Saturday, 22 October 2011

Who Do Your Write For?

The narrator of the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, an elderly preacher writing in the year 1956, says, 'For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers…You feel that you are with someone.' That's a very accurate description of how I feel about it.

When I was a child I was a very fervent Catholic and I spent a lot of time praying. (Please note: there's a difference between being fervent and good. I make no claims to being good either then or now.) The existence of God seemed utterly obvious to me. If you'd asked me why, I would have told you that I could feel the presence of God all the time.

Later on I adapted my perspective on this. I still had the same feeling but I wasn't quite so adamant about how I defined it. When pressed, I would say that I could feel a wind blowing from another world.

Sometimes this sense of another reality would be much more intrusive than at other times. I remember when I was nineteen years old walking along a road in Liverpool where I was studying at university when quite suddenly everything I was looking at seemed to ripple and bend about thirty degrees to my left, as if the whole of reality were nothing more than a scene painted on a curtain disturbed by a breeze. This shocked me by its explicitness but it did not surprise me in the least.

As I have got older this sense of another, and perhaps a greater, world contingent upon this one is not quite as ever-present as it used to be. But it's still there and occasionally it will blossom into full strength again for no obvious reason, leaving me in a slightly dazed state for the next half hour or so.

My writing takes place as a kind of response to this. I'm trying to be with someone, but not just anyone. I'm trying to be with someone who can understand what the hell I'm talking about. That's who I'm writing for: someone who is as disturbed as me.

If by any chance you're out there, hi.


Paul said...

I have twice had an experience that was diagnosed as an ocular migraine -- a sudden, overwhelming distortion of my vision for a brief period. It was frightening as it happened, but it's apparently something that can be dismissed. Yet the psychological effects linger -- not so easily dismissed.

What do I write for? Myself? Perhaps. For others? Perhaps. Are there others out there like me? I hope not. I'm strange enough as it is.

Brian Keaney said...

You're such a rational man, Paul. I wish I were too but there is such a reservoir or irrationality in me.

Elsewhere in Gilead the narrator says, 'You never do know the actual nature even of your own experience'.