“There are always two. One to find the path, and one to find the way back.”
About a decade ago, I had a conversation with a friend regarding the sheer volume of books that have been published. Think about it: all the books ever written in the world’s history. So many genres, volumes, and adaptations. It’s a seemingly infinite list. One could spend literally every second of every day reading for the rest of his life and never come close to finishing every book ever published. The aforementioned friend said, “There is simply no need to publish anything else from this point forward. All relevant, worthwhile literature has hit the shelves. What else needs to be said?”
At the time, I didn’t know if I agreed with him or not. It’s a question that has stayed with me.
With the dawning of the digital age has come even more literature. Most of which will never be read, studied or appreciated, my own work included. It just gets added onto the pile. So what’s the point? Why do so many feel so compelled to write when the likelihood of being read is so incredibly slight?
The answer finally came to me a few days ago.
I found myself sitting on my porch with my daughter, who is just over a year. Like many her age, she loves bubbles. She looked to her right, spotted the bubble wand, and shouted, “Bubbles!”
“OK,” I said, grabbing the wand and prepping it for a bubbles bonanza. I waved the wand left and right and watched in shared awe with my daughter as hundreds of bubbles, large and small, drifted through the air above us, dancing downward upon our hands, eyes, and heads. My daughter squealed and laughed and smiled . . . infectious things.
Her happiness became my own.
Something so simple, so effortless, filled her with wonder. It’s as if the bubbles were from another world and had the power to provide onlookers with a new lens on the world around them.
Watching her, I thought to myself, That’s what a good story should do.
Good stories lift us; wrap us with wonder and joy; allow us to see our world from a different perspective. And yes, so much has been written by so many. Most of it will, unfortunately, be forgotten, but that doesn’t really matter. True writers, I believe, don’t do it to be known or remembered or celebrated. The work becomes an echo, a bubble blown into the sky, drifting aimlessly downward, and shouting “Here I am! This is how I see the world. Look at me and know a different version of truth and beauty . . . or don’t.” And the bubble hits the ground, and it pops, and it is no more. But that doesn’t mean it was without value, especially if someone saw it, even just for a second, and smiled.
So, why do we write? Every perspective, from the greatest king to the lowliest worker, is incredibly valuable. When that perspective is recorded and shared with the world, it has the potential to enlighten others. And isn’t that important? It’s why individuals will never stop writing and never should. Every book added to the collective is the voice of a different generation, a reflection of different times and experiences, echoes of lives present and departed. Through literature, we come to understand how the world was and is, and it’s why we will always need to keep writing: It’s how we know that our thoughts are still very much our own.