A good friend once asked me why I write these blog posts. My answer was, “Because I like to write.” It was a quick and easy way of responding. And true, too. I didn’t claim to be writing because I had some special knowledge or wisdom to impart. I don’t. And I didn’t claim to be writing because I hope to change anyone’s mind about anything. I don’t. Yet I suppose my response was incomplete. Reading these words by Jason Zweig, one of my favorite columnists, helped me to understand that:
You can’t write anything if you don’t feel something. You have to want to tell people what you feel, what you care about, what you believe, what you know; if you don’t have something you’re on fire to tell us about, you shouldn’t be writing.
In my case, I want to tell my granddaughter, Vera. Of course, she’s too young to read my posts; she’s only 3½ years old. And I doubt she’ll ever look back at what I’ve written when she’s old enough to read and understand. But I still want to tell her.
I want to tell her (and myself) how I feel. What I care about. What I believe. What I think I know. What I know I don’t know. What questions are on my mind. What discoveries I’ve made. What mysteries remain.
Writing has helped me to understand what I don’t know, which is a lot. It has helped me deal with my unsettling longing for relevance and significance. It’s no small task for someone like me to accept the level of ignorance and insignificance that is our lot.
Perspective doesn’t come easy. I resist reality. Finding relevance and significance in the moment, in reality if you will, isn’t my “natural” state, if you call the product of our genes, environment, and upbringing natural. Writing has helped me to understand there is nothing “natural” about it; in fact, it’s far from natural. It’s a product of many things that have nothing to do with my natural state. Writing has helped me to understand this.
Writing also has helped me focus on what I care about. And why. And how I feel about certain things. This may seem odd because we all know what we care about, don’t we? That’s what I thought. But writing has helped me to understand the difference between what I care about and what I have been told to care about.
From day one, others have told me what to care about. And what to believe and how to feel about certain things. Parents. Teachers. Friends. Preachers. Bosses. Clients. News reporters. Commentators. Writers. Historians. The list is endless.
But their feelings, values, and judgments are not mine, and in many cases they aren’t real either. They are constructs. Stories. Illusions. It’s taken me a long time to realize this. A long time to become aware of the differences and the reasons it’s important to draw the distinction. A long time to understand the root of much of the misunderstandings, problems, failures, and suffering I’ve experienced.
I’m not there yet. Far from it. It’s a work in process. But writing has helped.
The bottom line is, I got a lot wrong about life. At times, I wish I could live life again so I could experience what a more enlightened life would be like. Of course, that’s impossible; however, it is possible to share my discoveries and feelings with Vera and anyone who cares to listen. It is possible to stop trying to extinguish the fire that burns inside.
And if no one cares to read my words, then that’s O.K., too. The acting of writing is reward enough.
(This post was written prior to my departure for the desert. Where I’ll be meditating. Reflecting. Reading. Seeking. And, of course, writing.)