Archive for September, 2010

The Single Word

There is a word in the Old Testament that is very dear to me. If anything, it is that single word that makes being a writer of any sense at all to me. Not even my heroes, Murakami or Ennis, or any other literary greats who have moved me in ways too deeply to expound now, like Kundera, Cunningham, Gaiman, and countless more, could persuade me to ever style myself a writer.

One word.

It is that one word that becomes my anchor. A silver hook that tethers my entire being to where I am now, writing this, stealing words as quickly as they come to me. One word pegs down my soul and holds captive my dreams.

One word.

It  is almost ridiculous to suggest the inherent power of a single word. But there it is. Words are powerful. Words give shape to ideas, to pictures, to a thousand possibilities.  The world itself came to being with a single word.

As I spent quiet time just earlier, it dawned on me how poetic to me were some of my favourite books in the Old Testament. There was a majesty to it, an intricacy contained in those verses that only men of skill can weave. And then I realised that these anointed men, these messianic prophets, wrote like that because they were given the vision of the Saviour to come. They had no way of tasting that goodness, that pure joy; so they, in their Spirit-inspired moments, could only write them out, in psalms and verse, so enamoured of the One that they had no way of knowing their very words would last forever.

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. “

Psalms 45:1

A Song For Our Fathers

This is a post I’ve been afraid to write for three years.

Maybe this is as good a time as any. Maybe not. Do I have anything different to say, three years later? I don’t know. But even with all this time passed, it hasn’t got any easier.

It’s never easy, trying to remember things best left as long-buried memories.  Forget what people tell you. Forget what you know. Forget your walls and your defenses, forget your resolutions and remonstrances. Forget everything.

And then remember.

Reach in and rummage through the soft detritus of your heart, the frail and stubborn sting of regrets, the foolish escapades of youth, the smiles of long-gone former lovers; find that place, that place that belongs to you and God alone: it’s a place inside of you that cannot be written into words, nor spun into song, not even shared with fellow sufferers. I know some of you have lost a father, or a mother, but I cannot know the same pain as you do.

This place — it’s a place where there will be no future memories. It’s a place where my children will never know their grandfather. It’s a place where I will look at that empty seat at the tea ceremony, the glaring absence in the customary family photograph, and the surge of anguish will strike my heart when I least expect it.

Words, eventually, become useless. But I want to remember, even if words are the only things left in me that can somehow allow my memory of him to live on, to continue.

My father never enjoyed the limelight. There’s this oft-repeated line of his that he once said, when asked why he never sought to get published: “I write not because I want to make a name for myself, but because I have something to say.”

I am the same in that respect, I imagine, preferring to remain in the background, behind the camera, behind a wall of words. I like to think that of all my siblings, I am the one most like him: heavily-built, loving everything to do with words, fascinated by the camera, reticient. To me, he was a towering figure, a mountain of a man, hewn out of solid oak. To see him wasted away by cancer was one of the most painful things I had to witness. He was featherlight, with chapped skin over protuding bones, when I lifted him from his bed, it was a shock that reverberated throughout my entire being.

It’s a sobering thing.

Now that it’s been three years since I last wrote, what is it that I can tell you? What’s different? What’s changed? Would you be proud of the man I am today, of the man I am going to be? The choices I have made, the things I have done?

I have no answers tonight. Not even my words, that fail me so terribly now, drifting into empty spaces.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a friend about the musical:

“The leads are the stars, and the stage is their sky.” I said. “So that’s where they belong.”

“Then what about the directors, the songwriters, the crew that makes everything happen? Are they not above the stars when they paint the sky?”

“No. They can be above the stars if they like,” I replied. “But I’ll be the earth, the ground the people can walk or lie on, to watch the skies, gaze at the stars.”

Maybe that is why I can call myself my father’s son.