Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here, There, and Everywhere

At some point, it must be asked.

What if I’m ordinary?

I mean, would that be so bad?

Would life become a hollow enterprise, and would my bones care after I died?

There is such a drive to be special. To have that specialness make people love us. Because that’s what all of us really want. To be loved. That’s what I want, anyway, at my most basic level. Whether it’s the love of my husband, which cups me gently between its palms, or the love of a reader who’s never met me, which isn’t really love at all, of course, but more like the warm silence around a song.

What would happen if everyone in the world loved me, either like a warm silence or like a cup? Would that kill the urge to be special? To make a mark?

I doubt it.

You just have to look at celebrities—and I’m not talking crazy celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, but good celebrities like Paul McCartney—to know that the need never really fades. Maybe Paul doesn’t think he needs to be loved. Maybe he sees his music as something like rainwater from galoshes: it just has to be poured out. But why still distribute and perform it, then? Paul McCartney’s not going to get any more special. Once you’ve written, “Blackbird,” you’re about as special as they come. But the man wants to know that he still matters. I was here, damn it, and look how much they loved me (and more than John, right?). I just packed the new Citi Field Stadium, for god’s sake, 44 years after making thousands of girls lose their voices in Shea. I was The Cute One.

All in all, the drive to be exceptional is probably a good one if kept in proper perspective. We get things done. We aspire toward new heights. We create art. Impress others. We want people to love us, and maybe they’ll be special in a way that sings to us and we’ll give them our love in return.

When it becomes dangerous is when the need to be loved, to be validated, to make that eternal mark just doesn’t happen. Maybe we’re not that special. Or maybe we are, but not how we want to be. Not enough. Never enough. That’s when the need to be special just clobbers the heck out of a different kind of love.

The love for oneself.

My husband (another Paul) and I talked about this last night. I was down because I’m reading this truly great book by Jonathan Safran Foer, called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, while also working on my own novel. I said that I could never write anything comparable to this book. Not even close. It's like apples and oranges. A Mozart opera, and "Rock Me, Amadeus."

He very sensibly told me that I didn’t have to. Write that book. That my writing is a lake, and Jonathan’s writing is a lake, and lakes don’t drain one another or cross. My goal is to focus on my lake (okay, he said all of this much better than I am). I liked that. I felt very much like I was cupped, gently, between his palms.

Now to hang onto that feeling, without doing anything at all. And then to focus on that lake. That rainwater in my galoshes. Because I want to let it pour.

Without sucking the soul dry.


Karen said...

I think we all fear on some level that we won't make a difference, that our having been here will not have mattered. Writing is one way of leaving a mark. Writing that is read and admired by others leaves an indelible mark. I think that's what we want. Not to be erased in the end.

Here's irony, Sarah: the way Foer's novel made you feel is the way your writing makes others of us feel. Where's our Paul?

David Cranmer said...

I've always figured if one person reads a story of mine a hundred years from now I'd be happy. Yeah, a century and one person saying not bad is good enough for me. I had to check Wikipedia to find out who Jonathan Safran Foer was. Sarah Hina will trump him easily enough. Oh, and I like Falco:)

Sarah Hina said...

Karen, ack, you and David are going to make me cry. :) :)

In all honesty, I have felt a sense of wonder after reading your poems. Maybe that's the problem. We all aren't recognizing how truly special we are around here. :)

And you're right about what we want. Some kind of legacy that lasts, when we are not.

Thank you, Karen. Your comment meant a lot to me.

David, see my comment to Karen. :) I truly thank you for that.

I think you have a healthy outlook on the matter. Your scenario sounds good to me, too.

(Oh, and I liked Falco, too. Shh. ;))

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

As the busy hour begins to calm we question our purpose, our intent, our significance, the meaning we have grasped and have given to this gift of time we define as life. In, "The Wind and the Willow," "Marks to Proclaim" grew from the very considerations and questions you have here presented. (http://apogeepoet.blogspot.com/search?q=Marks+to+Proclaim)

You remind each of us to reflect on the "why" of our own motivations and need. It is the writer, the poet, the artist, the musician, the creative thinker, the dancer, the actor, the actress, the aspirant, the server, the healer, the doer, the dreamer, that know of the insatiable quest to BE.

You are a celebration! Special because you are YOU!

Aniket said...

Hey! This is the first time I'm seeing you go all out like this. Its good to let it out at times.

You all are much more wiser and have seen more world so I can't give you any worthy advise.

But am not quite sure that you even want advises.

I agree with both Karen and David. If I were to feel the same way, I would have stopped writing the moment I read your work. You are so far ahead. But that doesn't stop me from trying. And we all have our different styles and we are better and worse than each other in many ways.

