Saturday, January 23, 2010

On words

Imagine they are your children; your family -do what you have to do to feel for them. Start small - one thing at a time - and see what we can do.

You start again. You sit there and you write. You write even if it is utter drivel. Then you sit and write some more.

You cannot change everything. You can change some things. Accept what you cannot change. Learn to live with the possible.

You are a published writer: you have a blog. Now your readers must think their own thoughts about what you have reported.Several consciousnesses focussed on the same theme. Better than nothing.

But you can't change the world....Do as much as you can with the constraints that are placed upon us; you can do no more.
Donna Hosie

I think writers could make a difference. But many of us only want to entertain.

The Telling IS the doing.

Through our blogs, we're gathering in a circle around a fire, talking and crying, laughing and cheering, trying to make sense of this crazy, mixed-up world. And if, in the end, it makes us feel less odd, less lonely and less pessimistic, maybe we won't go out and slap someone.
Kass do what you can do... hug and love your children, hug and love your friends, hug and love yourself, and know that...

A man walking down the beach came upon a man who stood among countless washed up sea stars. He was picking them up one at a time trying to throw them into the sea. The walking man hollered, "You know you can't save them all." The other man stopped for just a minute with a sea star in his hand and replied, "I know, but I can save this one." And he threw the sea star back into the sea.

"We're all looking for heaven, which is later and elsewhere. Actually everything in front of us right now is a miracle, here and then gone, forever. What's the nature of that miracle? I don't know: no one does, and that's it's nature. You can't even really say that: but you have to keep on asking the question. That's what makes us human."
Annotated Margins quoting Norman Fischer

Most of us just use our blogs for preening. So that's one small difference You've already made.
Thomas Taylor

...trying to accept being human...guess it's no harder or easier than being anything else...depends where you live..
Rachel Fenton

There are way too many hard, harsh, hideous, cruel things in the world.

I think that I write to try to communicate and interpret the world. Sometimes just writing for me helps to work through some of the unfathomable worldly tangles.

Individually we can be the best friends/neighbours/people we can be. We can shine goodness as best we can.
Sara Crowley

If we didn’t have journalists and their photographers out in places like Haiti then the world would never know how bad things are. Individually I have no doubt that they do their bit when there but even if they never lifted a hand other than to click a shutter that would be enough. Like many I have the photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, the nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running down a road near Trang Bang after a South Vietnamese Air Force napalm attack, embedded in my mind. The same goes for the young man shot in front of our eyes during the '68 Tet Offensive. The sad thing is that over thirty years on I’m still seeing images like this and they don’t affect me like they once did. That doesn’t mean they have lost their power and for some the photos from Haiti will be the first images of a disaster like this that they will have seen and they will be the ones that will become a part of them.

Do you know what I remember about Live Aid? Bob Geldof. Now, why him? Because of the state he worked himself into. You could see how frustrated he was. He didn’t have the words. What words were there? But then we have this wee, scruffy, Irishman getting all worked up at swearing at the British public before the watershed: "Fuck the address, let's get the numbers!" After the outburst, giving increased to £300 per second. He reminded us, the generation who’d cracked jokes in the playground about starving Biafrans, that these were real people; you’d think it was his family that was dying out there and, of course, we’re all related if you go back far enough.

I don’t know the people in Haiti. But I know you. I should feel for them but what I feel is for you. You have become a proxy. I should feel the way you do. We all should. We’ve forgotten how. That’s why we need writers, to hold our hands and lead us into scary places we'd rather not go.
Jim Murdoch

I have that photograph, Jim, along with one of a man being beheaded in a public square - before and after the blade came down - in a highschool text book I didn't return. And others. And for the most part I, too, amble through life with little daily thought about such matters because I am too caught up in my immediate sphere of existence to give them the time of consideration...I remember kids in my class laughing at these images...I remember leaving the room to be sick after looking at the beheading one...I remember Live Aid, the swearing and the pot-bellied kids with big heads and spindle limbs and all the bloody flies, the colour of the dust and the richness of contrast where a droplet of saliva or a tear escaped and the flies going in and out of gawping mouths and feeding on those tears, and how for years afterwards all people remembered was the godawful song...I remember the start to Isherwood's "Goodbye Berlin"..."I am a camera.." and there are dozens of others who have used that same line in one way or another but there's one fundamental problem with that idea...a camera cannot feel, it cannot move of its own accord...we can, I can...there's a difference between passivity and ignorance...observing and ignoring...thank you for reading and for taking the time to make a difference to me...
Rachel Fenton

