This week’s quotation is from a commencement address given several years ago by the writer, Joan Didion. I feel it is especially relevant today.
“What I want to tell you today is not to move into that world where you’re alone with your self and your mantra and your fitness program or whatever it is that you might use to try to control the world by closing it out. I want to tell you to just live in the mess. Throw yourself out into the convulsions of the world. I’m not telling you to make the world better because I don’t believe progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it, to look at it, to witness it…Take chances, make your own work, take pride in it. Seize the moment.”
I think Didion is right. Sometimes it’s a real temptation to close ourselves off to the world and its problems.
But Didion is saying that there’s no future in closing off. The future is in opening up and stepping out.
Yes, finding work you love is difficult. Yes, relationships are difficult. Yes, politics are difficult. Yes, figuring out what you think and believe is difficult. Yes, figuring out who you want to be and what you most value and what you want to live for is difficult and messy and problematic.
It has always been so. Didion is encouraging us to plunge into life-as-it-is with our eyes and ears and hands open—as opposed to going through life with blinders on or with our fists closed.
She’s urging is to move away from maximum comfort and security and move toward maximum involvement and engagement with life.
She’s encouraging us to find joy and meaning in embracing the problems and challenges of living.
As the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it:
“Plunge boldly into the thick of life.”
And as another German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote:
“What is required of us is to learn to love the difficult.”