Monday, May 13, 2013

Number 5

Mars Hill windmills, a couple of weeks ago, on the last day the mountain was open for skiing, when there was still snow

Here's maybe my favorite line from the Paris Review interview of Louise Erdrich, although there are so many that it's hard to pick just one—her explanation of the attraction of magical realism for someone who grew up immersed in Scripture is also fantastic:
I was quite shy, so meeting people was painful. I’d be at a party and because I was so quiet, someone would say, You’re stoned, aren’t you, Karen? (My name was Karen then.) But I was only rarely stoned, just shy.
This during her first semester at Dartmouth, when she's acting like a pleasant person on the outside and wanting to tell them all to go to hell on the outside. “At Dartmouth, I was awkward and suspicious,” she says, and reading her account was a moments of recognition, of recognizing another person much more comfortable with words than with people.

She's not the only writer I've been reading about lately who's socially awkward.  And the more a writers words make me fall in love, the more apparently socially awkward they are.  I've even met a handful of these writers, and I meet them and I think—oh, how awkward we are being! Whatever am I doing wrong? And then I realize that their magic is in print, not in person.

Like them, perhaps, I can be intimate, gentle, immediate, exact—but only in writing. In person I fumble, I flail.

This condition, which used to be termed ordinary shyness (one of the first words I learned in Thai), is now Social Anxiety Disorder, with which I am afflicted in spades. They have drugs for it, good drugs, the anti-anxiety ones that you can sell on the black market or smoke in a pipe. But I don't want the drugs. I just want the words.

I was punished as a child, more than once, for hiding in a bathroom and reading when I was supposed to be socializing. It's funny how there's still a stigma to being a bookish outsider, and I find the stigma associates with what I do here, too, writing online. There's this sense that anyone who bothers to post things to the internet is just a dork, a geek, a nerd, someone who can't make it in the real world.

Again, maybe it's true. But the more I dive into trying to figure out who I really am, the more I realize what a hermit I am—how much I loathe leaving my troglodytic cavern.

This verse also has been surfacing in my consciousness, Jesus saying: “Love each other as I have loved you.”  Another impossible commandment.  So I write here, now, because I love, because I have no other way of showing my love.

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