Wednesday, February 22, 2012

That is the Question

Sometime before I dropped off the face of the earth and out of the blog so I could write a hundred papers and take a similar number of exams I was invited to attend a special lecture given by Jeff Gundy, a visiting poet to our college. His lecture was titled "To Be, What is that?"

Mr. Gundy's lecture was to be a discussion on writing and its effect on the human soul. As a writer I find that subject very interesting. What have I done to my soul? What have we all done to our souls?

Mr. Gundy concluded that being in possession of an alphabet, being able to write anything (shopping lists, journals, history etc.), but especially poetry, fundamentally changed the human race's way of looking at the world. It gave us a sense of what it is "to be" separate from the rest of the world. But, Mr. Gundy asked, in what way are we not the world? He wanted us to notice that humanity when it developed the written word stopped always seeing things in nature as singular and individual and began only observing a blur of green.

While this interested me and I agreed with much of it, this was not the answer I was looking for. I wanted to know what the kind of writing I do does to the soul. How am I different for having written?

I think the answer lies partly in what Mr. Gundy said. The written word does turn us away from the rest of the world. The ability to distill something, some color or feeling, from the swirling vortex inside our own breast and communicate it to some other human is a magnificent and awesome thing.

But writing stories is something different. It is not simply communication. With a story there is the hope that, if our imagination and skill are strong enough, we will communicate something universally true, and not just something true about ourselves, but some truth about the the world and our place in it.

Writing stories makes us look for meaning and unity. It turns the writer's eyes not just into his own heart, makes him aware not just of his own being, but of the being of others.

If one single, solitary man stood alone in the world there could be no stories. They require more than one person.

We are not alone and, I think, writing forces us to remember that in the depths of our souls. We are individual, but we are also a part of a whole.

I am and so are you.

How do you think writing affects you?


  1. A very poetic way of saying that writers need each other. :)

  2. Mmmm deep. I'm glad to have you back on the face of the earth.

    1. I'm glad to be back too. Papers and exams do strange things to a person.

  3. So true. Without others, we'd have no one to read our stories and that would be sad indeed.

  4. Mhhmmmmm....very interesting thing to contemplate on. That must have been one fantastically interesting speech. Thanks for sharing!

    BTW, welcome back! Luckily my homework load wasn't too heavy this quarter, so I could remain on the face of the earth. And yes...papers and exams do strange things to people and their minds.