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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Live


IF I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.



(Emily Dickinson)


I'm reading Dickinson, then Rilke this morning.  Thinking about what each has to say about love as a stance, about kindness and its radiant effects.  It's not a bad way to start the morning.  Here is Rilke:


"There is no force in the world but love, and when you carry it within you, if you simply have it, even if you remain baffled as to how to use it, it will work its radiant effects and help you out of and beyond yourself: one must never lose this belief, one must simply (and if it were nothing else) endure in it!"  


What does all this mean to the creative act?  Yesterday I was re-reading Kristjana Gunnar's Stranger at the Door.  "It has always seemed to me that good accomplishments are unlikely unless the life they come out of is good," she says.  I'm sure there are examples that would contradict this, but I believe this also.  She quotes Laura Riding, "if what you write is true, it will not be so because of what you are as a writer but because of what you are as a being."  Learning to write is a lot like learning how to be, how to live.  Which brings me to the title on my bedside table:  How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer.  (You can see that I'm just traveling, I'm flitting, from book to book these days, restless, wanting answers, trying to calm myself down).  I guess it's a question that's always obsessed me, and you can see that I'm not alone.  How to live?  The thing is that you come close to figuring it out, and then something new is thrown into the mix, something that makes it difficult.  Probably this is the way it should be, a constant re-thinking of the question.  The question a nest that we build, over and over again, with twigs and mud and feathers and shiny objects.  Love.

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