Fear less, love more: wise words from Marilynne Robinson, in conversation with Wyatt Mason

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Our greatest writers do not merely assuage, entertain, delight, and challenge us. They teach us something about humanity, something about how art gets done.

Marilynne Robinson is one of our greatest writers, and while I have not yet read her new novel, Lila (I will), I have been taking great pleasure from the reviews and conversations surrounding its release.

Take the magnificent conversation Robinson has with New York Times Magazine writer Wyatt Mason, which can be found here. The profile goes far beyond the bounds of the writer's work and ways. It dives straight into the heart of us. Here, for example, the two are musing over fear—the control it has over our lives:
“I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny.’ ”

“ ‘So I shot him,’ ” I said.


“ ‘Can you blame me?’ ”

‘Exactly. Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.”
Later, Mason returns to the topic:
And it was here that Robinson brought up fear: How it has come to keep us at bay from our best selves, the selves that could and should “do something.” In her case, that “something” has been writing. For Robinson, writing is not a craft; it is “testimony,” a bearing witness: an act that demands much of its maker, not least of which is the courage to reveal what one loves.
Fear less. Love more. An urging I needed desperately this weekend.


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

This makes me think of the film "Defending Your Life," in which the cardinal sin was fear. Fear was the thing that sent souls back to earth for another life and another round of lessons, while conquering fear led them to move on to the next stage in the universe.

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