WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN

William Stafford, one of my favorite poets, said that writers must be “willingly fallible to deserve a place in the realm where miracles happen.” He also asked that we “talk recklessly.” Of course he was referring to qualities necessary to the writing state of mind, but would they not also be worthy of a blog conversation about writing? I want this blog to promote that kind of vulnerable self-exposure. Let’s be open with our ideas and our responses to the ideas of others. Fallibility is nakedness. It’s about giving and receiving.

Regarding miracles happening, we know better than to expect that in the sense of fame and fortune. Stafford could not have been suggesting that. In his son’s preface to the collection entitled Ask Me, Kim Stafford said that his father awakened every morning before dawn to write with the intention “to look around and understand” that the world is “mysterious, dark, enticing.” I believe his father was speaking of miracle as a state of mind eminently reachable for those who open themselves broadly and deeply to their own and others’ fallibility. It’s about being open to all experience with mind and heart, with respect and humility. About sharing with each other the enticing, mysterious nature of all that happens in our lives and minds, including and perhaps especially the dark ones.

Let’s do that. Let’s talk about what it means to be human.

2 thoughts on “WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN

  1. I started to say to be empathetic is very human, but I recall many pets who seemed to understand and even absorb what I was feeling. Perhaps that was concern, but not empathy. You raise an interesting question. It is not a simple one to answer. I’m curious to see how others will respond.

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    • Writermash, I think what you are calling empathy in pets is exactly that. Years ago I had an aloof cat that stayed on top of high perches in the house and only came down, it truly seemed, to find the lap of a human who was upset. I believe he truly felt it and was demonstrating empathy. Fantasies have surely been written about a pet sharing its experience and talking recklessly about its fallibility during hard times. It’s a great metaphor for what it means to be human.

      You have written a marvelous memoir piece about a suffering pet, but of course not from the point of view of the pet. Imagine if you had written it from the pet’s viewpoint. Things like that have been done. It’s another way to get at the same thing: exploration of the spirit of a conscious being.

      What I love about fiction is that it can put the author – and the reader – inside the point of view of characters that feel real. As a reader, I love memoir, too, because it lets me see the world through someone else’s eyes. Either way, what it means to be human is at some level being explored. Either is an example of what Stafford is saying: that the writer is looking around to try to understand. Many of us read for that, and some of us write for it.

      Let’s see what others say.

      Be well,
      Jim

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