The Substance of Words


A vast array of words and images and sounds flow to us and around us, indeed, saturate us with their possibilities, but we cling to the superficial for reasons unfathomable. The great mysteries and wonders of life: the building of a home, the crafting of a living, the making of love, the finding of joy – these are reduced to the banal. As if the purchase of a sofa will have to stand in for the idea that home is the centre of life, the place that nurtures us and nourishes us to take our place in the world with confidence and quiet certitude of own worth. That a paycheque should take the place of a slow mastery of craft or trade or vocation, of years spent in the immensely satisfying pursuit of knowledge or technique or art. That celebrities become the models for desire; love does require a willingness to enter in to the spirit of discovery over and over again, while desire requires only a new object for itself. That entertainment is the way we persuade ourselves we are happy, rather than finding joy in the day’s, or season’s simple pleasures…

We are mostly all in the same boat, we humans – life is a mystery to be experienced. There is no prescription, no playbook, no golden road to follow…but we do not talk about these things. We do not talk about these things in significant communal or cultural ways; indeed, we do not much make a habit of talking about these things as individuals, except perhaps in the most intimate of conversations with carefully-chosen others. And this seems to me to be a matter of great sorrow and distress.

There are those who would have us believe that there is a rule book, and perhaps that is why we have come to accept words over substance…or why some of us have, at any rate. As for me, my imaginary friend, I want the meal that follows the menu, and I want the substance of what the words convey. We must have some notion of what home, work, love mean to us as individuals, and to have meaningful conversations about this as individuals. Without the conversations, we feel ourselves playing outside the rules – we mark ourselves as unhappy because we have not followed the rules. Truth is, western culture is deeply unhappy…and if the rule book once existed, it has become obsolete. It is clearly so pervasive as to be far beyond the individual…and yet, the paradox is that we can perhaps only resolve this by the individual conversations we create and participate in.

As always, your conversation is welcome here.


Last week began with yet another project, this one to sort out the large box of letters, clippings, cards, keepsakes, and every manner of memorabilia I have stashed away over the years. I come from a family of letter writers, and also from a time of letter writing, which of course seems rather vintage from the vantage point of the end of 2014. Nevertheless, I wrote, my family wrote, and a myriad of friends and acquaintances gathered over the course of the years wrote to me, too. And every one of those missives – card, letter, informal note, or hasty scrawl – resides in this big, heavy box.

The box is nicely organized, I will admit: sorted according to date and year. But of course, there are problems with the concept of the ‘box’ – I have moved it many times into a new abode, cursing its weight and not trusting it to movers – though, mostly, it is that I don’t open it often enough. And there is a treasure trove of stuff in there, indeed.

Unlike my collection of CDs and pictures, which were long ago digitized and happily reside in my laptop and back up hard drive, this collection proves rather difficult to reduce to a nice, neat, portable file. I am making the effort, however, because even a very organized box, when it consists of thousands of items, defeats the purpose for which these things were saved: to cherish them by reading them again, or just by looking at the ticket stubs, postcards, and other marvelous icons of a rich history.

So this is a winter project which shall take several months, no doubt because everything must be read and looked upon and pondered over. Fortunately, I suppose, there are sizable chunks of things that can be relegated to the recycle bin – the reason why some picture or clipping caught my eye long since forgotten and no longer seeming important. Most of it, though, is endearing and remarkable and oh so infinitely precious…

To all of you who have written me over the years, my warmest thanks. Every day of this particular project is a joy – I am laughing, crying, commiserating, celebrating, sharing, and loving you all over again. Your words were important then, but now as golden nuggets highlighting my own personal journey. What a gift you all were, and are, and what better time to acknowledge the wonder of friends and family? Words matter and I feel incredibly grateful for this vast pile of them, from you. I shall share only one, which is one of my favourites, and here it is, from an imaginary friend.



How...You Make Me Feel

How…You Make Me Feel


Blank canvas. Unlimited possibilities…

The petals of a hundred roses, pressed one by one into the medium. Layer after layer, chosen for shape and size and colour – for texture. Blossoming from the centre a full-blown rose. Flakes of pure gold cradled by softness of petal; pink of health; blue of brilliant mystery and potential. Stars over all, circles of connection anchoring.

Words. Shimmering, golden words echoing in the ether, bridging time and distance and dimension. Love.