I got a letter from my friend Kristen in March.
It took me, ashamedly, seven months to write her back. The irony here is rich, so I can’t resist tilling its soil so you’ll see: I’ve referred to myself for a few years now as a writer, and this is part of what Kristen had to say: “I hope all is going well for you, but most of all I hope you have been writing. The fact that you have published a book already is so very impressive and inspiring; I know (or am beginning to understand) what a monumental task that is.” And not only that, but she sent me a painting of a tiny flame and these words: “Words so innocent and powerless as they are standing in a dictionary; how potent they become in the hands of somebody who can combine them.”
I have not been writing.
I have begun to journal more frequently than usual, but I have left the blog in silence. I’m pondering, as I so often, what words and message I am compelled to speak.
I have a stronger sense of not telling anything but my own story. And my ambition, however far-fetched, has been to capture some fractious sense of humanity that would resonate across generations. That seems impossibly narcissistic, and yet it’s a task I’ve attempted to approach with humility and for which I have, more consistently of late, repeatedly asked God if it’s not what He meant for me.
I am not a hashtag writer. I learned this the hard way, when I tried. A few weeks ago I sent Chelsea, by whom I run all my potentially offensive comments, some tweets about Ferguson I considered posting, and she let me know I had not, actually, accomplished what I had intended. I thought about expanding them into a blog post, to nuance my meaning, but news kept breaking and my Twitter timeline kept refreshing, and I thought the words I wanted people to consider thoughtfully would be lost in the shuffle at best and intentionally misunderstood and twisted at worst. Frustrated, I gave it up.
There is, in the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris, a cast of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. I stood next to it at fourteen, only just knowledgeable enough to recognize what I was looking at (ironically, I probably know more about it after thirty seconds on the Internet than I did after an afternoon of wandering around an entire museum devoted to Rodin’s works). I have a photographic memory (but not eidetic) and in the past few days, I have oft revisited the vignette of The Thinker my mind snapped over nine years ago.
I wonder if we have lost the art of ponderance.
The Thinker is in front of me. Mounted originally on The Gates of Hell, he represents Dante Alighieri surveying the unholy happenings comprising The Divine Comedy. But what is The Thinker thinking? And why? What did Alighieri want to communicate by approaching sin as an outsider instead of as someone who knew its pull powerfully and intrinsically? And in placing Le Poète atop his literary works in sculptured form, what did Rodin intend to communicate? What was he thinking about?
Is it possible even Rodin didn’t know what he wanted to portray and why?
Is the path of art, the creative process of thinking, always obvious?
How do you create the life you want to live? Do you feel it’s always an deliberate, visual process? And do you, like me, at times, weary of the hashtag manner and depth of discussion in which we so often find ourselves online?