...while art can seem trivial when compared to the pain and suffering some people go through on a daily basis, I think that it can give some kind of a hope - I think of how listening to music helped me during admittedly much less tougher times - perhaps the frailty and shortcomings of art can be what makes it powerful in a way.

I love the idea that you and I and all other writers - and I add here artists of all types who represent humankind and life - join hands to speak about things that would otherwise not be said or heard.
Elisabeth's easy to feel overwhelmed by the horror of it all, the tragedy, the unnecessary unfairness of care/aid/finance. I've certainly been feeling that. And then my daughter comes home all excited about money they've raised at school...and what do you say? 'It's all hopeless, the world is unfair?' No, I didn't say that. At 9 I'm still keeping some of that from her...when I can.

At times like this writing can seem like a bloody stupid thing to be doing. We see nurses on TV and think 'look at them, they can DO something!' But we can't all be nurses. We just can't.
Rachel Fox

we can't change a world, but we can change our small part of it. I do my best to be decent to other people: I may not be able to love, help or change them, but I can be decent to them. And decency involves truth, sharing thoughts, and listening.

Right then...I'll do what I son's filled his nappy and the sun is shining...onwards...
Rachel Fenton

Vanessa Gebbie's got news on what writers can do to help Haiti over at her blog.


Rachel Fenton said...

Please don't feel obliged to comment.

If I have missed off anyone's comments or if I have edited them I hope you will not be offended.

As always, I am grateful to you all for stopping by to read.

With kindness,

Vanessa Gebbie said...

aaaaagh. sometimes words don't come when you want them, or you dont visit friends when you are pulled 1000 different ways at once at home. I AM sorry for missing this one, Rachel.

Rachel Fenton said...

Apologies not needed, Vanessa. I have been all over the place myself this week, not stuck to my usual routine at all. It's great that you are posting in support of Haiti. Thank you.

Elisabeth said...

How wonderful of you to tie these thoughts in together, Rachel.

It's just what I need as I too struggle to make sense of this writing life and of blogging.

It is a worthwhile and noble thing to do after all. Even when we cannot save lives, at least not literally, we can still make a difference.

G S Pillai said...

Dear Rachel,

I am happy that you happened to stumble on my page, further, that you chose to say 'hi'.

I write, and I have met others that write in their blogs about many things. But even though we have a passion to write, it is but a secondary concern in our lives, having chosen or having ended up pursuing various vocations. Rarely have I come across someone with the courage and commitment to call herself a writer.

As for the writing itself, I could sense both the courage and the commitment.

I'll be in touch.

Kass said...

"A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep."
Salman Rushdie

The words in your post and the comments brought this to mind.

Mike McLaren said...

I like the painting. Yours?

Jim Murdoch said...

I posted this on my blog but it seems appropriate to include it here too.

      The Death of Tears

       (For Rachel Fenton)

             All the world’s tears
      trickled down the globe and
      gathered in a pool in
      the heart of a poet
      in New Zealand. She feels
      that she’s drowning in them

      but there is no one left to
      cry for her and so she
      has to cry for herself,
      for us, for you and I,
      for her kids, their brief pasts
      their presents and futures,

      for the living, the sick,
      the dead and dying, those
      still unborn, those, too, who
      will never be conceived.
      So many tears. She quits
      her job, can’t sleep or eat:
      she cries herself to death

      and no one, no man, no
      woman or child sheds a
      single tear for the girl.
      All they can do is raise
      their faces heavenward
      and howl.

      Sunday, 24 January 2010

Rachel Fenton said...

Elisabeth - it's a small difference, and perhaps it's only a few of us feeling it but, nevertheless, it's a start. Thank you for suggesting to me to do more with the comments and thank you for you.

