The wise words below are those of distinguished author Ursula K Le Guin, from her acceptance speech at the National Book Awards two years ago, when she was honored for her lifetime achievement. I think they are worth reading again, now.
“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.” —Ursula K. Le Guin
Note: See/hear the full speech, live on video, (posted on my blog Nov 24, 2014).
A woman’s life isn’t all sugar and sweetness. It’s full of challenges, losses, and, yes, heartache. It’s the journey that strengthens, and the survivor that wins.
Flying girls soar! They swim, too, and accomplish amazing feats–particularly when they come in the embodied spirit of Diana Nyad, who four times attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage and finally, at age 64, succeeded on her fifth try! I find her words upon finishing her fourth failed attempt inspiring. She tells us to persevere in our dreams, to never give up. So on this International Woman’s Day and ever after, keep flapping those wings, women of the world, and let’s rise up together!
In her acceptance speech at the National Book Awards a few days ago, when she was honored for her life’s work, science-fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin, demonstrated once again her ability to view the world as a visionary, this time turning her perceptual acuity to the evolving world of authors, publishers, and booksellers.
I have no doubt her powerful words rang loudly in the scholastic halls of fine arts programs, rattled the shelves of bookstores everywhere, and embraced the weary shoulders of writers working endless hours on their creations. Hopefully they also struck lightening in the minds of those who put profit over art and seek to diminish the value of writers and their work.
If you missed her short but oh-so-sweet speech, hear it below:
Ms. Le Guin is one of those rare, intuitive individuals who sees not only between the current lines—in this case, Amazon and those publishers who devalue authors’ work and challenge libraries’ worth—but far beyond to pages on which the literary world’s story is yet to be written. Not only did Ms. Le Guin boldly call out capitalism’s corruption of art, but she voiced a prescient warning that should be heeded if the value of American literature—not just to writers and readers but to our culture’s health—is not to be denigrated or lost.
It has been gratifying to see her words recognized and repeated. We owe her a boatload of gratitude, but now need to take up the cause lest it be forgotten or is defeated by apathy due to assuming “others” are doing the job.
In Ms. Le Guin’s words:
“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.”
To my literary colleagues: We are writers, and our written words can be powerful actions to push against the forces she warns of. Everyone, let your voices be heard!
“You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
A comment on my last post–He made us laugh. He made us cry. He left us asking why.—has prompted me to share the eloquent, wise words above. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote them in one of ten letters exchanged during 1903-1904 with a young student, Franz Xavier Kappus, who had sought his advice, initially about becoming a writer, but ultimately about life. The collected letters, translated into English by Stephen Mitchell in 1984 and published in a small volume entitled Letters to a Young Poet, are among the most beloved letters of all time. And it’s no wonder! Over the past twenty years I have read and reread multiple passages in the letters, for comfort, for inspiration. The depth of understanding about life which they reflect is revelatory, stunning when one realizes that Rilke was only twenty-seven when he corresponded with Kappus. We know he had a painful childhood, that he struggled greatly with solitude, a burden he felt necessary for self-preservation. Even so, he loved deeply and had a rare appreciation of women. (One of the paragraphs about women’s strengths is remarkably fitting for today; I will share that quote, and others, in future posts.) There is so much in these letters. If you are not familiar with Rilke, seek out Letters to a Young Poet and read his poetry. I wouldn’t be at all surprised you don’t also come to treasure his words.
Some of us choose to tell (or read) the stories between the lines, where the truth lives, without pretense and uncensored. Maya Angelou was such a writer. She was such a woman. For Angelou, there was no shame in having been a victim, no weakness in having to struggle to survive and find her way to a quality of womanhood perhaps only arrived at when the dues of wounding and injustice are paid. She didn’t hesitate to say the journey wasn’t easy, but with singular grace and courage, she rose above the abuse and humiliation she suffered to affirm her dignity as a woman. And did she ever! Continue reading
These inspiring quotes speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, and will come back to savor them again and again.
Many thanks to WritingForYourWealth.com for compiling and presenting them so beautifully.