And I think the most honest clarity I came to had to do with making my presence known. We are given so short a span of human life, we cannot help but be troubled by our own mortality--if we choose, that is, to go deeper than our small, immediate, passing needs, and pains, and pleasures. There is of course that old, Romantic myth: that we seek immortality through the art we make, the poems that we write. And what I'm thinking may be related to that notion, but it's not so grand; it's self-important, yes, but in a relatively minor key. It's that old "Kilroy was here" impulse to leave a marker, no matter how trivial, to say that "I was here"--in this place, on this planet, at this time.
And if I dig a little deeper yet, I realize that, more importantly, it's about making myself known. Not just that anonymous Kilroy, but this me--something of a delusion, perhaps, if you happen to be a Buddhist, but a compelling one. And even for a good Buddhist, surely, it's important to actually know this me, to come to terms with it, before I am able to move past it. (I guess I haven't done that yet!) For myself, as a writer, the writing is a way of doing just that; and the making myself known, the usually secret or unacknowledged desire to be seen for who I am--because I honesty believe myself, by contradiction, to be a rather private person--the "publication" of myself becomes a way of testing the authenticity of what I discover, of what I declare to be this "me."
There's also the matter of recognition. And by this I don't mean recognition in the sense of honoring: what a terrific guy, how smart, how eloquent. No. I mean recognition in the sense of saying, yes, that's me, too, I recognize some part of myself in what is written here. That's what I read for, to learn more about myself. And I believe that the deeper I can probe into this self I have, the more intimately I can speak to other selves, who may be able to recognize themselves in me. It's about our common humanity, then, about that place where we are all the same, despite those superficial differences that separate us from each other.
Which brings me back, perhaps, to the idea of healing. Writing, for me, is certainly a kind of healing. It's a way of discovering for myself what hurts, what troubles, what sends me skittering off course. And if I can do it for myself, in the process of self-discovery that is writing, then perhaps, if my way of thinking about all this holds true, I can dream that it's possible my writing may do the same for others, too...