THINGS ARE MOVING in a new direction. Isn’t that always how it is, though?
If this were a letter, it would be to the people who had been reading the Kismuth e-letters, which I remember sending probably too often from the year I started Kismuth, 2012. I have stopped sending them, more or less. I guess because sometimes things find their natural ending, don’t they? Cycles. Time. Shifts, the story.
But I do remember writing a lot, and in the letter style. It would open in this kind of slow, easy way: I wonder how this note finds you, and how you are feeling where you are. Perhaps I’d go into a bit of a soliloquy, talk about something philosophical and maybe (probably) abstract. Esoteric. Admittedly it was a thing that would happen, an illogical compulsion towards illogic. Then I got into quantum physics. Then I learned about uncertainty, and its principles. I got intrigued, studied, and wrote completely other things for whole other segments of people. So I stopped with the e-letters to people in Kismuth, those whom I would meet while traveling in Viet Nam or India, who would ask me what I was doing, to whom I’d respond in my earnest and idealistic way that I was writing a book. A book about The Road, about the choice to go On It, and take a chance on things and buck the status quo, for better or worse. Sometimes it was better, sometimes it was far worse, but most of the time, and I think this is the thing that I must not forget, there was really good learning. And that learning is where the other things happened. Things that some people call ‘growth.’
I would go on about so many topics in my letters, much of those letters were long and long-winded. I don’t know. Somehow they led to new things, as things often do. I learned how to write in a way that was my own way. I stopped it with the old styles, the ones that had become bad habits. I won’t blame anything for that, they just were. Part of it was being afraid to say too much, at once. Fear. Fear of being seen as who I really am. When, I guess, if I am truly honest with myself (and you) about this, the thing is, if you don’t put who you really are into a thing, into a work, it’s just not going to be that interesting. To anyone. So you have to do it. For better or worse. Again, that refrain. This time, where will it take me?
The journeys are always good teachers. The reflection that happens at the endpoints even more so. But over the years I find myself returning to the same themes. Those of imagination. Those of love. Those of destiny, and the question, ‘What about if?’ But in a much more resigned way now than in that anxious kind of style that attaches itself to the young and dogmatic and idealistic and did I say dogmatic? Yes. Yes, I did. That is the key word, there.
So much more to say. I’m afraid if I put more here, for now, you will become bored. I am going to stop, then. This would have been the eletter from Kismuth, but as this is a new place, a bloggy kind of place, and as this might invite new people, as it has somehow magically done in the past (blogging, I mean), I will see what happens. The new territory is as dogged, strange, dark at the corners as the real road was, in 2013. The new territory is a walk into the Art, the search for Beauty. It was always at the heart of it, though. This quest to find the better, the meaningful, the elegant and eloquent in that which is around us, right here, where we are.
The below letter was first published online for Kismuth’s VIP e-community, on October 24, 2013.
This one’s for G.
SOMETHING HAPPENED THIS WEEK that changed my whole idea about what it is that “writing” is for, anyways. But let me start at the beginning.
So, I was wrong.
It’s hard to admit.
But yup. I was so totally misinformed when I set out on this quest to “see how other people in Asia raise their children, because, man, it takes a village, doesn’t it?, and we’re so wrapped up in ourselves and our own lives in America.”
Turns out, Asia is wrapped in itself, too. Gadgets, status, timecrunch.
So that changed everything. About what it means to be a person with a kid and have “the village” helping out… We did our best. We cried and tried. Writing about the hard moments, that’s what I wanted to try to do in the series. Yet I haven’t been able to come at it in a really meaningful way. It’s such a personal journey, and all that hard stuff that happened, well, could I really put it into words and share that, out loud? Really, could I?
Then something happened.
Someone else showed me her courage, when she shared with me something that happened to her. Not about anything I could have in a million years have imagined coming, but it is her story, a true one, and something that made me sit up very straight. You can read it, too. [Editor’s note: The Kismuth.wordpress.com has since been made private.] Today’s e-letter is dedicated to G. My new understanding of the purpose of Kismuth became clear when you hit “publish.”
Kismuth started to become something just last week, when you showed me how it helped you talk about your own very real, very haunting story. Coming back to the village, I now see that the work isn’t about the manual labor of holding a baby or the copywriting that comes with making blogs. It’s about the emotional labor. The love that goes into the bonding with your child, or the courage that it takes to say what hurt or changed you with others you don’t even know yet, out loud. The village isn’t about stuff or time. It’s about people. Sharing. Our real stories. All of us. It’s about finding the space and time to open our hearts to one another. Thank you, G.