Monday, June 20, 2011


(Cross-posted from The Buddha Diaries)

I'm the "persistence" guy, right? I wrote a whole book of essays on the the subject. It's ironic, then, that I find myself in the persistent doldrums. I can hardly bring myself to write. I chastise myself for failing to find anything new or interesting to say. I wake in the morning without an idea in my head, and without the slightest motivation to write another post. The only thing I feel is an unforgiving sense of guilt for not being able to do myself what I have urged others to do: persist.

I was talking about this to my friend Brian at dinner the other evening. At least he helped me find a way to laugh about it. We concluded it was time to take the opposite approach. Write some essays titled "It's Not Worth It," or "Why Bother"? "Chuck It In" might be another good topic. Or "Time to Quit." There was an interesting op-ed piece in this morning's New York Times, "In Praise of Not Knowing." With so much information instantly available to us, we are suffering from a surfeit of knowledge. The author, Tim Kreider, concluded that "learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simply not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill. Because it turns out that the most important things in this life--why the universe is here instead of not, what happens to us when we die, how the people we love really feel about us--are things we're never going to know."

I like that idea, and I see it as somehow related to my problem. It's like I have reached a plateau in my writing where I know what I'm doing, I kind of understand the things I talk about, and for this reason I get bored with myself, get bored with the sound of my own voice. I wish I'd just shut up. And I do toy with the idea of shutting up. Not blogging. Not writing tedious essays. Not trying to understand or explain things, even to myself. Not endlessly stroking my own ego with the imagined importance of what I have to say. Instead, I'd like to be able to "transform mere ignorance into mystery, simply not knowing into wonder." But I'm not sure how to go about it.

At our sangha this morning, after our hour's sit, talk turned to the matter of "letting go." I have two books in progress, one of which--the one I put on the back burner in order to concentrate on the newer one--is tentatively titled "This Is Not Me." The essays in this book have all to do with my interest in letting go parts of myself that are no longer particularly useful but which I cling to simply because I have so much identity wrapped up in them. Suppose I were to let go of "the writer"? A dreadful, fearsome thought. But a challenging one. I might just launch myself into the mystery, the wonder of it all...

1 comment:

Shelley said...

I love this post Peter and often think of your core value of persisting and how valuable it is - what you stand for your in yourself and in the creative process and for other artists is important.

Your continued honesty around getting through the cultural idealism of what is means to be creative - to be an artist - and to just get down to expressing your creative purposes - whatever acclaim or not it may bring - has been very helpful for me.

As for those down times as a writer and getting tired of your own voice - I can relate!

For me it often comes down to some new level of expression that I do not want to admit to myself or to other people - to admitting a new level of honesty - to a submerged truth is the only thing that gets me moving. Often as a creative person it is a practical need I am ignoring.

I like your honesty Peter.