Yesterday was one of those days where I felt an almost unbearable sadness at the loss of creative people. It has been a tough few weeks, starting with the death of Adrienne Rich.
Yesterday as I drove in to work, I listened to Fresh Air and wondered why Maurice Sendak was on, talking about his older work. I thought, well, maybe he has a new book. But I was afraid that I would hear what I did hear: he had died, and Fresh Air was broadcasting highlights from past interviews. Listening to yesterday's show, I was struck again and again by how talented Sendak was, what a unique life he's had, and how much I'll miss him.
But he was in his 80's, after all, and both he and Adrienne Rich had led full, wonderful lives full of creative output. I felt more devastated when I learned that Adam Yauch had lost his battle with cancer. He was 47, only a year older than I am.
I was a tangential Beastie Boys fan. I never bought a record or CD of theirs, but I liked their music. More, I liked their evolution. I hold fast to that model (also evident in Adrienne Rich's life), that we can evolve, that we are not forever doomed to produce the art of our younger years. In our art, we can move to different ways of doing that art or whole different art forms, and it will be OK. Maybe even revolutionary and important.
I was also impressed with Adam Yauch's championing of Tibet. I like that he renounced the homophobia and misogyny of his earlier work and called others to do the same. I like that trajectory of his that shows that we don't always have to stay our bratty 19 year old selves. We can mature. Our fans will follow us. Maybe we'll even pick up new fans.
Yesterday had a sort of surreal quality, dealing with issues at work that aren't important at all, not today, not ever. I do not care about reorganizing the storage areas. I am tired of wasting my writing talents in crafting e-mails that no one reads. Engaging in endless conversations about the mysteries of the HVAC system just exhausts me. I want a life that matters.
I remind myself that people like Rich, Sendak, and Yauch weren't doing important things every single day.
Every life contains mind-numbing minutiae that exhausts us.
Yesterday was also the feast day of Julian of Norwich, which almost slipped right by me. I comforted myself throughout the day by repeating her most famous quote: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
I also comforted myself by reminding myself that Julian of Norwich would be astonished if she came back today and saw the importance that people like me have accorded her. She likely had no idea that her writings would survive. She was certainly not writing and saying, "I will be one of the earliest female writers in English history. I will depict a feminine face of God. I will create a theology that will still be important centuries after I'm dead."
That's the frustration for people like me: we cannot know which work is going to be most important. That e-mail that seems unimportant today . . . will likely be unimportant hundreds of years from now, but who knows. The poem that seems strange and bizarre and something that must be hidden from one's grandmother may turn out to be the poem that touches the most readers. Being kind to one's coworkers who cluck and fuss and flutter about matters that seem so terribly unimportant is no small accomplishment either.
But oh how I long to create work that touches people so deeply that they weep in the car when they hear I have died!
The Summer of Reading
5 weeks ago