How to let the Page Hold you
Writing as spiritual practice in an unthinking world
I owe my life to words.
I owe my life to the words I devoured during the five years I could no longer find my own. I owe my life to the words I built today with before I even knew a future was possible. I owe my life to the words that led me to you, here, right now.
There are words everywhere I look, in human language, in machine language, on yellow sticky notes, on shelves, in unopened padded envelopes, in a box on the floor…
Words mean everything around here.
Words are hope made manifest.
How to communicate and exchange ideas when language is being gutted of meaning is tough. We’ve never had as many tools and outlets, we’re all media now, even the cat. However, we do not live in the golden age of reason or digital enlightenment yet.
It hasn’t made us more honest.
Everything that is human has been commodified.
Every product has a human voice; every human is a product. How do you get through to people who refuse to pay any attention to what words stand for? Does the human heart ever wears itself out composing melodies on the fly when so many keep their fingers in their ears?
You pick your words like you pick your soundtrack, according to the mood you want to conjure up rather than the mood you’re in. That’s the secret to making sense of the nonsensical and feeling more capable, somehow.
Writing forces you to pay attention to things you’d rather ignore.
Approach the page with humility.
As long as you let the page hold you, it will never defeat you. Instead, it’ll receive all that is without judgment and help you detangle thoughts from emotions, truth from lies, assumptions from knowledge. Every blank page is a map to self-discovery.
Pens and keyboards aloft, those who care about words charge ahead, using theirs as an accountability booster. But the workings of the human heart defy social media marketing, which is why they seldom make it in print.
Hope haunts you.
Hope wakes you up several times a night.
It’s inevitably naked, shivering, and exhausted, still. The zeitgeist hangs heavy, crushing everything it comes into contact with. People are getting desperate, profiteering is ramping up, new hopefuls are being bled dry daily by parasites, carnage on the page.
If we wield them with heart, words can build bridges, if not, walls. We’re lonely, working from home or pretending to, freshly furloughed, laid off, or bankrupt, socially, spiritually, culturally, and often financially.
Mutual respect and dialogue remain chimeras.
Let hope entertain you.
The possible captivates minds open enough to welcome it without defaulting to reflexive fear. Fear is a choice, a decision the worst case scenario will inevitably prevail. And it might unless you take action beyond painting the bleakest picture you can think of.
You’re the composer, the conductor, and the orchestra. Language will wrap itself around what your heart decides other human hearts should hear. May there be laughter and surprise and mirth amid facts and truths.
We owe our life to words.
Consciously or not, many of us no longer exist or function without communication even if all of it has been automatized and our daily interactions no longer involve humans. Together, we are the internet, binary code we create and propagate and iterate.
Welcome to dystopia, this is where we live now: Our wake-up call is unchecked capitalism’s swan song. If we combine our lonelinesses into words, will they keep us company?
Does writing as spiritual practice scale when depression is collective?
Can we deflect ambient despair by building prototypes and establishing proofs of concept with language(s), human and machine? When the page turned screen is your only safe space and the pandemic has turned the internet into a lifeline for much of humanity, shouldn’t we at least try?
It’s only by stepping outside your head that you get to take a better look inside. So what if self-inquiry became a group project? Imagine us using the internet to confront the worst parts of ourselves, together.
The screen in our pocket is a collective life raft.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.