Writers are often asked "How do you write?" But the essential question is: "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?" Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration. If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"
Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize Speech, 2007
Since I've been writing about Ursula Leguin in the previous post, I felt like re-reading what I wrote on the occasion of finding a signed copy of "The Habit of Loving" by another author who has had profound influence on me, Doris Lessing. I found the book, signed with a note from the author, in a pile of cast out books on the street, in 2007, the same year Lessing received the Nobel Prize at the age of 88. ___________________________________________________________
Since I tend to think of synchronicities as a form of grace and message, this was an important one that I've pondered on often. I've been reflecting that the habit of loving is the only truly necessary habit to cultivate.
We're often "tapped on the shoulder" by angels, and pre-occupied with daily concerns, we fail to notice miracles fluttering like their translucent wings under our very noses.
Ecologist and philosopher David Abram has commented that perception is "a reciprocal phenomenon organized as much by the surrounding world as by oneself". He suggests that a two-way dynamic of energy exchange may be going on. In contrast to our idea of a non-living world we simply observe or act upon, Abram asserts that "the psyche is a property of the ecosystem as a whole", suggesting that we move beyond the notion that "one's mind is nothing other than the body itself". Another way of putting it might be that we are "ensouled" in the whole world, a Conversant and Responsive World.
As writer Alice Walker has said, "the Universe responds."
Lessing's visionary books, most significantly her SHIKASTA series, have inspired me for 30 years. I continue to feel honored to have what is for me a talisman - infused with energy from the living hand of this prolific and visionary writer, who like Ursula Leguin, has been a "guide of soul" for me. Looking backwards, I noticed this entry from my own blog in the winter of 2007:
"I've been depressed this winter, which led me to go into therapy to tell some of the stories of my personal life, and hopefully untangle them so I can move through the bardo of transition I've been mired in........the Habit of Loving is the discipline from which creativity arises, and without it's hopeful window, the river dries up. I've been blessed to find a wise counselor to listen to me. And in the "unmasking process" (as she puts it) I've often felt like a ghost within the "legend" of my former self.......therapy is rather a painful process!"
I reflect again, being at the end of my therapy, the message of the title of that little book. The habit of loving, especially in the dark times of ones life, is a discipline to hold to. A way to live.
In her Nobel speech, Lessing remembers her life early life in Africa, in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. She urges us to remember how precious the gifts of literacy really are, remembering how desperately important it is to those who live without schools, or books in her former homeland. Here is the speech, from the Nobel Prize site.
And here's something she says about Story:
"We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.
Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world. The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill.
It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."**
*"The Perceptual Implications of Gaia", David Abram, THE ECOLOGIST (1985)