Life is not easy, there are many things that can hit you full on as you go through life, some challenges and losses increasing as the years go by and some people start out through illness and circumstance with challenges from the off. There are many horrors and injustices that make you wonder what kind of world we are living in.
On a personal level there is this perpetual striving to make sense, so we make stories, we are wired for narrative, we make attributions about our own and others behaviour, we seeks answers, meaning, higher guidance. We have superstitions, we make magic out of coincidence and feeling, we do what we can to traverse this life with some semblance of sanity but we all have our neuroses and delusions.
Why writing, why art, why books, why dance and music and pink and blue skies and fractal trees and light, sunlight through baby green leaves and golden autumns and the perpetual sea? Why, as writers, do we reach out to each other through words, why do we do this thing which is capricious and hard. Why aim for publication which is – as one well known writer recently said – often ‘disappointing’? It does not give you the means to live, it is fraught with lottery and hype. But when it works, when we find a book or write something and share something that says what we feel and what we mean, it is a gem, it is a triumphant, gorgeous thing and for that one moment we feel fine, the inner restlessness settles.
Why I am a writer is this: I am bowled over by the world, it comes at me, the miracle of it, here as we stand on a rotating globe in the middle of darkness. Here as we live as humans, look, see, love, look inward and think and marvel, our very existence, this astounding cosmological coincidence, this kiss of life.
A few nights ago on the day of the ice rain I stood in the garden talking to the universe, another sand heap rant. (Sand heap: me at 17 walking round and round on sand behind my house, wondering what life was all about as I stood on the edge of it.)
Here I am at this moment alive in this time, thinking of that man’s sadness in 1775 at his infant son dead. We think we are special, that we have sensibilities beyond those in the old days. No it is us, human, merely repeating and repeating. Right back to Archimedes and his fascinating inventions and thoughts, the stars mapped, the oceans traversed, this fumbling now out to the stars and more great satellites and probes and the earth melting and meteorites whizzing past.
Here I am, nothing and nobody but as much a part of humanity as everyone – that jabbering, gibbering mass of sense and nonsense. I am important and I am nothing. And these things I think and feel are as important as Betelgeuse and as insignificant, as dust, dust yes, containing everything.
What do we have – we humans naked across centuries, our clothes rotting from us in the earth? We have these things we try to do, this impetus, we have love, what we think of as love, big or small, special or universal.
So I reach out, I make meaning out of the bricks of words. I gather to me and care deeply for those people who seem to share this sensibility and this frailty, this sense of standing at the edge of things, on the edge of things on this hurtling earth, those people who need to make marks in the sand as a testimony to our journey, this insignificant number of years we are here and then we are gone.
Susan Lanigan says it too. Why when depression hits and she might look at the dark side of the sphere instead of the light, she chooses to live and to make art and to bear witness to this life of horror and joy. This is why we write, this is why we go on doing something that is hard and makes no sense, logically. It is to make sense of all this, this senseless, chaotic spinning world, this restless, reckless humanity.