Some days the best thing you can do is make a virtue of your isolation–whether it comes from work, your neighborhood, or most glaring of all, the politics of your time.
I’ve seen so much human perfidy and outright cruelty and so have you. So have you. There’s a good chance you’ve seen worse than I have–a good chance you fought in Viet Nam or you’ve lived in refugee camps. When I write this blog I remember its read around the world. I have readers in Rwanda, readers who’ve witnessed or outlasted events far worse than the incidents contained in my own biography. And still I know that wherever you live you may need to be singular, to let yourself withdraw, even if its only into the privacy of your thoughts. My wish for you, whoever you are, is that when you enter the realm of your wishes and reflections you think about virtue. I wish for you freedom from privacies of vengeance and morbid irrealities.
Soul work requires striving for freedom and a willingness to reflect on pain. Growing is lonely work but true growth isn’t composed of schadenfreude–the easy hope that because you’ve suffered others will also suffer–or should. In our time its the great nations that demean solitude by polluting it, directing the helpless and lost toward naming imaginary enemies. As Carl Jung said: “Just as man as a social being, cannot in the long run exist without a tie to the community, so the individual will never find the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual and moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors.” Nation states take full advantage of the lost–relativizing external symbols. Although I’m a spiritual person–a lefty Episcopalian–I admire Christopher Hitchen’s book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. If the propaganda arm of fascism doesn’t stuff a man full of morbid irrealities than organized religion will certainly get the job done. Hitchens offers a resolute and thorough history.
Whoever you are, with your crutches and your homelessness; with your sadness at the plight of your children, I wish you an hour of untroubled capacity–not happiness, not contentment (I wish these also) but capacity–a state of mind that’s composed of dimension. Life is cruel but it changes fast. Your soul is your most precious possession. I want most often as a poet to protect our soul’s candles from wind. Whoever you are, you see I dare write these things. For if the churches and the broadcasting houses cannot make me hate, nor can they make me ashamed. As Adrienne Rich wrote:
My heart is moved by all I cannot save;
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who, age after age,
perversely, with no extraordinary
power, reconstitute the world.