I love capturing images in photographs and video but there’s no doubt at all that my first love is words and the sometime marvel of escaping prosaic thoughts for a subtler realm of being. Written words are dead, just bunches of squiggles on a page, until ideas and our craftsmanship bring them to life and in the process bring us too to life. By life I mean the quickness (as in “the quick and the dead” of former credal confessions) we feel in the “mind” that signifies flow of energy, actualization as opposed to the inexpressible majesty of God: we’re creatures and our nature is to create, to express in form what the abstract can only hint at in mystery!
Writing for me is sacral. To pluck from the ether something vital that touches us, moves us to see beauty where there were indifferent objects, this to me is the joy of a writer. Writing we approach the mystery at the heart of being alive for what is being alive but being moved by emotions bigger than ourselves. This is religion. The divine is not outside us but alongside us, even closer to our heart, as the Muslim mystic exults, than the jugular vein returning blood to it. Alive and intimately bound to us, God is still beyond the rules we know to promulgate and obey. She comes, it seems, of her own sole choice. We don’t formulate access again and again but try with known strategies until in those rare moments she chooses to manifest and we’re once again in love, madly, deliciously, intoxicatingly in love.
In our conventional world we make sense of the incomprehensible by breaking it down into categories. This part is ethics, this law, that there is philosophy, here is art. We create divisions that we can grasp something of the whole that would otherwise dwarf our capacity for sensing, for feeling, for thought. In writing we must take ourselves past these secular divisions—”they divided my clothes among them, they cast lots for my robe”—and recreate the indivisible totality of experience. Out of mere words we must strum music.
For me the one sure source of inspired writing is the past I’ve come to treasure. Stroking it time and again I wear away the rough, uneven surface until it shines. Ex nihilo we ascribe to God that can create out of nothing; mortals must stroke and craft from the gross substance finer than their hands can make. Even children we produce from sperm and egg; we can only build on what we already have.
But writing is not repetition, not rehearsing time after time the same old panacea for this desperate hunger we feel for food that can satisfy existential lack. From diverse parts we must fashion a whole, from artifice authenticity and that ring of tone brass makes when the right amounts of various metals come together in the smelting fire of chance. Chance, that’s crucial, and we live from moment to moment in hopes it finds us again, that mystic melody, that fire that casts out demons in a flash and we feel divinity in us: with words we are momentarily a writer!