The other day, I read an article in the New Yorker that was sort of a review of The Bone Clocks and also, mostly, a take on the decline of the novel. Books continue to live and thrive in their various print and electronic forms (there was also an article on how "keeping a library" is now considered "hoarding," but for another time, another time); but the author assessed (I think rightly) that the tones of novels are changing and that now the goal is to story tell in grand and fantastical fashion rather than sum up and make available the state of the human condition.
Perhaps this article struck me so because of where I am with my writing right now, which is essentially the middle of a project shift. As such, I began considering my favorite books and why they were my favorites, and I realized that the novels I love are those that resonate with me on an emotional level. They are maybe the books that I hesitate recommending because they mean so much to me, and I wonder how they could ever mean as much to another person.
I've had so many "why are we here?" moments lately, actually questioning the meaning of life and the existence of man. These are not odd questions in general; they are just odd questions for me. I never really saw the point in struggling to answer them, because how could we know when we found the right answer? The answers are only guesses, and they are guesses based on faith and personal beliefs and science and what you hear as you grow up; and who else has a list of questions that they are going to ask God once they get to the other side? Amirite?
And then one day, I thought something that I've thought before, but this time with a new clarity: The point of life is life. My mind wandered to a Creator making this world and the things and people in it, and doing it not for the point of the hereafter but for the point of now. He gave us a world of sights to be seen, sounds to be heard, tastes to be indulged, and pleasures to be shared. He made a bunch of us, a species, though we are all entirely different, and he told us to live together. I started wondering if, for far too long, I've been seeking out ways to story tell my life--ie, to focus on a big grandiose picture--rather than to exist in what are the real circumstances. Maybe it's a need to control, a desire to shut down the emotions I wish weren't there, a striving for expectations set out there in society by who knows who.
When something swirls around in my brain for awhile and I decide to write it down, I've now concluded that it is very rarely a big something, and more likely it's a quiet little thought--maybe, like those books, it only means something to me and could never hold the same weight for another. Maybe I'm closer to the little details than I realize, and I should reach out and touch each one, to feel it for what it is. Every once in awhile, I'll take a step back and observe the bigger pattern being woven, glance at how the smaller steps built up what is now the beginning of something. But mostly, I think I will do my best to stay up close and personal and in it. Maybe I'll never grasp the enormity of the whole, but I will know the components like the back of my hand. And to know a little glimpse so fully seems worthwhile to me.