Forum Friday: Islands and Worlds

You may have heard the famous John Donne quote,

No man is an island.

And yet, another great poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, says this:

For the creator must be  a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.

Can’t be an island. Must be a world. Huh.

Likely this seeming paradox is just another resolved with the call for balance between extremes, but nonetheless I am curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter– and particularly on the Rilke quote above. What does “being a world for yourself” mean to you, as a writer (or artist)?

Or better, perhaps: What do you do to find a happy medium between the extremes: between being connected with others, but being able to turn inward and find everything you need?

No Doubles

When I was younger, I used to think that the world was SO big and there were SO many people in it that, by default, there must be hundreds, maybe thousands of people like me.

I don’t know that I thought of these people as look-alikes, but I do remember thinking that somewhere– perhaps in Australia, since the water swirled the opposite way down the toilet there– there was somebody in a house just like mine, but backwards. Somebody saying the same things, making the same movements, thinking the same thoughts as me. A sort of mirror double.

I thought, at the time, that there must be infinity other ‘doubles’ like me– thought-doubles, action-doubles, house-doubles, haircut-doubles. I would think, ‘I wonder how many other people are thinking of how many doubles they have RIGHT NOW,’ and I would think, ‘Ohp! I bet I just stopped being somebody’s double!’ and I would get into these imagined contests in which I suddenly broke into a skip or karate-kicked or stuck my nose against the glass to get out of sync with these imagined double-people who had been my double all my life up until that point. I remember wondering if I would ever ‘lose’ all my doubles as time progressed and our thoughts, actions, and whatever suddenly diverged from one another’s.

It’s strange to remember this now (when I have both a better concept of numbers and the individuality/uniqueness of every human being). As a girl in her twenties really just stepping out into that plane of finding/making myself as a person– and especially as someone trying to be a writer/artist– I appreciate now more than ever that no two people make the same journey or have the same experience. And while having no real ‘doubles’ might seem somewhat isolating/island-making, it’s also kind of earth-shatteringly awesome.

May we each burn as brilliantly (and differently) as the vast and varied stars.

If I am just a bag of meat, sitting on a rock in outer space…

I recently came across this quote on The Oatmeal in regards to religion:

Does [your religion] help you cope with the fact that you are a bag of meat sitting on a rock in outer space and that someday you will DIE and you are completely powerless, helpless, and insignificant in the wake of this beautiful cosmic shitstorm we call existence?

Me: No! Because I don’t have a religion! (You will not hear me speak much of religion; in short I am open-minded, but believe in logic and reason first.)


Bizarrely, I did take solace in the fact that I AM only a bag of meat on a rock in the vast expanse of all known universes here, now, and ever, and that one day I will return to the earth as nothing more than dirt in the wind, or a miniscule grain of sand.

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Incidentally, here is what sand looks like under 250x magnification.

That makes all of our problems seem insignificant too, doesn’t it? If all my life and experiences– the good and the bad, the love and the loathing, the pleasures, the worries, the joys and the pains– will all one day fit a hundred times over into the crevice of somebody’s left shoe, or in the space between their toes, why should I let any one pea-sized, fleeting problem command any semblance of significance over me?

So I am lost and lacking direction. Only until I find my way.

I’m not yet published. But I will be.

Today my body aches. Tomorrow it shall be mended.

I have no cherished love. But I shall love again.

This, that, and all the bricks I bear on my back are heavy. But soon they shall be gone.

Everything in life is for now, for now, for now; tomorrow, we are gone.