"What an interesting job you have," people would tell me, "lots to write about." And yet I never really had much the impulse. It wouldn't have been appropriate anyway, and when I realized that, I felt better about my boredom and what I'd perceived as my own laziness. It was a great flaw to find within, though, if you thought of yourself as a novelist.
What I suppose interested me and caught my eye was the human condition, that sway between the egos and the knowledge of illusion. It was more interesting to me that when it came down to it, maybe there wasn't so much 'self' as one might have imagined. This was heavy news to take, but the valuable upswing was that it made the myth come alive, seeing, for example, the presence of a Jesus of Nazareth caught not in ancient history but alive and present in the reality of the world.
I didn't mind the night shift, that place and time where people unburdened themselves a bit, relaxed, took a breath, admitted their concerns. That was the stuff that brought out the importance of my own perceived deeper task, the truth of my own 'work.'
That was the book I wanted to write, a book about healing the hurt that comes with having to subscribe to the world of an important ego, an overrated self-importance, knowing that first hand. When I clung to the earlier mode of writing, of believing I would increase my workman writer skills describing the people I saw, it never went anywhere. Or, rather, if a nugget might emerge from out of it, that was directly related to the spiritual questions, to the presence of something beyond the normal, moving to embrace the mythic.
Myths might be for children and crazy people, unrealistic people, it might seem in the common cultural belief. But I would politely disagree, holding them as necessary medicine to guide us through our days, giving us that rare sense of purpose.
It takes sometimes a good fairy tale, like that of the Beatitudes, to let one realize life. It takes that transformation of seeing through the things of the solid fixed self that turns out to be less important than one might have thought.
What do you do, then, with that knowledge? Well, I suppose you transform yourself. You transform yourself as a writer, and that perhaps is the kind of writer you always wanted to be, a wise one, if nothing else. A wise writer wouldn't pick on people's faults and sins, because he must sigh and realize that they are his own and that he is responsible for such and must only mirror the divine love for a flawed 'sinful' being. Dostoevsky for all his brilliant powers at sketching people, this was for him what it all came down to, a small chapter in a long book, about a monk, echoing an older wisdom about the nature of the human being in the world.
So it is that the earlier writings are almost a cause of embarrassment, childish, foolish ramblings, another outburst of the illusory self-important self. The soul is tamer and more enduring than that, above such complaints. It would value 'a putting away of childish things.'
Some of us go to monasteries and divinity schools, and some of us, as Dostoevsky put it, after a life of it, 'sojourn in the world.' Is the artist in a similar pursuit, through art realizing the same transformative and seemingly radical viewpoint? But then what is there to make art about?