Look around Dave King's poetry is so rich and oozes wisdom and knowledge, Karen/Catherine/Margaret's poetry is always about a message/history/event/feeling and Joaquin/Pete's poetry have humor/story/irony. They all are so very exceptional and so very different form each other.

I could never ever compare one to another. You are best at what you do, don't you ever doubt that!

As for David's comment. 'The Emperor's Club' is one of my all time fav. movies and one dialogue striked me deep inside.

"I am Shutruk-Nahunte [sic], King of Anshand and Susa, Sovereign of the land of Elam. By the command of Inshushinak, I destroyed Sippar, took the stele of Niran-Sin [sic], and brought it back to Elan [sic], where I erected it as an offering to my God, Inshushinak. Shutruk-Nahunte - 1158 B.C."

It's a quote from a virtually unknown king, who speaks of his list of conquests, but speaks nothing about the benefits. This king is unknown in history, because "great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance."

'How will history remember you? What will be your contribution to the history?'

I've said this a million times. You are far to talented to just fade away. So let your presence be known. We are here and we are waiting to be awed by your supremacy.

Margaret said...

Sarah, I think Aniket said it all in the above comment. Let me just add:

We all want to be loved, to have that feeling of being wanted, needed. But we have to love oneself first. And you have every reason to love yourself!

Each one of us is an individual and leaves its mark, its impression in some way. Every one of your posts leaves an impression on us and we love you for giving so much to us.
What counts is, that we did our best, gave all we could.

I believe we're all special in our own special way and if we express that to our outer world the reward comes back to us in the form of being loved.

the walking man said...

You made an very honest post Sarah so in accord will give you a very honest response. I hope you feel loved forever by all that come to know and see you, read and hear you, that your lake never feels the effects of drought or divergence.

I hope you are loved not for what you write or because you become famous but for who you raise to be adults and the man (that other Paul) who loves you.

Artistically I would that you have the impact you desire simply because you desire it.

As for me *shrug* I am of the mind that I am just passing through and if someone stumbles on a footprint and wipes it out by standing in it, that's fine. I am nothing of any great import and do not strive to be remembered once I have passed through. The world does not need a memory of me to take up its limited RAM and I am fine with that.

God tells me he loves me today, my old lady tells me she loves me today, and there are one or two others who when they say it I believe them. It is enough for me to know what love is and by those examples return the feeling in kind; beyond that I don't want or need more for myself.

You be the lake I will be the puddle the little kids jump in and laugh as they do it. Unlike what Karen above said I have no wish or need to leave a mark or a sign that says...Kilroy was here. In three generations no one living related by blood will even know my name and to me that is how it should be.

Aine said...

Wow-- I was feeling very different from everyone else here, until I read Walking man's comment.

I do not have a need to be special either. Just to know love. Yes, I've always wanted to know that I've made the world a better place for at least one person (which I've already accomplished.)

My gift, if you will, to the world is my children. And I don't even think of them as a gift so much as fulfillment of my purpose as a human. I've reproduced and I'm raising them responsibly to ensure their success in reproducing and to (hopefully) prevent them from being a danger or burden on the rest of the human race.

I hope to have passed on the best qualities of my bloodline. And I hope that my existence has contributed to the joy and comfort of others in our shared experience of living.

If I achieve something that makes a difference for future generations, then that is icing on the cake. But it is not necessary for me to feel satisfied and at peace with my life.

I love. I am loved. I contribute to the greater good. I am happy.

(And, I guess, a bit unique in this way of thinking....)

Aine said...

Oh, and (in case I haven't said it enough), Sarah-- you have made a difference in many lives. Your warmth, your support, your ability to share through creative writing have all positively touched others. You are a human who I am proud to share the experience of life with.

In other words, you already done good, sister! Now love yourself... it's okay... you deserve it. Definitely.

Aniket said...


You and Walking Man are not alone.
My parents think on the same lines too. And there is nothing wrong in that thinking. Nothing wrong in either actually.

We need both kind for the society to progress. Not everyone can be a musician. But a musician needs his audience to give his music a meaning. He might often feel to play alone in solitude but he seeks to be content and satisfied by the love of his audience time and again.

In Sarah's terms you are content with the cup of love that you receive from your husband and kids.
But we all crave for that "warm silence" too once in a while.

That craving is stronger with some than others.

My life wouldn't change if I don't blog. I'll still have my family beside me and have the same job and friends. But I'll miss this warm silence of interacting with you guys.

