The quote in the title for this post is taken from the Bible’s book of Proverbs. It speaks to me about the yearning of the human heart to have a goal—a vision—to pursue. It’s as true for us today as it was in the time of the bible that the average human being desires more than mere physical and social gratification. We also seek a wider sense of belonging in the universe.
I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the “mystery of all things”, and to borrow the phrase author, PJ Reece, coined, “the transcendental story heart”. I’m intrigued deeply by the puzzle of how to connect language to experience. My personal quest as a writer is to learn how to successfully translate the long story or the eternal aspect of ourselves.
The great Athenian philosopher, Plato, (c. 428-348 BC) used the expression techne tou biou, which means “the craft of life”, to refer not only to domestic and mechanical skills but also to development of the soul. The psyche, anima, atman, savira, semangat, nephesh, otachuk, loákal, tunzi, prana, duk, geist, sala, every ancient people had their word to describe the “life-giving principle”.
As the later Roman writer Apuleius wrote, “Everyone should know that you can’t live in any other way than by cultivating the soul.”
Artists and writers have the job of translating this wondrous ‘soul’ experience. Or as PJ Reece reminded me via email, “We live on the surface, but in constant awe of what lies beneath/above/beyond. As writers, it’s our job to live in the liminal zone between the two. And report back.”
At the end of this year, I’ll be attending the Tinderbox Conference for Children’s Writers and Illustrators (*see info. below). The first time Wellington hosted, I flew down for the ‘Spinning Gold Conference’ and over three days, I attended seminars, fangirled over authors, bought books (what’s not to love?) Yet, over and above the glamour of socializing with birds of a feather, the main thing I took away was inspiration.
Kate d Goldi, my tutor and mentor, gave a speech which she based on Jane Yolen’s idea of the ‘alphabetics of children’s literature’. “A is for antecedent,” said Kate, urging us to read the greats.
“B is for bone. Your fascination, your idiosyncratic fascination is why you were made and set here. Thoreau said, ‘Know your bone.’ Circle your preoccupations, recurring motifs, bury it up, dig it up, sniff it. If it hasn’t been written yet its because its up to you to write it.”
I was riveted. As was every person in the room. You could have heard a pin drop.
“I believe the compulsion to write comes from a deeper place,” said Kate. “I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself. When I’m writing for children I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, to approximate the pleasure I had in those shaded imaginative places. The lost Eden of my childhood.”
Kate spoke of getting her ‘nourishment at the knees of writers’. Being one of the keynote speakers at the conference, now she was nourishing us.
“Carlos Fuentes’ book tells us that our lives transcend possibilities,” Kate said, “I think current stories are lacking in complex structure, nuance. Kids need more than a limited diction, and a palette of Smarties. We remember readings that acted like transformations.”
Her speech got a standing ovation as well it should. This is what we pay for, as Elizabeth Gilbert said on her amazing TED speech-, it’s ‘a glimpse of god and we need that’.
According to PJ, “There’s a theory of mental growth that states that we go through a series of psychological “disintegrations” on our way to becoming authentic persons. So it’s very much true to life that a character would be thrown into an existential void again and again. With each passage through the fire, so to speak, and with each “reintegration” the person becomes increasingly altruistic.”
Sophocles described his heroes with the term deinos, which translates loosely as “wondrous and strange.” A character who lives up to that description possesses a kind of incandescence, reminding us of the unpredictable capacity for loving sacrifice, heroism, fierce persistence—as well as craven selfishness, cowardice, vacillation—that each of us carries within his heart. ~ David Corbett
This is the transcendent moment in action. It’s what we live for.
Plato likened the perfect soul to a winged creature, hoping to soar upward toward Truth. I’ll be going to the conference in Wellington, to learn new tools for taming the muse, sure, to schmooze with other writers, yes, and also to be inspired, to soar upward toward the Truth!
Are you joining the Tinderbox in Wellington? Been to a conference lately and felt uplifted? Please share!
See ya’ in the funny papers,
Yvette K. Carol
Humans are built for adventure and accomplishment. If we weren’t, James Bond, Indiana Jones, and the rest wouldn’t do anything for us.’ ~ Paul Rosenberg
If you’ve ever wanted to write a book for children, come to the Tinderbox Conference for Children’s Writers and Illustrators 2015. Check out the Tinderbox program is available for viewing on the website: http://tinderbox2015.blogspot.co.nz
Registrations open on the website at 7:00pm Tuesday 16th June.