I woke with a start. Cliche I know. But that’s what happened. My room was dark, of course, what had I expected? The silence spread out, blanketing the darkness with peace and sleep.
But I was not asleep, and something roiled in my stomach – the silence was not covering my mind. It did not encourage me to slide back into sleep. Instead the tightness of my stomach forced the peaceful silence away; turned the darkness into an ominous suffocating entity.
After a few minutes of silent desperation I sat up. I was being illogical.
“Men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal.” I shattered the silence with my basic, philosophy one-o-one, syllogism.
“Being afraid of the dark is only the continued fear from primordial time, an evolutionary impulse meant to keep us safe, continuing into the present through millennia of superstition and myth.” I spoke out, my words restoring logic and order.
What had forced me into this state of wakefulness at….two in the morning?
A dream probably….one I could not recall. I had spent too much time orienting myself.
A light breath escaped my mouth, the muscles through my neck and shoulders released, and my eyes fluttered shut. I could return to sleep now.
To die, to sleep–
To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil (1)
“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”
― Flannery O’Connor
Those of you who have read much of this blog have probably noticed that I often struggle to find words for books and music that I love. In fact, it is has caused me to avoid writing about certain topics because I believe that my words will not do them justice.
However, this morning has been filled with rants with my best friend about something we mutually dislike. And when angry my words flow forth like gold. Utilizing phrases like “trite morality” and “warbling aesthetic” I was shocked at my ability to conjure such interesting imagery so early in the morning without even thinking about it.
Which caused me to think about it more. I have sometimes spent hours laboring over the best way to talk about topics I love. I struggle to find words that are worthy to discuss the way I feel about Martha Graham or Emily Dickinson.
While in college I would nearly always write essays on whatever topic or literary work I liked least. This caused me to write an essay in support of censorship. This caused me to be the only one in a class of twenty to write about Margery Kempe. This is why, when I chose to write my senior thesis on Willa Cather, a much beloved author of mine, I had a mini crisis. I loved her work too much to write about it. Words would not come to me (don’t worry, they did).
I think the reason for this struggle is that writing about something I love means revealing much more personal,private feelings. Because then, if someone doesn’t like it, I have been exposed. And I am not the best at opening myself up. So instead I have practiced (and become adept at) talking about things I dislike. And not always critically – I find good things about them, I treat them well and analyze them far more indifferently than I would something I love. In fact, it is a good exercize, looking at something that you don’t like and finding the good in it. However, it is also important to learn why you like what you like.
In one of my freshmen introductory classes our professor challenged the class to investigate what attracts us to other people. Not romantically necessarily, but in friendship. What qualities attract us to others – is it wealth? Beauty? Humor? In other words, what do we find to be ‘good’ and why? This was an important exercise in analyzing the sort of people we were and I believe can be extended to activities and things that we like as well. Because ultimately anything that we like says something about what we find to be good and important in life.
I struggled with this a lot, when I found the answer it was only through analyzing the people I did not like. However, now I am trying to challenge myself to find out the positive attributes of what I like rather than defining what I like by what I don’t like. It is difficult though, and requires a lot more vulnerability.