the rock

When it comes to a choice between moving and staying, taking action or standing still, I have always favoured movement. Some people believe in the value of staying put, of being where you are and appreciating it. Maybe they feel that wherever they are is where they’re meant to be. Some people believe that everything is an illusion, so there is nowhere to go and nothing to do, and one must simply be. In that place where you are, maybe you can write or paint or simply watch and listen. It sounds so wonderful, so perfect. So final.

If everything is an illusion, then it doesn’t matter if you move or stay still. You could spend the next 40 years staring at a rock, or you could walk around the whole world, and there would be no real difference. There is no world, and there is no rock, so what does it matter which illusory thing you focus on? But if there is no difference, perhaps it would be more comfortable and sensible to choose the rock.

But some of us, we just can’t see things that way. We are not content with being. We want to become. Better, different, more. (And some of us get stuck, in cities and houses where we don’t belong, with people who are not our people, and we are seized with urgency: we must go now.) If something isn’t working, then let it go. Don’t stay because you’re stuck. Pull yourself up by the roots, start again.

In writing, though, I’ve been trying to cultivate a different way of being. Sticking with it. Sitting with it, even though the natural urge is to move on. I love to start new things! The feeling of starting a new story is so shiny. Short stories are great because you stay just long enough to get the gist, then you move on. And novels are so long. You have to stay in one place for a long time, and just sit there. Staring at the rock. It’s just a big grey rock. The challenge is to see that it is flecked with silver, that it has faces and shadows, that it has history. The challenge is to see that the rock contains the illusion as completely as anything else, including the whole rest of the world.  And then to just keep sitting, keep writing, and keep hoping you haven’t made a terrible mistake.


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