October 15th, 2016
I spent this morning reading “How Proust can change your life” and was astonished to discover that such a proclaimed novelist lead such a miserable life. Marcel Proust was a renowned French writer, creating some of the world’s most influential literature (namely, “In search of lost time”), yet lived a life consumed with poor physical health and oppressive relationships.
In perfect contradiction to the things Dr. Brown (Brene Brown) has taught me about the value of vulnerability and community, Prout writes, the whole art of living is to make use of the individuals through whom we suffer. While it’s easy to pin this as a contradiction to Dr. Brown’s philosophy of wholehearted living, such a statement may have more similarity to Dr. Brown’s teaching than I’ve personally experienced in life thus far.
As I find myself in a season of consistency, opposing this season is a wrestling against monotony; defined primarily by pursuits of new experiences and complex relationships.
A certain individual, for which I’d prefer to hold on to but must let go of, has helped define what I truly value in life and what I’ve compromised. The suffering I’ve felt in letting go for the sake of a potential future I’m uncertain will ever come to fruition, is one that I’m trying to make use of yet failing to resolve as the appropriate response.
For a brilliant mind like Proust, a social outcast and agoraphobic, his war against monotony came in fantastic observance of humanity- creating imaginative worlds within melancholic drama; a talent I’ve come to envy as I sit with the subversive thought of what might have been had I not let go. Then, the greater suffering is knowing my proclivity toward righteousness has won the battle between a carful exploration -which truthfully, could never be explored with any amount of caution.
Over my envy for Proust’s distinguished mastery, was his ability to create possibility for his characters- with feelings, motives, and adventure for which he likely never experienced himself. In learning of his cure for incessant insomnia, he would read a train schedule; painting elaborate stories of characters journeying from one place to another. This thought struck me as both beautiful and tragic. For a man afflicted with such severe asthma that he could barely step outside without fear of death by respiratory attack, he found serenity in the promise of possibility and adventure within fictitious lives. Yet, in the throws of my own reality, likely similar to some of his stories, I find myself preferring the fantasy over experience.
In knowing the personal life of such a brilliant writer, I feel the paradox of deep sympathy for his person and envy of his genius. I’ve always longed to be acquainted with mastery, yet understand my lack of diligence and discipline to achieve anything beyond amateur of any craft. In this time, I also long for complexity within the lives of characters rather than my own.
But time may reveal something else about my person; in ways of loss, suffering, artistry, and mastery. For today however, I’m simply grateful for literary masters who reveal depths of heartache, suffering, and imaginative genius.
May your soul be at rest, Marcel Proust. Thank you for your teaching.