Words I Needed Last Week 8/15
The right people were always going to find you.
Words I saved, read, wrote down, and savored last week. From making uncomfortable art, to the right people finding you, to enduring the “thing” without wordplay, to finding your invincible summer.
Happy Monday, friends.
“My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort, we have mass entertainment and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish.”
―Joyce Carol Oates
“The right person will know how to hold your love. The right person will choose you just as deeply as you choose them. You will not have to quiet the way you care, you will never feel like you are too much. You will not have to beg for the love you deserve. One day, you will be met where you are. One day, you will be someone’s favorite thing, and you will not be confused you will not feel like you are fighting for someone who isn’t fighting for you. One day, you will understand that it never mattered how tightly you held on to the wrong people, how intensely you tried, because the right people were always going to find you. The right people were always going to stay.”
Ms. Howe: But it seems that everything in the Western world is trying to tell us this now, even as we’re speeding up, and speeding up, and speeding up, and staring into our screens. It hurts to be present, though. I ask my students every week to write 10 observations of the actual world. It’s very hard for them.
Ms. Tippett: Really?
Ms. Howe: They really find it hard.
Ms. Tippett: What do you mean? What is the assignment? 10 observations of their actual world?
Ms. Howe: Just tell me what you saw this morning like in two lines. I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth, and the light came through it in three places. No metaphor. And to resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason.
Ms. Tippett: It does.
Ms. Howe: It hurts us.
Ms. Tippett: You naming something.
Ms. Howe: We want to say, “It was like this; it was like that.” We want to look away. And to be with a glass of water or to be with anything — and then they say, “Well, there’s nothing important enough.” And that’s whole thing. It’s the point.
Ms. Howe: It’s the this, right?
Ms. Howe: Right, the this, whatever. And then they say, “Oh, I saw a lot of people who really want” — and, “No, no, no. No abstractions, no interpretations.” But then this amazing thing happens, Krista. The fourth week or so, they come in and clinkety, clank, clank, clank, onto the table pours all this stuff. And it so thrilling. I mean, it is thrilling. Everybody can feel it. Everyone is just like, “Wow.” The slice of apple, and then that gleam of the knife, and the sound of the trashcan closing, and the maple tree outside, and the blue jay. I mean, it almost comes clanking into the room. And it’s just amazing.
Ms. Tippett: In some basic level, what they’ve done is just engage with their senses.
Ms. Howe: Yeah, and have been present out of their minds and just noticing what’s around them, which is — we don’t do. And again, not to compare it to anything. They’re not allowed. And that’s very hard for them. And then on the fifth or sixth week, I say, “OK, use metaphors.” And they don’t want to. They don’t know how. They’re like, “Why would I? Why would I compare that to anything when it’s itself?” Exactly. Good question.
So then you think, why the necessity of a metaphor? Why do you have to use a metaphor now? Not just to do it to avoid it, but to do it to make it more there. And it’s very interesting.
Excerpt from an episode of On Being, a conversation between Krista Tippett and Marie Howe.
"That’s what dries a writer up…not listening. That is where it all comes from. Seeing, listening. You see well enough. But you stop listening… For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. You feel you have to publish crap to make money to live and let live. All right but if you write enough and as well as you can there will be the same amount of masterpiece material. You can’t think well enough to sit down and write a deliberate masterpiece… Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it…don’t cheat with it… All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is. Go on and write.”
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”
“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”