Thanks for Writing

… and for reading.

A very poetic and concise writer, whose name I assume is Trish ( “liked” my last post.  When I went over to her space, she had posted a reminder of an incredibly gracious and meaningful speech I read a long time ago and had forgotten.  It’s the short speech given by novelist William Faulkner in acceptance of the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Along with the thousands of other things I have to be thankful for this year and every year, I’m deeply grateful there have been writers who lived long enough to express themselves as well as this.

“I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work–a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, which alone can make good writing, because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed–love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs are grieved on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny, inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man.  It can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”


Filed under Ethics and Morality, Literature

5 responses to “Thanks for Writing

  1. This really speaks to me–my personal philosophy is:
    “What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.” (George Eliot)

    • That’s another beautifully concise expression of similar ideas. Thanks, Karen.

    • that’s beautiful karen. completely simple. i love examples like this of the like souls smattered throughout this community of wordy people, all of us compelled to explore and express the depth of humanity, most of us chasing our own moby dicks, most of us ungraceful but persistent…each of us more of one than the other.

      faulkner really got me with this sentiment…plus in all his work he uses such long, pretty sentences of dreamy run-on friendly words and expressions that when read beg their own lyrical rhythm, sweet, lilting, shocking, appeasing, pleasing and colored with character. ( – a tribute sentence).

  2. yay YOU! 🙂 my first shout out by a fellow blogger. one more thing for my gratitude pile! this is fun…thank you for being touched, for getting it. relating is intoxicating, using words as its ice cubes.

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