Somebody has to reach out to people and seek their acknowledgment for giving us the common platform to talk and connect. People find a connection through one novel/one movie they like. Its a great gift to give people something they feel connected to, something they can connect through.

You too Aine have reached out and helped all those ladies in old-age homes and left your legacy. They took your image and remembered you when they left. You have already done most what Sarah is trying to achieve. To have that love for you in them is a totally different satisfaction, isn't it?

Pardon me, if I have stepped out of line here. I'm just a kid to you, after all.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice from your Paul. But who knows anyway if that book is better than what you can write. Perhaps only the world can make such a judgement.

Aine said...

Aniket, you're not out of line at all. :) You made a good point, which was in my head, but as I re-read I see I didn't express it in my comment. And that is that both ways of thinking are very valid, neither right nor wrong. In fact, I greatly value and admire people who achieve and are remembered in history. (If you doubt that, just look at who I chose as my mate... ;) )

Sarah's post just gave me greater insight into another difference in basic ways of thinking. And greater insight into myself. (Sorry if it felt like I was "judging" in some way... bah! to my "directing" communication style... :P)

Thanks for sharing and giving us this opportunity to reflect, Sarah!

Aniket said...

Oh, if I felt you were judging, I wouldn't have even tried to put up a conversation on those lines. I know you at least better than that Aine. :)

Give me an opportunity to talk and I shall cling on to it. :P

People here dismiss me as I over-think these little things. So am glad to find a willing audience in you. Nothing like two INFJs counseling each other, right? lol

The INFP watches them play, calmly.

Aine said...

Nothing like two INFJs counseling each other, right?

:) :) :)

Sarah Hina said...

To Everyone:

I don't usually do this--respond to comments as a group. But Aniket, in his last statement, is wrong (and only there, friend-whose-silence-is-always-warm :)). I'm not watching from a distance, calmly. I'm a little overwhelmed.

A part of me wants to pull a Sally Field at the Oscars...but I won't.

I don't usually post these kinds of personal ramblings, partly because I feel like I'm secretly wanting what you guys have been so good as to provide: validation. And because I feel like I sometimes come off as a whiner, or overly dramatic in retrospect. Anyway, I can get embarrassed and start to reproach myself for opening up.

I was raised by a father who meant very well (and whom I love very well), but who made me feel like everything I said was being weighed and judged harshly. So I pretty much learned to keep my mouth shut, at least about important inner stuff. Many of us were raised by parents like this, or worse. Maybe I let it get to me more than most. (and on another note, it's why Aine's priorities are so terribly important and right in rearing our kids--I happen to know she's doing a magnificent job, btw :))

I do think, if I can condense all of your comments (each of which is precious to me) into a couple thoughts, I would say that having a sense of personal value should grow from how we treat and care for the people who are most precious to us. I do agree with that wholeheartedly, and in spite of this post, which was written near a crisis of confidence, it's how I often feel, too. I loved Walking Man's comment about being a puddle for kids to splash in. Nothing could be more beautiful.

I, and many of you, do want to keep reaching on a creative front. But with my feet firmly planted on the corner of the earth I share with family and friends and all of you. So many artists and writers from the past have been miserable wretches--always, always reaching, never feeling the contentment we've all discussed here. Never quieting the itch, never feeling satisfied. They left a legacy that I cherish. Pain is often the fuel for brilliance and innovation, after all. But not always (look at Sir Paul). And what a price, anyway.

I'm not in pain very often. I'm incredibly lucky. I am loved. I have a passion that brings me much joy, and some angst. I wouldn't change a thing.

And I know that I'll come back to this post, somewhere in the future, when I feel those dreadful comparisons spark again. Your warm silence is more uplifting than any song. :)

Thank you, all. My cup runneth over.

Chris Eldin said...

LOVE the lake metaphor.
Sorry I haven't been here for a while...I want to come back and read your take on Jason's photo.

But my dear, you are way better to me that that other author, whatzhisname...

Karen said...

I think it's all been said - obviously with more clarity than I said it to begin with.

I still want to make a difference in this world, though, through my children, my grandchildren and the thousands of students whose lives I've touched in, I hope, a positive way and also through the way I've treated others (with kindness and compassion, I hope). That's the "mark" I want to make. My writing doesn't factor into this - that's not who I am but something I do for pleasure.

A poem I've never forgotten:

Ozymandias by Percy Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

There. I did it anyway. Sorry to be a come-lately.

PS - Aniket - you are so smart to be so young!!

Sarah Hina said...

Chris, I liked that metaphor, too. :) And thank you so much for saying that other thing. ;)

Your entry for Jason's contest was great, btw!! I really enjoyed it. :) (I've been reading, but not commenting.)

