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A Revelation




The master said You must write what you see.

But what I see does not move me.

The master answered You must change what you see.

Louise Gluck



What drives a person to write? Or better yet, what keeps a person from writing?

There are silences and there are silences. But the silence of the writer is the silence of a struggle much more difficult than the pain of putting into words what one wishes to say. The latter is a problem of form, the former a problem of matter. This struggle is the inability to even see anything worth thinking about much less speak about. The strength of the mind never leaves the writer; he will always have the tools by his side and it is a matter of picking them up. But the eye of the imagination can suddenly be eclipsed by a black sun that never sets. In that blinding darkness, the writer is betrayed by the silence that leaves him mute.

***

Hegel said that the pages of history written when men were happy are blank.

I beg to disagree.

While it may be true that prosperity leaves historians scrambling for what to write next, the individual writer finds no better time than this to be able to see the world as it is. The bright lights of happiness color the world with a shimmering brilliance that cannot be missed by the eyes that cannot but see. Everything offers itself for the satisfaction of the senses and nothing is too unimportant to be experienced. This is why the writer is able to write about the lowly blade of grass and why the painter is able to paint an old can of chicken soup. The ecstasy of the artist enables him to exist outside of himself, throwing him into a dizzying world that suspends his inhibitions and reveals the world as if for the first time. This is the intoxicating drink that nourishes the artist and reveals the truth.

It is no coincidence that Plato said that poets and lovers both have symptoms of mania or are excessively happy. But they are also, according to him, insane.

After all, truth can never be handled by the sane.

***

My silence came with the melancholy that arrived right on schedule. I never thought it would come again with all the preparations we had done--much like building a grand dam to prevent the inevitable coming of the great tide. But it came. It came like a thief in the night. And like a thick haze, it prevented me from seeing again, from making sense of the shapes of the things which were quite familiar to me before. Like light, darkness changes our perception of things while leaving things as they are. Moods color the world and like C.S. Lewis's pink spectacles, there is no other way of knowing if what you are seeing is other than what it really is. So there is really nothing to say because nothing could be seen--or be trusted to be what it is. This is the darkness of the night, the silence of the world.

Blind but led by the hand of another, I gave up fighting it off. I realized that even if this black hound has been behind my shadow for years already, that I haven't really emotionally accepted it. To understand it is one thing, but to accept it is another. It may never go away and it will always have to come back to visit. This is no longer a matter of choice, no longer a test of will. But when silence reigns, the heart is left to feel itself as it is sheltered from the world sentenced to an irrevocable exile to be alone.

There is nothing to write in sadness because nothing is seen. Sorrow only feeds on itself, wallows in itself and keeps to itself. Nothing is seen because sadness offers the perfect invisible mirror in which you only see yourself. And to see yourself in pain is to feel more pain, to see your self in despair leads to more despair. This is why the depressed keep to themselves and do not see their friends or talk to their family. This is why they do not shave or fix their hair or dress themselves up because after all, they're just going to be with themselves. This, finally, is why they do not write. Alone in the alone, melancholy seals thy lips.

***

But like the sun that always has to set, the veil of silence always has to be broken. "Out of the silence, a secret word was spoken to me (Solomon 18:14)." And all I needed was that single word. This is why I write again.








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