June 24, 2014
Let’s talk about how it never gets any clearer, the question of how to manage someone else’s pain. Let’s talk about how even when you’ve spent your fair share of time in a hospital waiting room, you still hardly know what to do when your friends are in a similar spot. Or how you can walk right next to your spouse through uncharted territory, but you can’t walk it for her.
Let’s talk about how “wanting to help” can so easily bleed over into “wanting to feel important,” how our vanity is almost always part of the equation, and how much work it can be to turn it off. Let’s talk about our inclination—we hate to admit it—to make everything about us, all of the time.
Let’s talk about those little screens that we carry around with us everywhere, miraculous, funny things that can reach across time and space and help us be present—in that hospital waiting room, in the cab of a pick-up truck, at the desk of someone we’d like to get to know—the same screens that frustrate and tangle and make us crazy with their awkward call-and-response.
Let’s talk about what it’s like to be a writer who knows that words are, in the necessary moments, almost always inadequate, but how you can’t keep yourself from saying them anyway.
Let’s talk about love, how it’s totally irrational, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to make sense of it. How we worry about silly things. How we want so much. How hope has weight, and gravity, and mass.
Let’s talk about how we believe it is possible to move outside ourselves, to step away from our own egos for one second, just long enough to feel inside another human being’s space: what Updike calls the “breathtaking attempt” to imagine what someone else is feeling.