Reaching into the Ethos


This morning I found myself asking myself that age old question: what is the purpose of being a writer, anyway? And I gave myself that age old answer: the purpose of being a writer is to rid yourself of swamp mind, of the ambiguous, the gray, to pronounce your words with clarity and conviction. To achieve the miraculous voice of unique self despite all the other amalgams of voices speaking in your ear. Also, to create, to have those solitary moments of creative radiance where you feel as if you are communing with something higher than yourself. What is that thing? What the hell is that? God? The ethos of life, death, past, future, hope, despair, empathy? Think about a Greek woman during Homer's time, is she so different from yourself? Is her mind's energy still coagulating somewhere in the atmosphere? Maybe you are privy to it, maybe not. What about the criminals besides Christ on the cross, is their energy up there too? And the Jews at Auschwitz? And the Haitians under the rubble of the earthquake and the Japanese who swallowed the tide? You tap into stories in the ethos and you are part of something greater. You leave your own words behind. Sometimes people read them, sometimes they don't; either way, it's still a connection, a mile marker of where you've been.

I look back at stuff I wrote in my late twenties and early thirties and I cringe. But this is dumb. I can't blame myself for being a pupa, a worm, an adolescent brimming with bravado. Now I have been cut and carved and I have even more things to say. When I write a sentence that rings true, I am successful as a writer. If someone reads it and gasps and steps on that ground of empathy with me, I am doubly successful.


So I have had this blow, this infertile awakening. There is a good possibility I may not have a child. What then? says mind. What now? What is my purpose, anyway? I don't have any answers to this. The Buddhist would ask, why would you want an answer, it's only a lie. No one officially has a purpose; it's all just an illusion. But I need a stick to measure myself up against. I can't help it. Go and be, says the old Buddhist monk sitting on my shoulder. Go and be what? I ask. No, you're not getting it. For the fifty millionth time, just go and be.

If I can't be anything else, I'll measure myself by my sentences.

So we go to Europe today to visit the Alsace region and view charming castles and villages. I keep thinking of the plane blowing up do to someone with an axe to grind. Listen, terrorist, or freedom fighter, or whatever you call yourself, we all have axes to grind. What I say to you and to me, and everyone else is, let's bury that goddamn hatchet. I promise to listen. I am a fairly good listener for an American. Really. I know what it's like not to be heard. I read Three Cups of Tea and loved it. I'm not your enemy. No one is, aside from your own corrupt thoughts. But I have corrupt thoughts too. It happens to those who are not heard, who are marginalized. Maybe if you reach into the ethos and I reach into the ethos, we can read each others stories.  You can see how I am not so very different.

Seriously, there's got to be a better way.

Let's be friends

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