20 November 2014

I am a writer

I can no longer post anything of value to Facebook. They seem to stifle all expression.
I post it here, instead:

The essential, brilliant Ursula LeGuin tells us:
I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.
My mom worries about me, because her heart is so, so huge, and, like me, she looks for the good in things; my father worries too; they worry because they love me and because I will always be their little boy--at 46 I still am their little boy, and this is a fate I have given up trying to escape. 

I live a life they don't entirely understand; I move in a world different from theirs. It worries them because it is mysterious to them. But I am happy. I am a writer. They made me so, somehow, in a way ineffable, as they made my brother a musician (I cannot speak to what they made my brilliant, beautiful sisters, here, for it is much more complex than a word, but at the very least I can say they gave them an enormous talent for parenthood). 

I am a writer, and it falls to us--and we are all writers, all of us--to think and see, to worry and wonder, to pick apart and put together, to--as my students used to accuse me--"over-think." There is no over-thought, no over thinking; that is the nonsense of people who neither like to think nor want you to think, anything. 

We writers stray into dangerous neighborhoods and territories because, it is eventually true, that you can't know good until you have at least met evil; hope without meeting hopelessness. It is an unpleasant enterprise. We stray to watch and learn, to see and know, somehow, something, to know anything. This is literature; this is art. It is our job to see, to watch, to learn, to know: The Terrifying Other; most especially when that Other turns out to be Ourselves.

Get close to lies and see the truth. See evil and know what not to do. This is the world of art and literature, which gives us a chance to provisionally try out other options and see why they are so awful. This is why art, history, and literature are so important: they are the lab of ethics and behavior. Do not fail these lessons because we are all writers, writing the world. Listen to Ursula LeGuin, who is so much wiser than I have ever been.

Thanks, Rosemary.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

Thank *you*, Steve, for these words: "There is no over-thought, no over thinking; that is the nonsense of people who neither like to think nor want you to think, anything." Can I quote you to my students when they say that stuff doesn't "mean" anything? I fear that kind of smug ignorance is the chief force that may result in the "hard times" Le Guin foresees.

Beautiful post.