In writing you work toward a result you won’t see for years, and can’t be sure you’ll ever see. It takes stamina and self-mastery and faith. It demands those things of you, then gives them back with a little extra, a surprise to keep you coming. It toughens you and clears your head. I could feel it happening. I was saving my life with every word I wrote, and I knew it.
You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)
And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.
PS You have to be brave.
―Jeanette Winterson in Big Questions from Little People: And Simple Answers from Great Minds edited by Gemma Elwin Harris
Why, for example, do the great writers use anticipation instead of surprise? Because surprise is merely an instrument of the unusual, whereas anticipation of a consequence enlarges our understanding of what is happening.
Spiritual humility is not about getting small, not about debasing oneself, but about approaching everything and everyone else with a readiness to see goodness and to be surprised. This is the humility of a child, which Jesus lauded. It is the humility of the scientist and the mystic. It has a lightness of step, not a heaviness of heart. That lightness is the surest litmus test I know for recognizing wisdom when you see it in the world or feel its stirrings in yourself. The questions that can lead us are already alive in our midst, waiting to be summoned and made real. It is a joy to name them. It is a gift to plant them in our senses, our bodies, the places we inhabit, the part of the world we can see and touch and help to heal. It is a relief to claim our love of each other and take that on as an adventure, a calling. It is a pleasure to wonder at the mystery we are and find delight in the vastness of reality that is embedded in our beings. It is a privilege to hold something robust and resilient called hope, which has the power to shift the world on its axis.
―Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
He more than half suspected that one of the things which had kept their marriage together when it seemed as if each year brought the news that two or three of their friends’ marriages had collapsed was their respect of the mystery–the half-grasped but never spoken idea that maybe, when you got right down to the place where the cheese binds, there was no such thing as marriage, no such thing as a union, that each soul stood alone and ultimately defied rationality. That was the mystery. And no matter how well you thought you knew your partner, you occasionally ran into blank walls or fell into pits. And sometimes (rarely, thank God) you ran into a full-fledged pocket of alien strangeness, something like the clear-air turbulence that can buffet an airliner for no reason at all. An attitude or belief which you had never suspected, one so peculiar (at least to you) that it seemed nearly psychotic. And then you trod lightly, if you valued your marriage and your peace of mind; you tried to remember that anger at such a discovery was the province of fools who really believed it was possible for one mind to know another.
All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.
And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright, orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child at an aquarium that was thought to be without fish. Others will step of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or take a step backward. They’re often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear that they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway.
―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
It often feels like a tremendous amount of work is required to get an idea moving forward, like pushing a train uphill. But at a certain point, the thing takes on its own momentum, and takes unexpected turns. So it’s that feeling of holding on, rather than pushing it, that is the most exciting thing. It’s that need to occasionally bounce off the walls, letting anything happen for any reason, and having nothing to guide you that is the joy.
I learned vulnerability is a bit like those Russian nesting dolls, the ones that get smaller and smaller in size when you twist the top off and pull another one out. In the end, you’re left with the tiniest doll, that one nugget. No more layers to take off. Nothing left but a surprise, the surprise of finding out the littlest doll is the most solid of them all. It doesn’t hide inside of itself.
―Hannah Brencher, If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers