We teach our children one thing only, as we were taught: to wake up. We teach our children to look alive there, to join by words and activities the life of human culture on the planet's crust. As adults we are almost all adept at waking up. We have so mastered the transition we have forgotten we ever learned it. Yet it is a transition we make a hundred times a day, as, like so many will-less dolphins, we plunge and surface, lapse and emerge. We live half our waking lives and all of our sleeping lives in some private, useless, and insensible waters we never mention or recall. Useless, I say. Valueless, I might add - until someone hauls their wealth up to the surface and into the wide-awake city, in a form that people can use. - Annie DillardI've long resisted the idea of starting a blog. They just seem so disposable. Quickly written, quickly read, quickly forgotten. If I've ever got something to say, something worth publishing, I'd like it to be thought it through from every possible angle. I'd like it to be well-researched and perfectly structured. I'd like it to be beautiful, and to know that no one else had ever said it before. Otherwise it's just noise, and who cares?
But what I'm realising is that with these caveats in mind I'll never get round to saying anything. It's taken me about an hour just to get this far. I'm only human, and I do have something to say, and perhaps the only way to figure out what that might be is to stop editing myself before I begin. To talk enough nonsense that I stumble across some sense. Where better than a blog?
The above Dillard quotation is taken from her collection of non-fiction essays entitled Teaching a Stone to Talk, an unexpected delight on my university course reading list. Elsewhere in the book she describes the urge to live like a weasel, aligned perfectly with simple animal neccessity and unfettered by the painful contradictions of consciousness. But I don't buy it. This extract is more honest: here Dillard rails against the uselessness of the unthinking mind. Like all writers she is desperate to make sense of her experience, and for those around her to listen to what she has to say.
A worthy goal, I think.