Over the last weeks I have moved as if in a fog, unable to do much more than the basics of survival. When I picked up the sharp chisels in my shop I didn’t feel the old feeling of connection to wood and the task at hand. Occasionally I would write some short piece and the world brightened for a moment — the different worlds seemed to merge and coexist -- only to fall away.
I happened to pick up a book my wife had recently given me for my birthday, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I recognized myself in the preface.
“Not to write, for many of us, is to die.”
Yeah, that’s true. That’s me. I really have been avoiding being a writer. I have been suffering that fact.
“But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.”
But, it actually goes deeper than that, a lot deeper. So why don’t I write everyday? Because I’m damned, squeezed by competing failures. If I write and stay sane, I can’t make a living. Then, I get crazy because I’m not paying my share of the freight for living.
If I try to not write so I can make a living, I can’t stay focused enough in my non-writing induced craziness to even really be safe around my tools. How did this happen?
I envision us all living at the coast, between the land and the depths, at the border between the conscious and unconscious. We pump our dark effluent of fear and desire out into the ocean where it is pummeled by the wind and surf into a black froth. Any being that rises from the great depths to our world to inform us will be encrusted with this dark toxic waste. All we will see of the gift of knowledge is our own black face of fear.
As writers we focus on different aspects of this tossing shit-strewn sea. Some focus on the effluent and go no further. Some are only aware of the vapor tossed from the foam at the tip of the wave. Some of us hold our breath and go as deep as we can, down below our personal fears, down below our cultural fears, down into a realm freed of this pollution. The world is suddenly as alive as that encountered when diving off a great reef. Everything seems clear and apparent. Below the dark surface mask of fear is a body of teeming life that bears the deep knowledge. Sometimes it seems you can even begin to breathe in this realm.