I have a lovely view from my desk. Right now as I am writing this post I can see the little chapel known as the “Kräizkapell” (Cross Chapel) surrounded by the familiar vineyards, which are at the core of the region where I was born and raised. The sun is shining, and there is no question that it will be a beautiful early spring day. However, there is of course nothing normal about this day at all. A new age has begun.
Week 1 A.C. (After Corona)
As a writer I find myself in a weird situation. The Coronavirus has forced most of humanity to retreat to their homes, and initially this may seem like the perfect time for creative workers. Finally, our anti-social lifestyles have become the norm! No more feeling bad because we stay in on sunny days to work on some piece of art that will most likely go unnoticed anyway. Oh the books we’re going to write! The articles we’re going to publish!
Or so we thought. The truth, at least for me, is that it is incredibly difficult to write in the age of Corona. Only a week ago, I had so many ideas for posts in my head. So much was still happening around the world: Women’s Day, primary elections in the US, tensions rising between countries all around the world… But today it feels weird to write about any of them. Are these still relevant topics? Of course they are, in and of themselves, but will anyone be interested in reading them during a time where a virus has not only taken over our daily lives, but the news as well?
The Writer’s Task
In one of my first posts after my comeback on this blog, I discussed the purpose of writing (click here to read that post). Funnily enough, I feel like that question has now become even more relevant than before. Why do we write? And what should we write about?
The French poet Saint-John Perse once wrote, “All poetry is ontology”. In that sense, writing is a form of research. A research into being itself. It is a distillation of reality, a purification of experience using the symbolic system of language. The writer does not in fact create anything, but he does transpose and transform. He is a filter for the raw consciousness at the surface level of reality, condensing and purifying existence into smaller specimens, which may then be further observed and dissected.
Breaking Down Duality
For most of us, our experience of reality is limited to a very narrow, subjective view. Due to a lack of awareness, and a resulting misunderstanding, the impermanence and transient nature of all phenomena become distorted. A solidification occurs, and the very first instance of fear resulting out of ignorance takes place. The mind, now ignorant of its true nature, grasps and clings. Attachment results in the creation of concepts as a safety mesure, as well as the creation of an experience of time and space. The ultimate culmination of this process is the obscuration of non-duality, and the experience of subjectivity, or the “ego”.
In this obscuration, writers (this text focuses on writers, but other artists are of course part of this as well) can help us destroy the cage of subjective experience. Literary works are devastating attacks on the limitations of our minds. Through their multi-layered and ambiguous structure, they allow us to shift our perception. When we suffer with a fictional character, we are slowly burning down the borders imposed on us by a faulty dualistic view of reality. Compassion is a deadly poison for ego, and literary works open the doors of our minds to the souls of others unlike any other work of art.
Speaking up in a Silent World
In that sense, writing may now be even more relevant than before. Long-time isolation will lead to an increase in mental issues (something to be discussed in a future post), and writers now have a duty to dissect this uncomfortable new form of existence. Boredom, depression, anxiety, loneliness, superficial distractions: these, along with many more, will be the the ingredients for our distillations of the near future.
These are unusual times, but these are also unique times. Spend your time in retreat wisely, and you may discover more than you could ever imagine. When the outside world comes to a halt, it may just be the perfect time to turn your attention inside, and venture forth in a direction that has long been waiting to be explored.
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