Sometimes reading another’s words regarding a mindset that we are aching for, or are ready for, can take us to that mindset. In mere pithy paragraphs. In the considered placement of phrases of care by the writer we can be drawn down into peace, stillness, mindfulness, what matters.
The act of considered care from the writer makes us feel safe to do that.
Teju Cole discussed this on Krista Tippett’s podcast. The role of the artist is ‘to get people to concentrate more’. Cole said,
‘The artist raises a palm as if to say hush and listen and let’s be still.”
This considered line, too, takes us straight there, right?
I’m a big fan of Charles Bukowski’s tussles through his torture. I trust him. I trust his considered placement of pain on a page. Have a read of the below…I’ll see you again at the bottom.
“Either peace or happiness, let it enfold you. When I was a young man, I felt these things were dumb, unsophisticated. I had bad blood, a twisted mind, a precarious upbringing. I was hard as granite, I leered at the sun. I trusted no man and especially no woman…. I challenged everything, was continually being evicted, jailed, in and out of fights, in and out of my mind…. Peace and happiness to me were signs of inferiority, tenants of the weak and addled mind. But as I went on … it gradually began to occur to me that I wasn’t different from the others, I was the same… Everybody was nudging, inching, cheating for some insignificant advantage, the lie was the weapon and the plot was empty…. Cautiously, I allowed myself to feel good at times. I found moments of peace in cheap rooms just staring at the knobs of some dresser or listening to the rain in the dark. The less I needed the better I felt…. I re-formulated. I don’t know when, date, time, all that but the change occurred. Something in me relaxed, smoothed out. I no longer had to prove that I was a man, I didn’t have to prove anything. I began to see things: coffee cups lined up behind a counter in a cafe. Or a dog walking along a sidewalk. Or the way the mouse on my dresser top stopped there with its body, its ears, its nose, it was fixed, a bit of life caught within itself and its eyes looked at me and they were beautiful. Then- it was gone. I began to feel good, I began to feel good in the worst situations and there were plenty of those…. I welcomed shots of peace, tattered shards of happiness…. And finally I discovered real feelings of others, unheralded, like lately, like this morning, as I was leaving, for the track, I saw my wife in bed, just the shape of her head there…. so still, I ached for her life, just being there under the covers. I kissed her in the forehead, got down the stairway, got outside, got into my marvelous car, fixed the seatbelt, backed out the drive. Feeling warm to the fingertips, down to my foot on the gas pedal, I entered the world once more, drove down the hill past the houses full and empty of people, I saw the mailman, honked, he waved back at me.”
I’ve noticed a lot of my friends have gone to a similar ordinariness during isolation and found much peace in the narrowed parameters. Many (who scoffed my minimalist principles previously, as something of a quirky curiosity) have recently come to the place where less is more. Simple tattered peace becomes the boon. The more fretful chasing down of more is a liability.
This brings me much joy.
I, like Bukowski, have often seen the dialling down of my expectations of life, down to ordinary and less, as something you give into with age. But, really, it’s mostly something that is gifted to you, quietly and without fanfare, when you do the work to become mature and knowing. And it is work. Indeed it is!
I hope everyone reading this is able to use this time as an opportunity to dial down to ordinary and less, to square off with the fretting…sit in it sit in it sit in it. Watch it. Welcome the most tattered shards of happiness. And expand from there.
What writers hold up a palm and get you to hush?