Sunday, May 04, 2008

This I Believe: Writing

One of the reasons you should never assign homework to a writing class, telling them that you too will be submitting an assignment for it, is that you then must write it yourself. I give you, in draft form, the writing I will read aloud with my class tomorrow, when they read aloud theirs. The assignment is to write about what you think writing can do. We've framed this as a "This I Believe" assignment. Typically for me, it has become about hearing, reading and connecting as much as it is about writing.

And yes, mine is 526 words. It was that, or leave out the Zawacki at the end of the piece. Which I CANNOT do.

THIS I BELIEVE: The Words of Others

…she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born …Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die. ~E.M. Forster

In the short space of time which is given us on this planet, why would we bother repeating the words of others? One might as well ask, why bother with the lives of others? Or the dreams of others? Or the past? If “communication” is what makes us human, then it is, in fact, the words of others which matter most.

However, I do not believe that we must regard all writing – all words – as messages from the past directed to us specifically. The point, rather, of allowing ourselves to connect with the past is that that the words we hear might in fact change us – without ever having been meant for us at all. To this end, it listening to the words of others that matters most when we regard writing, that make us most human, and finally most humane. When the words of the past are transposed to the present, a new kind of reverberation takes place. It is not the sound of voices that we hear in wavelengths on the air, but the straining of our own minds and perhaps even hearts to comprehend the pains, sorrows, joys and loves of someone who is fundamentally different from us.

It is most recently in vogue to criticize the “Post-Modern” for not mandating a certain political action, for criticizing even the idea of a “position” from which to make judgments and for suggesting that even when we’re aware of the discourses and systems which create our very souls we cannot ever truly escape them. Irony becomes the last preserve of reason.

I believe that the truth of the Post-Modern age is that we must learn to think for ourselves. I believe that belief, though powerful, isn’t enough to live in this world. I believe that to live in this world, we must learn to love one another. To love one another, I believe we must learn to hear. To hear, I believe we must start with a respect for the words of others.

I believe that medieval voices speak powerfully to a modern soul from a time long past. I believe we must let that past affect us, and through it, learn to hear the Other voices of our own time.

I say I,

but little is left to say it, much less
mean it—and yet I do. Let there be

no mistake. I do not believe
things are reborn in fire.

I believe they’re consumed by fire,
and the fire has a life of its own.

~Zawacki, Credo


Dr. Virago said...

I *love* this. Love, love, LOVE it. That's all I'm capable of saying right now.

Mary Kate Hurley said...

Dr. V, given that your post a year or so ago on "speaking to the dead" is a big part of what inspired it -- I'm glad to hear it.