I can’t remember the last time I wrote out of intense need. That’s definitely a problem. Here are some thoughts posted at 4 in the morning about the writing life and why I would really appreciate it if I could be given a lease to survive just doing this.
I know what I want. I always have. I want to write a column about the two things I love the most: books & traveling.
This column was conceived of tonight, after a long week of re-arranging shelves. My books are the extension of my inner self. Looking at them, sorting them, remembering when and how I came to know them and own them reveals a lot about who I am at any given time in my life. Often, when the going gets tough and I’m not sure who I am anymore, I take the risk of re-arranging shelves because I know that one way or another, this will help bring me back to myself.
And it has, many, many times…
If I should die, my books will no doubt be sent away. These authors of mine and their ideas so carefully contained in every volume will be adopted by unsuspecting folks who will know little about the person who once skimmed through their pages. The books will lay dormant in someone else’s home collecting dust as they do in my shelves and every now and then they will speak their ideas and echo words beautifully strung together by their authors. But for the most part, they’ll remain quiet and undisturbed leaving no traces of me in them. In the possession of someone else they’ll simply blend into the life of whoever purchases them. Such is the real life of books that bibliophiles will never completely admit.
These books are just things we possess and though often they possess us, little will be left of our own interaction with them when we’re dead.
Here lies the urgency to document, to sit with friends over long meals and many cups of coffee. here’s what i want to do: I want to tell stories.
I’m dying to tell you all about Burma and the desire to see the roads George Orwell walked through. I’m anxious to introduce Emma Larkin and Pico Iyer who in turn would like you to meet others whose story is very different from Orwell’s. I can’t wait to tell you about the cheap paperback Bill Bryson book that makes the rounds inSaigon’s backpacker district. I’m likewise enthralled by Pramoedya Ananta Toer who accompanied me throughoutIndonesia like a lucky charm. I didn’t read a single page of his ‘This Earth of Mankind’ and yet i was there feeling him in my bones. I want to tell you about discovering Bahasa and being lost in the magic ofBaliwith a less recognized author, Odyle Knight whose account of the Bali Moon is still so much more intriguing than what is often written about the island.
Then I want to tell you about F. Sionil Jose and that time just before I went to see him…I had to prepare for an interview which I mistakenly thought I had to give and so I read and read and read only to find him talking to me through an essay about how much of an asshole Toer had been. This after I had purchased ‘The Mute’s Soliloquy‘ and found a voice through it.
I want to tell you about early morning classes spent reading Imagined Communities and accidentally but purposefully finding myself having breakfast with Ben Anderson years later.
I want to tell you about traveling via internet and meeting Alain de Botton on Facebook. It could be the next place we could visit to have a meaningful life.
Likewise, a part of me would also like to share stories about the Bible and Rilke and how at 8.30 in the morning I found myself in a hotel room inBruneilistening intently to the morning prayers being chanted and aired city-wide convincing me to reconsider displacement and recognizeMeccain its Southeast Asian home. There are more places and more authors who deserve space here.
I wish I could write about them all. There’s so much more.
But mostly, I wish you’d stay and listen. I wish someone would give me a break and tell me to do it. Heck, honestly, I wish someone would share this and get more people reading and talking. Part of me wants to say, “I wish you’d hire me to do this” but right now, it isn’t about the money. Just the urgency.
Events in life will recur with or without us but for as long as I’m here, living this uniquely strange and fascinating life (which I’m sure you are too), I really just want to bask in its finiteness in the hope that it might give you a sense of infinity instead.
This is I have, after all.