Bluebird - I'm pleased I happened upon your blog, too - a happy accident. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say. Thank you for taking the time to return the visit.

Kass - that's a wonderful quote, I am rather fond of Mr Rushdie's words. Thank you.

AM - yes, I painted it in 2004, the first time I came to NZ. Afterwards it hung on my wall in England as a prompt to achieve my dream of moving here.

Jim - I have no words. Thank you.

Dave King said...

The alternative, I suppose, is not to feel. You don't have to feel. You just have to do. Your feelings don't help the people of Haiti in the slightest.

Donna Hosie said...

That was a brilliant idea, Rachel, tying all those comments together in one post. Moving and eloquent.

Rachel Fenton said...

Neither do your haiku, Dave, but we all respond to events in our own ways. I can't see how one can choose not to feel - either one does or doesn't but for me it isn't a choice. And the point of this isn't to get me brownie points, I merely spoke out without stopping to assess whether it was the right thing to do or not - I acted on the impulse of my feelings. I agree whole heartedly that "deeds not words" are what make a difference but I'm not going to tell anyone what I have or haven't done or for which charities - it's not my way - I have been on the receiving end of charity in my life. I don't suppose for one minute that me spouting more words will change anything in the world, I am not so naive, though I concede at times I live in hope, and for some hope has to sustain until more tangible aid arrives. I hurt therefore I cry. It's that simple. Words or prayers, Dave, you choose your preferred usesless tool. And time can heal as well. Thank you for your comments.

Donna, thank you.

Rachel Fenton said...

Dave I apologise - I just reread my response to your comment and I think it may come accross as a reaction to you personally which is, I assure you, not the case. Merely I wanted to make explicit that we are all trying to make sense of the human condition and when things happen we do what we can within our own limitiations. The specifics matter little when all action and inactivity seems equally as futile.
I appreciate you having taken the time and consideration to read and to comment, Dave, thank you.

Lori said...

So nice of you, Rachel to make us all feel so important! And it does make for a congruent, very deep perspective. Very surprising. You have such good people around you, your words and your blog.

Rachel Fenton said...

Lori - you have hit the key note there: it is the people surrounding my blog who make it what it is. People like you. Thank you.

(PS Posted the painting today)

Leslie Morgan said...

I don't agree that you can't change the world. I'm likely spinning it a little differently than the writer intended it. But I believe you CAN change the world. One thing at a time. You strive to do that by writing. You feel the angst and pain and unfairness in the world and you try to tell others about it. That's world-changing. Reach one other human being at a time. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks, LN, I like that - spin or no spin!

Kass said...

I think this poem you posted on Jim's blog belongs on yours:

Grave Words

Poles apart: words gathering on the current
from a butterfly's wing
beaten as insignificantly as lashes
in the time it takes to blink
away tears
wrap around unified thoughts,
on a roll, and bind all nations in grief.
This cannot be undone they say,
this must move forward;
they think they have found the cure
for all the planet's woes in brief
but words make for a slippery balm
and hope may stick as well.
And all that is left of good intentions
is a loose thread.
Only time will tell
if the words will unravel
or hold the world
and stop it turning.

Rachel Fenton
(I've copied it to my collection of poems)

Rachel Fenton said...

Hey Kass - It's certainly been around the globe now! Don't know what's happened to the formatting of it but it seems appropriate to let it lay as it falls.

Anonymous said...

We need feelings to make us respond. The fact that the feelings hurt is something we have to live with in order to make the effort to change things. They are what make us human. The feelings are what sent the volunteers to Haiti, and prompt the rest of us to send donations. The feelings DO help...
This was a thought provoking post.

Rachel Fenton said...

Penny - thank you - if only for making me feel less useless.

D.M. SOLIS said...

Dear Rachel,

With writers like you, art will never be meaningless, to paraphrase for your wonderful entry. Thank you so much for your important posts. Peace and all good things for you in your value-adding work here, and in life.


Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you, Diane, I appreciate you stopping by to say so and I'm happy that this post has touched you.