Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh, I’ll get to that love and pain stuff later, maybe in my 30s

In the great tradition of Kenyon College Commencement speeches, this year, they picked the other half of my phd thesis, Mr. Franzen. And in the great tradition of Kenyon College Commencement speeches becoming life mantras for me, Franzen proved once again why-- even though he often infuriates me--mostly, he makes my heart sing in that beautifully neuroses-expiating, cathartic way that only he and David Foster Wallace can. They can actually cut right to the heart of what it means, and maybe more importantly, what it feels like to be alive now. 

And like the man says, "I'm going to do what all literary writers do, which is to talk about themselves... in the hope that my experience has some resonance with your own experience."

Because, as someone who lives quite a huge portion of my life, both social and professional, on various gadgets,  I laughed probably more than I should have. But as someone who favors grand gestures and huge, sloppy, and vulnerable relationships with everyone I care about, I maybe teared up a little more than I should have. Yes, Alice Sebold! I'm with you! I'm all about “getting down in the pit and loving somebody.” 

And I come back again to Fellowship. (I'm basically writing my phd on it!) Which is the purpose of why I'm on the internet-- at least why I keep this blog. Fellowship of people who make art and make it because they have to, not because they care what people will think about it. So I feel grateful for the fellowship I find when Franzen says things like this:
 "This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren’t fixated on your liking it. (I’m thinking here of jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature.) If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick."
I can't help but find certain echoes of what I love in the This Is Water speech, as well. Like:
 Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific.The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there’s such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking.

Read the whole thing here. Please do. Or you can hear him deliver the whole thing here


  1. Oh no, just when I was convinced I did not like I do! Pain hurts but it does not kill.......the hardest thing you will ever do is surrender yourself to love. Oh my....that was so good.

  2. Thanks for this, Ryann. Spectacular!


Why Stop Now?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...