Attending to life’s submerged currents

When I consider the value that Western culture places on material things; when I encounter advertising’s perpetual message that we need to change ourselves to be acceptable, happy, or loved; and when I notice how difficult it is to squeeze a walk into my day or to quiet my mind’s perpetual chatter. I see that the spiritual life itself has become marginalized, even oppressed. So many demands run roughshod over the soul’s needs that the spirit (play, affection, generosity, contemplation, quiet, beauty, creativity, truth-telling, time in nature) are least valued in a consumer society. Spending a morning with a pen and notepad, traversing the landscape of memory and searching for the sacred, is a profoundly countercultural activity. No wonder the impulse to probe the spiritual life with language presses against so many people’s hearts. That neglected dimension of self is rebelling-insisting that its story come into the light. 

Writing then, becomes a way of attending to life’s submerged currents. Anne Frank expresses this in her diary when she says, “I want to write, but more than that I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried in my heart.” Frank had an inherent love of language and followed that affection in the locked pages of her diary. She understood that writing was a bridge between the secret, wealthy realm of her being and the external world. Albert EInstein puts it another way: “The greatness of an artist lies in the building of an inner world, and in the ability to reconcile this inner world with the outer.” Language accesses and translates that which pulses, inexplicable, through our bloodstreams. It is simultaneously a way in and a way out. 

from “Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, Skinner House