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To save the world. There, I said it. Are words what I love most about living or is it that words are the only thing I have left to express my love of the world? I wrote when I was a child and I wrote when I was a teenager and I’ve been writing my entire life, so it’s not just that I have been deprived of every other means of expression. Emerson said that “Art is the path of the creator to his work.”

I want to save myself by requiting the love with which I have been infused by existence. I am almost satisfied by that sentence. What is satisfying is the belief that it will awaken a resonant feeling in others so that we will be joined together in the work of becoming human, which is now the work of rescuing life on earth.

Where was that urgency when I was younger. It was there but smothered. That thought discourages me, but I have to speak from where I am. An old man who has failed, but who also learned, not least thereby. A poet might leave that as it is, leave it for the reader to untangle, to perform the acrobatics required to link the word thereby to failed, which is to say that failure has been an instrument of learning. It may be part of the cultivation of a poet’s mystique that they  indulges themself in phraseology that requires effort to untangle. I felt, having just read The Road Not Taken by David Orr, that Frost was indulgent in that way. I feel that Mary Ruefle is capable of making observations with he same synaptic agility, but with a grace that carries us once we have made the initial effort to climb on board with her. All in all, I’m glad to have read The Road Not Taken, but the few forceful points were muffled by tangential digressions, and the section about the nature of the self was especially shallow.

I want to save myself by requiting the love with which I have been imbued by existence. I want to save the world by untangling the mysteries that are embedded in words. This might be an answer to the question of what is the point of my writing, but it’s not the why.

Why do I think that I can requite the love of existence by writing? Words can make the heart beat, as in this observation from The Road Not Taken;

As Samuel Johnson puts it in describing Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, the poem “abounds with images which find a mirror in every breast; and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo.” As Johnson sees it, we don’t just read Grays’ great meditation on death …. we recognize it.

There is art in the “pick of words that tell the truth” (Lao Tzu), that causes our hearts to beat together, that unblocks the life flow of love of life and of each other, which releases the desire and energy to be of service to and therefore implicitly to each other.

It is pretentious to think that I can help in this way, but then, almost any act of help is pretentious. It’s not pretentious, it’s an assertion of faith in the reality of love.

The why of it is that I believe in love and if I can describe that in a way that helps reveal that reality to you, that enables you to believe that we are family, then we will behave more and more like loving creatures. The why of it is that it’s fun for me to piece together the evidence from history and etymology that we live in heaven on earth. 


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