Monday, February 28, 2005
This weekend, I was reflecting on the power writing and other artistic expression has to liberate us from emotional paralysis. When I am writing regularly, I feel emotions travel through me like a mild electrical current, almost like a buzzing. Things that hurt still hurt, but they move on. Things that make me happy still do, but I experience the happiness more fully. Doing yoga regualrly provides a similar experience.
In her latest post, Kristina writes the following about writing:
Does [it] make you laugh? Does it make you cry? Does it make you think? Does it make you feel? Does it fulfill you? Does it leave you exhausted? Does it rejuvenate you? Does it scare you? Really, really scare you? Do you know, in your heart, that you could get through anything life hands you as long as you didn't have to give up this one thing?
Ruminating on these question brought me to the idea that, if you are a writer, then writing is breathing, just as sure as your lungs are breathing as they expand and contract. Writing is to our emotional selves what oxygen is to our blood. We crave it, and feel suffocated when we don't have it.
What happens to a person when she cannot practice her art? A few months ago, I posted a poem by Lucille Clifton called "fury," in which she describes her mother burning her own poems in a fiery, red furnace. Clifton's mother was forced to stifle her own artistic expression. Today, I found another poem by Clifton which illustrates what I perceive as the consequences of her mother's sacrifice:
My Mama Moved Among the Days
My Mama moved among the days
like a dreamwalker in a field;
seemed like what she touched was here
seemed like what touched her couldn't hold,
she got us almost through the high grass
then seemed like she turned around and ran
right back in
right back on in
An artist without her art is "untouched" by the world, as if she can't process the reality of her environment properly. Things don't seem "real" without the framework of her art. It also appears that, without her poetry to sustain her, "mama" in the poem loses the courage she needs to get her self and her family through "the high grass;" she could make it, but chooses to run "right back in." Her fear of the wide-open world gets the better of her.
Writing is terrifying in its wide-openness. It takes immense courage to do it, and sometimes it just seems easier to pass it up. But when we do--when we choose the illusory protectiveness of the high grass--that's when we wither.