Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Not?

Yesterday I stopped by the Hickory Stick Bookshop. It was buzzing with browsers, Christmas shoppers and fans of local author Wendell Minor who was signing his latest children’s book. There was rousing blue grass music on guitars and several people I knew - particularly four from a book group I belonged to that met once a month at this bookstore. How odd that we should all cross paths at once, we said. Bizarre. Serendipity. Lovely.

We started talking and it wasn’t long before one of us blurted out the question of the day - why do we write? (That would be me.) Robert, a retired journalist, answered without missing a beat - “because I love literature.” He loves to read it, write it, teach it, think about it. He loves it. Davyne, a dynamic poet and inspiration of the group, said she wrote because she couldn’t live without it. She would go mad, she said. It helped her make sense of the world and herself and other people. Cara, an attractive anthropology professor, left before I could query her.

So that left me. Why did I write? Why did I do anything for that matter? I just started swimming at the Y again and those questions have been popping up. It's always a danger sign for me, these questions of why. It's a refrain of the season - why do I do anything when there's so much horror in the world? Then again, there's beauty - the soft lapping of the pool water under my hands and the splash between my feet.

One of my therapists always encouraged me to ask "how" instead of "why." I've tried but despair keeps chasing me like a wolf nipping at my heels. The answers my friends offered apply as much to life as to writing. We do, we live because we choose to, because we love it. We participate in life because otherwise we'd go insane. Living helps make sense out of life.

I don't know if any of you saw the Flash Mob YouTube video of the Hallejulah Chorus being sung in the mall food court but it was quite extraordinary. Every day people, like you and me, vulnerable and loveable, raising their voices into the void. I sobbed when I saw it. My husband thought it strange that I should have such a reaction. But it's the season, see. We're all just doing the best we can, even when we don't know why.


Chris Cushingham, Sr. said...

"Why do we write?"

Well, for me it's not because I just LOVE literature, (although I have occasionally been found reading book TITLES, and sometimes even the book's liner notes.) Nor is it because I just couldn't LIVE without writing.

I think I write for 2 reasons: firstly, because I occasionally get bored. And secondly because it's fun.

(Doesn't sound so noble when I put it like that. Perhaps I should give it more thought.)

Thankfully I have not known heel-nipping despair. Were I to have, though, I might have had to have added a third, more compelling and redeeming, reason to write: to try and make sense of it all.

Know that I am enjoying the cookies from your cupboard.

Billy said...

Your "Why" versus "How" comments made me think of your "Blaming the Victim" post from February 2009. I think "why" is important at times, but only to the extent that it leads to the "how"...otherwise you can wind up with lots of blame. Blaming yourself, perhaps, for living "when there's so much horror in the world". Or blaming someone instead of learning as was discussed in that post I mentioned above.

Or, how about Chris briefly wanting to blame himself for having fun writing; Chris, don't you know it isn't "noble" to have fun??!!

That doesn't mean we should never consider the sufferings of others, as I discussed in a response to that "Blaming the Victim" post. But if we stop living because of those sufferings, we ain't gonna help no one.

(incidentally, I've taken to double negatives once in a while over the years since I found out they are a normal thing in the Russian language).

I'll take some of those cookies too, even if they are peanut butter (my least favorite).