Monday, 10 November 2014

An Old Writer at Prayer

Dear God,

I believe in you with all my heart.
You're the greatest fictional character of them all. More jealous than Othello, loonier than Lear, angrier than Ahab (never mind the harpoon, you'd use the whole damn poon), and more capricious than Becky Sharp or Bovary. You're mightier than Mighty Mouse, much Darther than Vader, and more elusive than the Pimpernel, who moved in mysterious ways and maybe learned a trick or two from you.

So yes, I do believe. I'm grateful that you're there, starring in the biggest box set ever: its dimensions are infinite; your seasons are eternal. And real or not, your power to move us is no dream. I think of brooding, Wiry types like Omar, Snoop and Bubbles, and find I care about them more than many of my close friends. Shameful, but there it is. And that's the faith I bring you: the special code to access you, and penetrate your paywall with my prayer.

I'm asking you to grant me some more grace. I'm not ready to stop writing yet. Don't melt the chip of ice (Greene ice, of course) that nestles in my heart. Not yet. However, I would like to mellow. Dear God, make me less murderous to younger, more successful writers. Not real murder, naturally, but every time I hear about an upstart making a big splash I stab them in my heart. Hey, see what I did there? The meaning I intended (or did I?) was that in my heart I stab them, but the words betrayed the truth. As Shakyamuni always said: by hurting them I hurt myself. Interdependence, dig? I'm sure you do; the Buddha is your buddy, too.

Make me like that! I'm tired of being weak and foolish; make me strong and wise. Or if you won't, I'll simply write myself that way. Yeah, that's it. I don't need you. I'll write a memoir making me look good. Arrogance? Oh, I know. But I've never been much good at being small. Humility, that's the word I’m looking for. And that's another thing. The main thing, as it happens. The point to all this pious hullaballoo. Don't take away my words. Please, not that. Old Lear, the old dear, he asked the same: "O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!" Little did he know.

Lear  didn't lose his words, but he lost his voice. That special way we string our speech along, that makes them think: "I'd know that syntax anywhere!" Don't take that. Anything but that. Strike me dumb if you must. Strike me at stroke, and with a stroke, and seal my lips. Even darkness would be better than a lamp that casts a faltering light. Scratching away in the gathering dusk, not knowing that the pen has long since lost its ink. I have no fear of silence, but incoherence is my dread. I want to make sense, or make nothing.

That's my prayer, old man. Let me write until the end, and then turn out the light.

It's the only thing I ask.