Karen, you're always wonderfully clear and insightful. Everything you say makes sense to me.

And I just know, without a doubt (and I'm usually full of doubts ;)), that you've made, and continue to make, your mark in more ways than you're likely even aware of. Because you're as kind and compassionate as people come. And I'd have liked to have been your student. :) (But I'll happily take your blog visits instead!)

It's amazing that you posted that poem. I read it a couple weeks ago. I got out the old Norton Anthology and went through all of the Shelley poems. And no one else. Synchronicity...

And such a haunting piece of work. Thank you for sharing it, Karen.

Catvibe said...

This post and all the comments are like food for the soul for me. You know Sarah, that you could be writing for me too, and so I ate this all up like chocolate.

As you know, I haven't been blogging these last few weeks what with my sons visiting. I haven't had the emotional bandwidth, or the ability to share myself farther than the dynamics of my family. Many mistakes were made in the raising of my kids, by both myself and my exhusband. The results of which are some very confused young adults. Having a balanced family is a blessing that should never ever be squandered. I speak from experience. Living in those cupped hands are a lake of all the gold in the world. I would trade all the desire to create a living legacy I had to swim in such a lake.

And yet that lake is not an option for me. I have the lake of my own extended family, which has always been a kind of comfort, but I've never felt fully accepted and loved for who I am by any one person I could call a significant other. Unfortunately, over the last couple of weeks, I've come to see the level of post traumatic stress I am still embedded that comes from the war of my marriage to my kids father. I will share more about that with you sometime soon...

And so I write, I paint, I immerse myself in blogging to relish in those warm silences. I admit to the desire to be loved. And I know that my friends and family do love me. Those warm silences to me have a comfort that I want to wallow in. It has actually been difficult to force myself not to blog these last weeks.

But more than wanting to be loved which informs my art, it's my desire for my work to be loved. In many ways, being so attached to my work often makes it all about me, which I find to be limiting because I don't wish for others to see certain sides of me which would cause them not to love me. I have struggled, am struggling to get beyond that because I find it leaves my work shallow and devoid of the emotional content which allows people to connect to it. The warm silences of bloggers is helping to coax me out of the need to be loved for me, to the need for my work to be loved because I love to do that work and for no other reason.

Legacy, bah.... Like Aine, I just want my kids to fly right. In the priorities of what I love, that one is first. Everything else is a dreamer's quest.

Sarah Hina said...

Cat, I've seen your struggle to place authenticity above that desire to be loved. You've served as an example to me on that front, likely more than you realize.

You know what the first piece I saw on your blog was? The peacock haiku. It really struck me (though I don't think I commented), because its question laid that need bare. It encapsulated everything I said in this post, but much more efficiently and elegantly.

These kinds of pieces are hard to write, and to live with after the fact (it's easy to feel foolish in the middle of the night). But you're right--people recognize, and identify with, honesty more than the other stuff. I know that, but it takes awhile for a feeling of comfort and confidence to catch up to that knowledge.

And I'm sorry you've been struggling with family and the cumulative, grinding effects of that struggle. We can talk more about that anytime you want.

I do love your work, and I know I'm not alone. But more importantly, I love what you bring as a friend and confidante to all of our interactions. That's what's golden to me. Just two INF-P's in a pod.

(okay, that was lame, but so be it ;))

Aniket said...


Okay, we are now quoting personality types in most serious of discussions.

I think its about time you wrote that next personality post of yours. :D :D

PS: I've never ever seen such big comments on a post. Shows everyone's big heart, isn't it? (I mean it figuratively, okay? Don't go word-counting to find whose is bigger? :P )

jayant said...

Let me add another angle to it.Some people would want to be Special in their own ways and some would happily substitute the word "special" with "rich and famous".
For me, these are different things. I would prefer to be special in my ordinary ways. Example: I would rather try and get the sought after "Certified Ethical Hacker Certification" in a month from now and then help the govt solve cyber crime cases. It would not make me famous but when I look into a mirror, I would be happy that the person looking at me from the other side has got a special talent and he doesn't go around boasting about it.

P.S.- sorry for bringing this Ethical Hacking into this but that's what's on my agenda for the last few days so just can't think beyond it!

Very nice post and I am sure all the readers would be able to relate to it.

Vesper said...

These - yours and of those who commented here - are thoughts that I have often. It's reassuring to read about them here, to remember that we are not alone in our doubts and aspirations.

joaquin carvel said...

having just read "communion" - i am glad lakes don't cross. and i am glad you've left a stretch of shoreline open for us to enjoy.