Another mythologizing animal sharing a spark of intellectual passion!
Unreliable Truth: On Memoir & Memory
by Maureen Murdock
I find myself wondering, as I read, what was Murdock's solution to her loss of faith within the Roman Catholic Church — is it applicable to my situation as well? I am faintly amused at the thought: clearly her efforts to appeal to a universal human truth within her memoir are touching me as well. Like Murdock, I too did not relate to "god" as Father or Son; unlike her I was indignant at women being nearly forcibly shoved into the roles of either sexless nun or patiently personality-less mother. Neither appealed.
I find Murdock's quotations often fascinating or enlightening, as when Kathleen Norris is referenced regarding the search for the sacred, referring to it as more truly a search for location:
I suspect that when modern American ask 'what is sacred?' they are really asking 'what place is mine? What community do I belong to?' (92).
As someone who had moved nine times by the time I reached my 18th birthday, I can certainly relate. I was asked once where my home town was — where was I from? I replied, "Which year?" I didn't immediately understand their confusion and annoyance at my apparent dissembling — my answer had been quite sincere:
I've been a foreigner for the past twenty years. I don't have roots any more. My roots are in my memory and my writing. That's why memory is so important. Who are you but what you can remember?
— Isabel Allende (quoted by Murdock 97).
Yes, exactly: who I am is what I chose to remember; what I write of my Self. I need to be gentle with myself as well as to figure out who I am. I take another step in that process as I read Murdock's personal revelation regarding her mother and herself:
Until her death, I had never admitted to myself the part I played in the difficulties in our relationship. My mother was a convenient hook upon which I had hung all my fear, anger, and desire… I had tried to understand her and protect myself from her for years and had waited, like so many children do, for some acknowledgment of her culpability. Instead, I found myself asking for her forgiveness (75).
I have surely psychologically projected as much as I have been projected upon. If I can gently refuse the unpleasant projections I do not wish — feckless liar, undependable, fat, lazy, never planning ahead — then surely I can also refuse to project as well — to instead place responsibility (but not necessarily blame) where it truly belongs.
The fundamental premise of memoir writing is a belief in the restorative power of telling one's truth; once told, the writer can begin to move on with her life (81).
Taking ownership of all my own issues: what a concept! How powerful of me! In a sudden burst of revelation, I am elated. Suddenly my partner in dysfunction, who loomed so terrifyingly, so overwhelmingly… becomes small and nearly insignificant. The life-shattering issues he represented seem, to me, to shrink as well: they are simply mine. Instead of overwhelming me, it is I who encompass them now. Since I am their manager, I can craft a plan to deal with them, to resolve them and make them go away. I am, after all, just as powerful as I believe I am.
Like Murdock, the essence of my writing is an effort to aid myself in my struggle to make meaning from my life. She favors memoir; my preference is introspective reviews and the occasional Firestarter for subjects which I find truly thought-provoking. As she notes,
[T]he secret is to tell your particular life story so that it adds to our collective understanding of what it is to be human. … Whether you write to recover what was lost, heal a relationship, discover a secret, write your memoir and read it aloud to another, you will hear your own truth. And truth transforms (Murdock 111, 118).
That is precisely my goal, in my Firestarters: to communicate a small bit of my life clearly, evocatively; to offer any enlightenment I've received for others to share in as well, in the hopes they too see the world just a little more effectively or joyously.
In the process of reviewing Murdock's book, I've been drawn into thought-provoking personal consideration, and my absorbed self-reflection as I write has even pulled me from past tense into present. Further, I've reviewed personal truths such that I actually had a small epiphany! I am quietly delighted. While I cannot say if I've added to the collective understanding of what it is to be human, I do feel closer to better knowing myself, and I continue to reach for further inner transformation.
I am faintly surprised at my sudden internal realization: all this, from musing on Murdock's book while writing a review? I am both impressed and pleased; this has been extraordinarily efficatious writing, at least for me. I've enjoyed being subtly coaxed into both more effective personal writing, and a bit of emotional growth. This book accomplishes its goals excellently; I highly recommend it.
Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.
Help yourself & me too!