Being “Up to Here In It”…Together
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne, Meditation XVII (1623)
Thus John Donne, the English poet, expressed his thoughts about the fundamental importance of human connection in the 17th century. In late 20th century America, Anne Lamott echoed the theme, somewhat more prosaically but with no less compassion. “…if you ask me,” she says, “what’s going on is that we’re all up to here in it, and probably the most important thing is that we not yell at one another.”
What does any of this have to do with writing from the heart?
“I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent,” Lamott says in the same essay. “If not, why are you writing? Why are you here?”
It is pretty amazing what happens when people tell the truth about where they are coming from, the truths they have lived, what they really think and believe.
Almost inevitably the illlusions and false fronts we surround ourselves with and with which we are surrounded for most of our lives begin to reveal themselves for the flimsy scrim they are, only thinly and not very effectively hiding the true nature of ourselves and our real lives. And when that happens, something deeper, more human, more real and more powerful begins to take hold.
Often, though not always, these truths are painful. So why do we feel so much better hearing about them?
I think it’s because when we open up to each other in this way, we are not alone anymore.
When we tell the truth about who we are we begin to free ourselves to be fully and deeply human in a new and profound way. And we see that everyone else is “up to here in it” too. Really.
We begin to be free to help both ourselves and others crawl, or fly, out of whatever ditches we have fallen, or been pushed, into.
Freed of the burden of our isolation, we begin to also feel more free to open our arms wide, to embrace the wonder of the world, and to marvel in the rich beauty and complexity of the life that surrounds us.
We become free to be just be ourselves, with all our imperfections, but with all of our own unique beauty too.
And that is quite a gift.
A bientot, from Essoyes, in the Heart of Champagne…
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland. She teaches literature courses in Paris and Hawaii for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and several times a year she offers Writing from the Heart workshops in Essoyes–a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.