Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Existential Crisis

Existential crisis number 857 happened a few days ago when I picked up a book in our living room and found this quote from the 14th century poet Hafiz.

If you think that the Truth can be known
from words.
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
can pass through the tiny opening called the mouth.
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly laughing --

My first thought was "No words? Where does that put writers?"
Later that day while we were staring out at the Barnegat Bay, I told my husband about the poem. He told me about a book he was reading by Eckert Tolle and how he talked about something similar. By putting labels on things, you're creating an artificial barrier between the experience of the moment and your inner being. He gestured toward the Barnegat Bay. "Just be. Try taking it in."
I watched my husband stare out at the bay, presumably enjoying the sun, sea and sky in a non-definable way. I decided to give it a shot.
After about three seconds, I found myself searching for a word to describe the deep purple color that only happened with the light of the sun and the darkness of a cloud hit a wave at the exact same time. Suddenly I was flooded with words as I wrestled to define the sea before me. "I can't do it," I confessed. "I'm a writer."
That's what writers do. We define and describe. Until now, I never thought of that as a bad thing. But is it detrimental when it comes to finding your higher self? Is enlightenment wordless?
If it is, I'll pass. I like words too much for that. And I like reading books that define a feeling/thought/place so precisely and so perfectly that it hits you on a gut level. Those are the ones that bring us together by reminding us of the universality of our feelings. Okay, maybe it's not Truth (with a capital T) but stories that find those little truths are the ones that sink deep into our souls.
I've pondered this for a few days now. This morning I had a small epiphany.
The thing that started all of this was a book and the written words of Hafiz. Oh and I did mention that he was, among other things, a poet.
I've started reading more of his poems. They're beautiful, filled with poignant truths.
My favorite line so far. "Good poetry makes the universe reveal a secret."
I have no answers to any of this. And I've decided not to think about it this morning. Instead, I'm going outside to see if I can find that color purple on the bay and if I can give it a name, I'll let you know.


Unknown said...

The truth was in you realizing that you are a writer - you are words - you are truth. Which Eckhart Tolle book is your husband reading? I picked up A New Earth last year but haven't read it yet.

I agree about some words being so beautiful - it's what I love about reading. Sometimes you come across a phrase that makes you stop and re-read and possibly tear up!

Love how it all started with a book - it usually does! :)

nanmarino said...

I think he was reading 'The Power of Now'. 'Stillness Speaks' is my favorite because it contains brief entries. You can open up random pages and read a sentence or two --which is just my style :)
Yes! Isn't is true about how a sentence or a phrase can take your breath away?