I am here on a warm day in Dallas, Texas and the leaves are the color of the sun and an unfamiliar song sweeps through the room and everything feels delicate. 40 pages into a frightening and beautiful book, I am reminded that every story is an opportunity for transcendence.
In On Writing, Stephen King writes: “I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We are close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. […] We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.”
This happens every time we converse, write, sing, testify, or confide. We are inviting others into a world that only exists in our bodies and minds. I’ve watched movies that have made tears roll down my cheeks. I’ve had conversations that painted goosebumps all over my skin. I’ve read poems that have done emergency surgery on the wounded places inside of me. Last week, I listened to this episode of the memory palace and carried the melancholy I felt with me all day.
I believe there is a divine magic that lives within us and between us. So electric and radiant we’re afraid of its power. We are afraid of ourselves and each other. We want to contain and sterilize and minimize the expansiveness of what has been experienced individually and collectively.
I remember being a teenager and discovering Malcolm X on my own terms; listening to his speeches and reading some of his ideas and feeling a holiness in his anger. Feeling the freedom that comes from unmasked rage – something that I had been denied and denied myself. At a conference this summer, a similar idea arose in a workshop where one woman shared that there was no emotion she was afraid to feel. That she “trusted herself enough to come back from any emotion.”
I still have yet to trust myself in that way and I know the fear I have of embracing my whole self is like a virus that undoubtedly infects my ability to embrace others. We all do this. We don’t trust ourselves – that we can be a conduit for unbridled disgust and ecstasy and sadness. We question the legitimacy of these emotions and feel threatened by their existence. We start to wall off parts of ourselves and feel the urgent need to silence those same things in others. But there is no way for us to share, to teleport as King would say, unless we give these powerful realities enough space to breathe freely. Unless we hold them as sacred.
When I was a little girl, my mom would take me to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the winter. I remember being there, wearing a burgundy, velvet dress and my winter coat with the faux fur collar and listening to these people on a brightly lit stage making music together. I was so moved by what I felt in that moment. I don’t know if a cried or simply held the feeling, quivering and wild in the back of my throat.
Sometimes I have sensations like this that are both memories and visions. I listen to a friend tell the story of baking bread over an open fire in her home country and see the soft leather hands of my great-great grandfather kneading dough. I watch a little girl run with reckless abandon in a community garden and hear the laughter of my daughter yet to be born. I listen to a beautiful young poet read aloud with desperation and find myself a witness to my mother before she was my mother, on her knees praying, faithful and alone.
What’s happening in these moments? These small glowing thresholds which seem to be the keepers of every answer we’ve been seeking for generation after generation. We must give them our full attention.
In these moments there is no before or after or heaven or earth or love or hatred. Everything exists and belongs. All of this to say that right now, in this bookstore, I feel perfectly human and separate from nothing.