Truly Look Into One Another’s Eyes

‘Lay bare our souls’? Yes it’s strange. We socialize, live and toil side by side: companions, lovers, colleagues, childhood friends and yet we know so infinitesimally little about each other and so seldom see each other. Truly look into one another’s eyes. And we’re so fearful whenever it happens. I’ve attempted to change this over the years and try to look into other people’s faces, make a conscious effort to meet their gaze to see what is going on, but also because I desire reality, intensity, life, which is something to do with the fact that I’m getting older, and was as you know, sixty last autumn, and I want everything to be real, tangible. I don’t want to squander the time I have left on sleepwalking through life.

–Fredrik Eklund, Home and Away (p 20)

What do you do when you don’t look someone in the eye?
You defend yourself.
Against what?
Well, against life, of course.
It is so damned hard to live.
Nothing of what you’ve written so far has given me greater pleasure than what you said about life having to be real, genuine, alive, intense and how you have started looking in people’s eyes in a different way from before. Something opening, not closing. You want to keep the world open. You want to appreciate what is in it. Because you know you don’t have long left. Then it is over. Then it is no more and there will never be anything more. It is only now, and it is now or never.
Nevertheless, I look down, I hide.
I don’t initiate conversations with people on places, I hardly ever talk with my neighbours, and if I do it is the intention of getting away, which of course they notice because it is reflected in your body language.

–Karl One Knausgaard, Home and Away (p 31)

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A Revelation

Just for today, I will adjust myself and not try to manipulate the situation.

I think about all the time I spent vigilant, preoccupied, trying to decipher my mother’s relationship with Marcus, Lucy’s relationship with alcohol. It had never occurred to me to that both situations were whatever they were, whether I figured them out or not. And it certainly never crossed my mind that my reaction — my suffering — was mine: something I had come up with, not something I needed to blame on anyone else.

My job is to interpret, and to communicate my interpretation persuasively to other people. The idea that in life, unlike in writing, the drive to analyze and influence might be something worth relinquishing was to me a revelation.

–Ariel Levy, The Rules Do Not Apply (p 188)

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Sometimes my awareness of my own competence alarmed me. How would I remain attached to the world if not by need? I didn’t appear to need anyone: I could do it all myself. I was both halves: did that mean I was whole? In a sense I was living at the high point of feminist possibility: there was no blueprint beyond “having it all.” The richness of that phrase, its suggestion of an unabashed splendour, was apposite. To have both motherhood and work was to have two lives instead of one, was a stunning refinement of historical female experience, and to the people who have complained that having it all means doing it all I would have said, yes, of course it does. You don’t get “all” for nothing. “Having it all,” like any form of success, requires hard work. But the hero is solitary, forever searching out the holy grail, her belief that she is exceptional perhaps only a disguise for the fact that she  is essentially alone.

–Rachel Cusk, from Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation (p. 23)

Love Still As Once You Loved, Deeply And Without Patience

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.

–Mary Oliver, “The Gift” from Felicity

To Be Truly Alive

“I wonder now about Demeter and Persephone. Maybe Persephone was glad to run off with the king of death to his underground realm, maybe it was the only way she could break away from her mother, maybe Demeter was a bad parent the way Lear was a bad parent, denying nature, including the nature of children to leave their parents. Maybe Persephone thought Hades was the infinitely cool older man who held the knowledge she sought, maybe she loved the darkness, the six months of winter, the sharp taste of pomegranates, the freedom from her mother, maybe she knew that to be truly alive death had to be part of the picture just as winter must. It was as the queen of hell that she became an adult and came into power. Hades’s realm is called the underworld, and so are the urban realms of everything outside the law. And as in Hopi creation myths, where humans and other beings emerge from underground, so it’s from the underground that culture emerges in this civilization.”

― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Whatever Was Happening To Anyone Was Happening To Him

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The greatest poet in the English language found his poetry where poetry is found: in the lives of the people. He could have done this only through love — by knowing, which is not the same thing as understanding, that whatever was happening to anyone was happening to him. It is said that his time was easier than ours, but I doubt it — no time can be easy if one is living through it. I think it is simply that he walked his streets and saw them, and tried not to lie about what he saw: his public streets and his private streets, which are always so mysteriously and inexorably connected; but he trusted that connection. And, though I, and many of us, have bitterly bewailed (and will again) the lot of an American writer — to be part of a people who have ears to hear and hear not, who have eyes to see and see not — I am sure that Shakespeare did the same. Only, he saw, as I think we must, that the people who produce the poet are not responsible to him: he is responsible to them.

That is why he is called a poet. And his responsibility, which is also his joy and his strength and his life, is to defeat all labels and complicate all battles by insisting on the human riddle, to bear witness, as long as breath is in him, to that mighty, unnameable, transfiguring force which lives in the soul of man, and to aspire to do his work so well that when the breath has left him, the people — all people! — who search in the rubble for a sign or a witness will be able to find him there.

–James Baldwin, on Shakespeare, from The Cross of Redemption, found on Brain Pickings

I Have A Lot Of Edges Called Perhaps

Angels 

You might see an angel anytime
and anywhere. Of course you have
to open your eyes to a kind of
second level, but it’s not really
hard. The whole business of
what’s reality and what isn’t has
never been solved and probably
never will be. So I don’t care to
be too definite about anything.
I have a lot of edges called Perhaps
and almost nothing you can call
Certainty. For myself, but not
for other people. That’s a place
you just can’t get into, not
entirely anyway, other people’s
heads.
I’ll just leave you with this.
I don’t care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It’s
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.
― Mary Oliver, Blue Horses