Living the Questions
Thanks, Anonymous (I know who you are), for answering this one for me -- couldn't have said it better myself:
"not that it is my blog
but crushes on unattainable men
make life safe"
In appreciation, I will answer one of Anonymous's questions next (though I'm not sure it is the same Anonymous; note the difference in capitalization and punctuation . . . hmmm):
"What are 3 must read books that have impacted your life?"
1. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
I first read this during a very vulnerable time of transition and confusion, after I had come out of the closet in my late twenties and was struggling, following the initial relief and euphoria, to understand who I was, who I would become, and how to navigate the new types of relationships and, in particular, loss that I was experiencing. It was almost incidental to my turmoil that I was a writer at the time and that the book is addressed to a young writer. What spoke to me most was the permission, indeed empowerment, to experience fully what is difficult and mysterious and often frustrating in life:
. . . I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
2. Maps to Anywhere by Bernard Cooper
I discovered Bernard Cooper around the same time, which also happened to be when I was facing up to the fact that, almost immediately upon receiving an MFA in fiction, I had virtually no interest in writing another word of fiction (although to this day I don't regret a minute of the years I spent writing fiction). Cooper's exquisitely written phantasmagoria of uncategorizable "essays" cracked my mind open to the creative possibilities in nonfiction -- that it could be just as imaginative a genre as fiction, and just as challenging to both writer and reader:
The funny thing about being a man who is childless and intends to stay that way is that you almost never think of yourself as possessing spermatazoa. Semen, yes; but not those discrete entities, tadpoles who frolic in the microcosm of your aging anatomy, future celebrities who enter down a spiral staircase of deoxyribonucleic acid, infinitesimal relay runners who lug your traits, coloration, and surname from points remote and primitive. Certainly you don't believe that the substance you spill when you huff and heave in a warm tantrum of onanism could ever, given a million years and a Petri dish and an infrared lamp, could ever come to resemble you. It would be like applauding wildly at a Broadway play and then worrying that you hurt the mites who inhabit the epidermis of your hands. Death is all around us, and we sometimes assist.
3. The Family of Man, compiled by Edward Steichen
I received my first 35-millimeter camera when I graduated from high school, and I almost majored in fine art, with a photography concentration, in college -- until I decided that I didn't have the discipline to be an artist . . . and then ended up a handful of years later (isn't it ironic, dontcha think?) becoming a writer, albeit one who has always had a problem with artistic discipline. This book of photographs -- based on a Museum of Modern Art exhibit in the 1950s -- is sometimes sentimental, but its deep silvery-black-and-white images offered me endless inspiration, and still do, about the many ways to frame what I see around me. As I mentioned in a long-ago post, I've taken hardly any photographs to speak of in the three and a half years since my last relationship ended; my photo collection pretty much ends in 2003. I honestly don't know if I'll ever get back to it. I'm not sure why the desire has left me -- one of the many questions I'm living! And I'm just talking about snapshots, really -- nothing fancy, just visual documentation of my life. But I like to think I still have the heart of a photographer.
A camera testament, a drama of the grand canyon of humanity, an epic woven of fun, mystery and holiness . . .