Thursday, February 21, 2008

"The Realm of Yearning..."

Last night at the meeting of one of the artists' support groups that my wife Ellie and I co-facilitate, we watched a DVD of the artist Elizabeth Murray talking about her work. It was a sad loss for the art world when this wonderful, innovative, always lively painter died last year of cancer at the too-young age of 66, but it was a pleasure for us to have this reminder of her contribution. When she spoke of "the realm of yearning that your art comes out of," the words struck a chord somewhere deep inside. It's a realm with which I felt an immediate and intense familiarity, and I woke this morning wondering what exactly I might find if I chose to explore it a little further. Here are some of the things I found, in no particular order, some of the things the writer in me yearns for:

--to be heard. As I suspect with many creative people, there's a part of me that wants to hide away, and another part that wants to speak out for fear of being nothing and nobody.

--to tell you who I am. I heard once from a wise woman of the Mexican Quichol Indian tribe that the first thing to be done when a new baby arrives in this world is not to give it a name of your own choosing, but instead to ask it: "Tell me who you are." This lovely idea has always stayed with me, as a guiding principle not only of my writing but of my relations with my fellow beings.

--in order to tell you, I must first find out. Another yearning. It's a never-ending process, to explore that inner part of me for which I have been able to find no fitter word than "soul."

--to affirm my presence in the world, fleeting though it be, and no matter that the world is in constant change; to fix each passing moment. I had a teacher once who believed that the origin of Western lyric poetry is to be found in the Greek "inscription" poems translated famously by Wordsworth and Coleridge in "The Greek Anthology"--poems written in praise of the "genius loci," the spirit of a particular place, and inscribed on a bench, a tree, a wall... In short, a kind of ancient tagging, an early version of "Kilroy was here," but more sophisticated, more beautiful.

--to affirm some purpose and meaning in my life. One of the great lines of poetry that have stayed with me for fifty years and more is one written in a prose poem by the 19th century French poet, Charles Baudelaire, from one of the darker moments of his often dark life: "Et vous, Seigneur mon Dieu..." he starts, and continues in my own inadequate translation, "And you, O Lord my God, grant me the grace to write a few fine lines, to prove to myself that I am not the last of men, that I am not inferior to those that I despise." (I have always been a bit uncomfortable with those last few words. I still am. But to my shame, I confess that I do know what he means.)

--not to have lived in vain, then; to be worthy.

--to be "in touch," to be one with others, to find that one-ness with all beings that gives context to each individual existence.

--to make a contribution, to be able to feel greater than my own small self, to leave this world in some way different, perhaps even a little better, than when I arrived.

These are some of those deep needs that I found in the recesses of my writer's mind. I'm sure there are others I have not yet discovered, milling around in the unconscious part of my "realm of yearning." Do they resonate for you, my fellow writers out there in the world? Or do you, as I suppose, have others, too?

4 comments:

John Torcello said...

Peter,

Yes!...I so understand and connect to your piece today about 'yearning'...I wonder?...at least to some degree, don't you think everyone has these same thoughts, experiences...feelings too?...

To be heard... in these so 'noisy' times...I find myself so concerned with not just adding to the noise; yet compelled to share my thoughts...

To tell you who I am...never ceases to interest me about how our individual stories are so different; yet, also so much the same...when shared honestly, just a different combination of degrees and quantities in our respective, individual recipes...resulting in so many interesting variations...

And, in order to tell others who I think I am, I must first find out who I am...such a quest!...full of the discovery of yin/yang...the truth about learning the most by dissolving the self...

Affirming my presence in the world...so much time, energy, thought, concern spent in surmising and gauging others' thoughts, feelings and reactions...looking back, reflecting...trying to look forward into a crystal ball of my own making...often ignoring that which is right in front of my nose...here in the present moment...

Affirming some purpose and meaning in my life... and defending vehemently against anyone or anything I perceive that limits my or others ability or capability to do so...

And, a hope to have not lived in vain...an aversion to a perception of time wasted redoing, reliving the same things over and over...often caught up in a feeling of a lack of progression; particularly when I perceive events as moving backward, regressing...and, requiring myself or others to have to do it all again...

So valuing remaining "in touch" with others...and, a deep hope that the effects of my 'causes'; either acted upon or ignored, will serve some purpose, memory, feeling, learning and/or example for those I that cross my path and who I leave behind in death...

John

Maryanne Stahl said...

yes.

and as a teacher of writing, I am inspired with new questions to ask my students to ponder. (I have asked them, at this more than mid-point in the year, to reflect on themselves as writers this week, by journaling and responding to a list of questions/prompts. but they are young. that matters, I think. how can they yet know who they are as artists, as humans, when I still don't...

still, the reflection process is ongoing. why not start now? why ever end?

nice to meet you; I arrived here via dharma bums and there via patry francis. viva l'internet!

Paul said...

Well, Peter, how is it you sum things up so succinctly? As someone who is most comfortable with solitude, I've had all these thoughts again and again, but not in the form of words. No, they have always been in the form of unease, uncertainty, and even sadness as I grope through the fog you call the realm of yearning. Oh, to find my way to sunlight and peace. That's why I do what I do as best I can.

MandT said...

Good words friend, good words. Peace