Until I got sick

The soul at peace — the mystic, the poet working well — is not simply inclined to silence but inclined to valorize it. Poets say that the better part of poetry is what is not said; mystics and other meditative savants say that the final fruition of prayer is silence. And they are correct. And yet the soul in extremity craves language; and even more than that, craves within language some fixed point of perception, some articulation of soul and circumstance that neither wavers nor decays, some — how the modern mind pretzels itself trying not to speak this one word — truth. But here’s a “truth”: every word, even “the,” begins to leak meaning the minute you turn your attention to it. When I was young, until I got sick in fact, what I most wanted from art was to tease those implications and connotations out, to lose myself in, fuse myself with, the larger meaning that this constant loss of meaning makes possible. But now what I crave is writing that strives to erase implications, art that aspires to get right down to the nub of Now. I want the “pure, clear word,” as James Wright once called it: thought and object, mind and matter soldered seamlessly together by pain, faith, grief, grace. That I don’t believe in such a word only intensifies my desire for it.

— Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

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