2020, how neat and new you look! You are an enigmatic egg, emerging from the womb of darkness and the passing of time. But we are twenty years into a new century and millennium, and what does the world look like? Remember the dire predictions of the collapse of our energy dependent, global society when our calendar was about to click over into the new millennium? The fuss was enough to make many people nervous. We are still battling fears—fear of what we have done or not done, especially in the last twenty years, and the helplessness we often feel as we look at the mess; fear of crazy politicians who seem to rise to power so easily on the backs of the ignorant, the angry and violent; fear of greedy corporations and the power they wield. And then there are all our personal fears to cope with as well.
American author, Ursula K Le Guin, so often quoted on many topics, once wrote, “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”
And Bridget Whelan’s most recent quote for writers on her blog, Bridget Whelan, Writer, is one from Iris Murdoch, again emphasizing the importance of words and writing. For Murdoch there was “no doubt which art is the most practically important for our survival and our salvation, and that is literature. Words constitute the ultimate texture and stuff of our moral being, since they are the most refined and delicate and detailed, as well as the most universally used and understood, of the symbolisms whereby we express ourselves into existence. We became spiritual animals when we became verbal animals. The fundamental distinctions can only be made in words. Words are spirit.”
These views could well be challenged by artists working in other fields. Music, after all, has been acknowledged as a universal language and great paintings have a punch that’s all their own. But political and spiritual matters may underlie all our dreams, our art, writing and our future, even if we are often unaware of them. At the beginning of a new year and a new decade, perhaps we should look ahead, not to predict what may happen, but to crystallise our own ideas about what we want to do, make and if we’re writers, what we really want to write. Then we have to overcome our fears and be brave enough to do it
And to quote Le Guin once more: “Making anything well involves a commitment to the work. And that requires courage: you have to trust yourself. It helps to remember that the goal is not to write a masterpiece or a best-seller. The goal is to be able to look at your story and say, “Yes. That’s as good as I can make it.” (Steering the Craft: a 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story)
Happy New Year!