When I began it I had no plan at all. I wasn’t even writing a book. … I said to myself, Now I can write. Now I can make myself a vase like that which the old Roman kept at his bedside and wore the rim slowly away with kissing it. So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daughter in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl.
—William Faulkner, On Writing The Sound and The Fury
Sometimes a writer has to stop listening to the world’s sorrow and begin listening to that dark place in the soul where time and memory and desire all seem to mix together like triune lover’s in some strange perversity of sex and flesh and thought giving birth to that substance of enlivening life that begins to speak with the voice of human suffering that is the inner life of the world. Only then can a writer begin to write something that is alive and full of that sparking power of mind that stays us against the sorrows of the world and of ourselves.
When we look back upon the ancient Greeks we see a world full of suffering, a tragic world of men pitted against each other and the natural elements. Humans facing doom in the only way they can: with dignity and pride. Not the false pride of those who would lord it over others, dominate them through rank and subterfuge, but rather through that natural power of flesh and mind, the body’s fierce vitality and the mind’s cunning intellect. Wit, grace, and style: the triune keepers of natural aristocracy. The power of intellect to cut through the subtle barriers of false power, cast down the dullard’s slow thought and bring us that charmed glow of knowledge balanced by the speed of a rapier mind, sharp and quick. Grace not of the dandy but of the relaxed but knowing mind that can carry flesh and thought as if it were both a delicate artifact and a deadly force. And the style that holds other minds rapt in fascination and dread, hinting at that charmed power that can seduce even as it slays.
Such men not only endured, but prevailed. The writer’s task is the regeneration and restoration of this tragic world view, to enliven his thought with the heroic power of mind and body. To shed the false pretenses of our petty culture and inhabit that space of reasons wherein the strength and courage to bare witness to the suffering of men and the world, of women and children and beast of the field. Such is the task we face in our time to renew the earth with the courage and fortitude of heroic insouciance – that indifference and impersonalism of the magnanimous being who is not threatened by the pettiness of small minds, nor the slights of vindictive and criminal thoughts. A being who can bare witness to those who have been overlooked: the poor, the destitute, and excluded. Give them hope where there is only despair; not the false hope of faith and other worldly promises, but of this world – a hope that gathers courage and raises the dead from their long sleep in time. No fictional resurrection or redemption, but the veritable enlivening of their minds and bodies with the ability to believe once again in the future, a future where all can exist in a world worth living in. Not some Utopian nowhere, but a real future full of strife and war against the spirit of resentment and unchecked pride. It’s time for humans to believe in humanity once again. For far too long we’ve listened to the troubadours of anti-humanist discord and human obsolescence. It’s time to step out into the Sun and claim our rightful inheritance, awaken the powers of our own inner being and invent the possibility of life, again.