|How it works.|
- Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain
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At the same time, I find this sentence to be among the saddest and most liberating words I have ever encountered. Since I could not write them, I am glad to have read them. They are as much a part of me as any I have written.
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There is a moment, a teetering moment, when you realize that all you have experienced, all you have known, all you have desired, feared, loved, hated is not that big a deal to anyone but you. The wounds you've tended and kept open only spilled your blood, no one else's; the unrequited love you've worked to maintain has only stopped you from finding love returned in kind; the hatreds have only poisoned your spirit; the joys extend no further than your arms. It is a swooning precipice to realize your brief history will be known only to you–small fragments and shards of your story embedded in those closest to you, but, finally, the story is only yours. The world can know nothing of the omissions and priorities that became your life, bit by bit. Like I said, it is a teetering moment to have your hubris, your benign hubris, your blind hubris, your absent-minded hubris, fall from your shoulders like a robe. Naked you are, with only you to see.
Such miracles, such private miracles.
I have fucked up plenty good big time in my time. I have misunderstood. I have been too proud, too aloof, too arrogant. It's what fucked looks like on me, but here's the thing: that's just the broad outline of my story. No matter how much I write, no matter how many words spill onto a page, no matter if I write as Proust did, trying to regain time, memory, place–I will fail. My works are approximations, facsimiles, sketches. The experience cannot be repeated or told. It is known and knowable only to me.
And this has nothing to do with being a writer.
I dreamt this dream only once:
I stood at a canyon's edge at dusk. I was dressed in a white linen suit. Into the silence comes a battered pick up truck filled with junk. The truck backs up to the edge of the canyon, the red tail lights glowing in the falling darkness. Out of the truck step another version of me: filthy, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. The well-dressed me watched the dirtier version climb up on the pile of junk and start heaving it down into the canyon as if trying to fill it. The well-dressed me looks over the edge and sees a pile of junk and garbage on the canyon floor. The pile is very small and the canyon fills the horizon. The well-dressed me thinks the guy on the truck is a fool for trying. The dirty, working me thinks the guy in the suit is a fool for not trying.
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Your life is a gift to you. The things you populate your life with are the gifts you give to yourself; even if you are unaware of it, it is still so. Only you will know what it was to experience your life, how the things common to us all filtered into your consciousness: the tentative kiss of a new love, the lifeless kiss of neglected love, the sight of a large body of water at dawn, the taste of lemons, how walnuts make the tongue raw, the sight of your own blood, the embarrassment of not getting a joke, writing with your opposite hand, the terror of falling in a dream, the sting of blisters opening, the loyalty of a dog, deciding how you like your coffee, or if you like it all...
Each thing in your life, each emotion, each choice, each experience is a type of love affair you have had with living. It is impossible for any one to know how another experienced such things, at least not fully. That is life's gift to you: the chance to experience it. If you have fucked it up, if you have shit on it, if you have neglected or given up on it, well, only you will suffer it, and only you can redeem it. If you don't, no one will notice. No one will care. Perhaps, a few closest to you will hurt for you, but the pulse of life will not notice a man or woman who quit. There are so many others still willing to risk it.
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I open my heart to myself like a sort of vitrine, and examine one by one all those love affairs of which the world can know nothing. And of this collection to which I'm now much more attached than to my others, I say to myself, rather as Mazarin said of his books, but in fact with the least distress, that it will be very tiresome to have to leave it all.
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Boom, my love. Boom.