“I stalk certain words… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them… I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, like pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves…
Everything exists in the word.”
― Pablo Neruda, Memoirs
I’ve recently discovered a series called By Heart in The Atlantic that I absolutely love. Established writers, such as Amy Tan, discuss their favorite passages in literature and at times, offer unexpected glimpses into their personal lives. When we read we find company in the adversities we are coping with – which is why many of us are drawn to various forms of language and art. We look for an external expression of what we carry within: personal fears, triumphs, losses, feelings we couldn’t describe even if we tried.
Language is a powerful thing, in words we can find refuge. “Everything exists in the word,” Neruda wrote. It connects us, heals us, breaks us, empowers us, humbles us, reminds us that while we are alone on our individual path, we are all still together and connected in our alone-ness. One essay I thoroughly enjoyed was Dorthe Nor’s piece on solitude and artistic expression. She quotes her choice author, Ingmar Bergman, “Here in my solitude, I have the feeling that I contain too much humanity,” and refers to him in the following passage:
“All human beings have these moments when we feel this outpouring, our ‘soul volume,’ as he says, being pushed out from us like toothpaste from a tube. Everyone feels this, but artists try to capture the feeling through art, contain it within some permanent form of expression. And when I read a good text or see a good movie or enjoy a good piece of art – it is the humanity, this poured out human experience, that I detect. “
I love this concept of human experience pouring out, or being squeezed out from our “soul volume.” I feel it when I read Neruda, find Cast Away on cable and decide to watch (always with tissues!), hear a powerful monologue, read Eastern teachings, or have a meaningful conversation with a friend. With this, I love to discover quotes that cut right down to the sensibility of being all too human. So here are some quotes I have found and loved lately. In using the phrase all too human I am reminded of the Nietzsche book I read in college. Do any of these quotes speak to you?
“And so, onwards, along a path of wisdom, with a hearty tread, a hearty confidence.. however you may be, be your own source of experience. Throw off your discontent about your nature. Forgive yourself, your own self. You have it in your power to merge everything you have lived through- false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your loves and your hopes- into your goal, with nothing left over.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human
“When I was six or seven, I used to read a thesaurus searching for the words that meant exactly what I felt. And I could never find them. I could see shades of meaning in the different ways something could be said; I could appreciate the difference, say, between the verbs “fall” and “catapult.” But when I had a feeling like sadness, I couldn’t find a word that meant everything that I felt inside of me. I always felt that words were inadequate, that I’d never been able to express myself—ever. Even now, it’s so hard to express what I think and feel, the totality of what I’ve seen. But this loneliness is the impetus for writing, because language is the best means we have to connect.”
“Personally, I think the passion for an extraordinary life, and the courage to pursue it, is what makes us special. And I don’t even think of it as an “extraordinary life” anymore so much as simple happiness. It’s rarer than it should be, and I believe it comes from creating a life that fits you perfectly, not taking what’s already there, but making your own from scratch. You can let life happen to you, or you can happen to life. It’s harder, but so much better.”