Thursday, March 23, 2006

The book gods

Warning: the following may either bore you or cause you to think I'm wacky--unless you feel the same way.

We all get our answers from different sources. Some find them in nature, some in solitude, some in interaction with other people, some in prayer. Mine have always come through books. Whenever I have been most stressed, or most searching, I have turned to books for comfort. Sometimes it's the content, but often it's just the process of reading that I find consoling. I've been mesmerized by the magic of the written word for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life I have experienced a reoccuring phenomenon related to reading. It happens very frequently that I will be trying to reason out something, trying to formulate a statement spelling out the essence of what it is I'm pondering, and then, not much later, I will be reading and amazingly my thought will appear on the page. It's as though I'm being answered. I know this sort of thing happens to people who go to the Bible for immediate answers. For me, random best-selling authors are conspiring to feed me wisdom. Woooh. But I have an example. My proof:

Yesterday I was thinking about why I blog, or journal about our lives here in Mexico. To write about your own life borders on conceit. I always wince a little when I post. I like to think I write about us because it's important to me to record our history. What fun to read it later in life, to reflect on these unusual experiences. I like what Anais Nin said, " We write to taste life twice." Ultimately, I choose my topics. I put the words together. I present the package. I can make a scenario sunny and inviting and take you there.

You run a lot of risks with people's feelings, not to mention privacy when you write. I've tried to be careful, especially with the identities of children. And I've censored myself a lot when I'd rather not. I'd like to say, "I hate the Mexicans' high threshold for filth," for example. Oops. I'm a very undisciplined reader. I jump from one subject to the other with no focus other than something catches my eye. I'll get half-way though one book and pick up another. Currently I have several books going. I recently finished a borrowed book, Ghost Soldiers, a painful account of a WWII rescue mission in the Philippines. All the while I'm re-reading a favorite, Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier, an elegant work of fiction set in the Civil War. And also, Old School, by one of my favorite authors, Tobias Wolff. It's a fiction about competition in a New England Prep school. But I also just scarfed down a recent issue of "People" So, yesterday I was thinking about why I write our history and then I went outside to read my Wolff book and immediately came across this passage about writers:

"Writers formed a society of their own outside of the common hierarchy. This gave them a power not conferred by privilege--the power to create images of the system they stood apart from, and thereby to judge it." (pg.24)

Aha. That made me think. Could my lifelong desire to write be based on a need for--power? Certainly, it is a form of control. With words you can create your own reality. And as an added bonus, you can bring others along. (And I thought I just wanted to tell a good story.) But I have learned to harken to the messages of the book gods that have been after me since I first picked up a paperback--always there with a unexpected passage that cuts to the core, keeping me humbled and mystified.

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