Friday, January 1, 2010

The page you'll dare to read to a friend

Under the blue moon, I want to offer a New Year's instigation, especially for those who write or want to write, in any genre, or simply within the covers of a journal. I am borrowing these words from an essay written by Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentine poet, essayist and maker of fantasy worlds, as a young man: -

I have already written more than one book in order to write, perhaps, one page. The page that justifies me, that summarizes my destiny, the one that perhaps only the attending angels will hear when Judgment Day arrives.
Hang on - can Borges really be saying that he (and we) must deliver the right page to the angel in order to be saved on the day of Judgment? That may be as hard as the flinty Calvinist belief of some of my father's family that we are damned unless we are born among the elect, and damned even so unless our lives are justified by works. I fled that doctrine very early, though those who have observed me working round the clock complain that it remains a sleeper (or rather, unsleeping) agent in me. I won't dispute that the creative spirit is stirred by a "divine unrest", whatever its source.
Can Borges be serious when he says that to produce that one saving page, we may need to write "more than one book"? That's enough to make any aspiring writer break a sweat. -

Mercifully, in the last lines of his essay, young Borges relents. He wants
Simply, the page that, at dusk, upon the resolved truth of day's end, at sunset, with its dark and fresh breeze and girls glowing against the street, I would dare to read to a friend.
"A page I would dare to read to a friend." Now, that sounds manageable. And think what can be accomplished within a page! Borges' published essays are brilliant miniatures, often only a page in length, as are the stories collected in El Hacedor ("The Maker"). Even his astonishing story "The Aleph", in which his word magic brings a kabbalist legend alive and allows us to see, for a shimmering moment, a sphere the size of a coin that contains universal space - complete with tigers and pistons, tides and armies and a woman in Inverness with her "haughty body" and "violent hair"and the cancer in her breast - fills less than a dozen pages.-
A page a day. Here's the seed of a fine intention to let sprout in the New Year. I don't say "resolution"; New Year's resolutions have earned their bad rep. Resolutions may or may never get resolved. Intentions invite tending. So my intention, as we enter 2010, is to write, every day that I can (every day of the year would be grand, but I don't promise that) one page, in any genre, that at day's end, I would dare to read to a friend. How about you?

Happy New Year! May your best dreams come true in 2010!
The essay quoted is"A Profession of Literary Faith" (1926) translated by Susan Jill Levine, in Eliot Weinberger (ed) Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Non-Fictions (New York: Penguin Books, 1999).


selena said...

Thank you, Robert!
That was the perfect thing to read during the sunrise, on the first day of this year. I can't promise that I'll do it, but I will most definitely try!
A good and beautiful year to you too!

Robert Moss said...

Bună dimineaţa, Selena! I look forward to wonderful dream adventures in Romania in June.

Karen Kay said...

Hi Robert,

Happy New Year !
A blue moon beginning to the year, what fun!
Upon reading the word 'resolution', my eye saw 'revolution'. What with the full moon and the bright clear sky, somehow the word feels rather round and soft.

A big 'yes' to the 'page I would dare read to a friend'.

Speaking of accomplishment within one page - for a while, in my own writing, it felt like a page was not enough. I read a lot and authors seem to have so much to say. Just as I persuade myself that I should somehow expand and extend and all the other 'ex' words, I read the sublime miniatures of authors like Borges and the vignettes of Eduardo Galeano. In his 'The Voices of Time', which is around 400 pages, so far, no story is longer than a page. So far, what gems they are! (I am part way through). It feels like rather a revolutionary and beautiful notion to write 'just' one page.

I make this an intention for this year too. One page I would dare to read to a friend at the day's end – gently does it, gently. Indeed, how else would I write the songs and the stories and all the other things that come from the other place onto the page?

Unknown said...

Dear Robert~
As I set out to revise and renew commitment to my own blog/s, to my own writing, to my own pages, I am perfectly encouraged by yours -especially THIS post today. I am all for inspiration without pressure... I whisper, chant, sing and dance a resounding "YES!"
YES to the words, YES to a page, YES to daring, to reading, and infinite "YESes" to Friends, Family, Community, Story & Truth-telling.
Blessings for a year of turning pages,

Carol said...

Here is to the daily intention, which seems to offer more gentle, lush possibility than the harsher, cut and dry resolution. For me, it may be to notice someting worthy of writing, or sharing in some artful manner with friends, or those who may become friends.

Savannah said...

This is perfect! Yesterday a friend posed this question on Facebook: "If you knew the world were listening attentively, what is the one word you would say?" Without hesitation I wrote back: YES! So to repeat myself: YES! To inviting the daily page from the dreaming living loving tree. I can take absolutely no credit for this but into my head pops the brilliant banner crafted by another dreamer at one of your workshops" "A page a day keeps the servant away". Happy blessed 2010, and may it be a page turner!

Robert Moss said...

That's a terrific New Years wish, Savannah, that I may just borrow - "May 2010 be a page-turner"!

Karen, from what I have seen of your writing you are becoming a wonderful miniaturist (I so much prefer that term - evocative of glowing Persian miniatures, jewelers and much else - to "flash fiction"). And it's such a delightful revelation to discover, in this connection, the degree to which less can be more.

Robin, Carol and all - YES to life and creation, and may the year ahead bring you abounding joy.

Wanda Burch said...

In the wave and flow of the gift of another year, I would like to build pages that allow me to dance more in waking and imaginary ways. In waking and imaginary places I want to travel where I want to be, perhaps to places I didn't realize existed in any reality. I want to grow vivid beauty in gardens of the imagination as I tend the small garden in my world space; and I want to dream and envision the future in its past and present in a space of understanding where the soul speaks through the heart.

I want to hear the pages written by a friend as well as write them.

Robert Moss said...

I want to hear your page about that garden - THE garden - dear Wanda. I was looking yesterday at a new book on Ottoman medicine that features the importance of the garden as a healing space in that culture; at the center of every Ottoman hospital - and there were many - was a spacious garden laid out in rather free form, as opposed to formalistic, style, with the understanding that simply to be in that garden space would faciltate cleansing and healing. Since, for the Muslim mind, paradise is a garden, there was a further sense that this environment would make it eesier for those who would soon pass from this world to meet Death as a healer.

Diana said...

What a no-pressure wonderful invitation to write!

And the idea of the healing garden sounds like an adventure for our healing imagings.

Patricia said...

Hi Robert,
A page a day feels more like it. Much easier on the mind and soul. And, a page that I would dare to read to a friend is even better. I have actually started to write letters to all the people in my life who have influenced me in some way. They don't have to be alive for me to write to them. I just write to them. Up till now it has been rather sporadic. Now I can make it more of an intention and it helps when people from the past are popping into my head all the time. So much so that I'm wondering if I need to forgive them for something, or do I need to be forgiven for something that I did to them? Whatever it is, they are making contact and that needs to be honoured in some way. A page a day could help us both, I feel.
Thank you
Patricia from Oz

Robert Moss said...

Hi Patricia - I am greatly in favor of writing letters to the departed, and to friends at a distance (especially friends from whom we have been distanced). Anything formulated with heart and mind is a powerful message that will be transmitted and may well be received, even if it is not or cannot be mailed through any physical medium. This isn't only about expressing love or clearing unfinished business. It helps to bring through new creative writing. I sometimes write first drafts of things as email letters to dear friends that I may or may not send that way - but WILL develop into those pages I'll dare to read them at the end of the day. I find it's always helpful to picture people for whom I am writing, and the epistolary mode makes that very easy.