at least one moment in each of the journeys, always understanding that as for those moments that I could not relate to, someone else could. This is the beauty of literature, of language, of humanity itself. This is the great universal story.
It is our innate imperfection that connects us to one another, and it is this innate need to connect that binds us together. No matter our time or place or histories, we are all certain to experience the grand spectrum of human emotion throughout our lifetime. We all know what happiness feels like, and sadness, love and loss and frustration and determination and expectation and disappointment and comfort. Daily we discover new depths of each in one another and in ourselves. Daily the world grows exponentially bigger and smaller all at once. Daily I am impressed with such truth.
To be understood is a beautiful, consuming desire we all feel. Why else would art exist? We express ourselves because we feel the need to - in music and paintings and sculptures and movies and writing and cooking and in the simple art of conversation. We feel the need to express ourselves because we hope on some level that someone, somewhere, will smile and nod and say "me too." And how lucky we are that such expression exists, that people are able to share their music and paintings and sculptures and movies and writing and food and words, because we are then able to look and listen and taste and smell and experience those same feelings within ourselves. We are able to smile and nod and say "me too" and feel less alone in this world. We are able to understand and to be understood. We are able to connect to one another in the most important ways.
I read stories about lives I am not living, and in each one see a possibility for myself. My life could go anywhere. I could be anything. I could be anyone. Often I find myself longing for a quieter, simpler way of life. Perhaps I would be happiest living far away, isolated in the country, with only my books to read and my journals to write in and the natural world surrounding me. Often I dream of such things.
But on days like today, when I finished an extraordinary book and was able to log on to facebook and write to the author and thank him for writing such a remarkable story, I felt so grateful to be connected to the world in this small, arguably superficial way. He wrote me back to thank me, and just like that, I fell in love for the hundredth time today. It is an amazing world we live in. I am grateful to be a part of it, thinking the things countless others have thought, feeling the things countless others have felt, experiencing the grand spectrum of human emotion countless others have experienced. I am grateful to be a witness to the products of expression that have been, and continue to be, shared with the world. I am grateful for every moment I have been able to smile and nod and say "me too" and feel connected to something much bigger than myself, bigger than all of us. I am grateful for so much understanding and for the ceaseless delight that can fill my heavy heart with a simple turn of phrase.