If life is brought into question, then life has been carried forth into a space in which it is now open to inquiry. This is a marvel. It is also a glory. Life, before being brought into question, had been stuffed with periods, the tedium of periods, the slumber of dogma. But now life, itself the subject and object of the question, poses the question to itself: “How can I say Yes to life? What would make life into a Yes? Oh what is being asked of me?”
This space cuts a cicatrice across the social order, cuts me off from it, marvels me, this godsend. In this space, my life is put to the question. Life enjoins me to inquire into its livability, life itself is invited to answer for its own suitability. How can I live in life? How can my life be at one with life? This is a marvel. It is also a glory.
Asking the question of life, putting life to the question, does not make us, we the rare brave inquirers, we the fellow seekers into a problem. On the contrary, we are the ensouled animals of life. We are grave, also serene; we are fraught, also light. We have known darkness, known the black and purplish moods, have held converse with the night. Yet we have also known, like a convalescent awaking to his strength, the magnolia buds. Hard now, jutting skyward, pink and pregnant, their flowers soon to unfold like a marvel.
Do not blanket us with sick talk. We are not sick or not-sick, not healthy or not-healthy, for we are not your problem. Do not think that asking a question of life entails “having” a condition that would “explain” that desire to put life to the question. We are not sick or not-sick. We are not disorders. We are not fools. When we turn to ask, “And should I go on? How when I know not, know the not-knowing?,” we feel the acuteness of life, its fecund fangs, we the few would-be radiant inquirers. We are urged, sharp teeth and soft brows, to live the question, to love it by following the path toward answers that will only qualify as answers if they happen to be livable. We search for livable answers.
I speak to you who have angered death, awakening her. I speak of death, of the bone caught in the throat, of the one who, amid the No’s, longs to say Yes to life, longs to have reason for doing so. I speak to nascent Yea-sayers only.
I speak to the one who, amid her youth, said Yes without care, then fell into the long night of the No, but who is now awakening to the possibility of a Yes. I speak only to the Yes-No-on-the-way-to-be-Yes-er’s. I have no words for Nay-sayers.
I address myself only to my conversation partners (I turn to you now), to my friends, to those and to those only for whom life has been brought into question. To the rest of you, Nay-sayers, passersby, fools, wastrels, to those for whom life has never become “fraught” or “intense,” to those who have never felt the intimation of death, the rage of sorrows: to all of you, I have nothing to say, nothing, nothing whatsoever, because to you I can have nothing to say.
Leave me. It is you who are dead, you zombies of life. You take time, you bleed it with your pallid fingers, you waste life and bleed it too, you occupy space and time, mere matter crowding life. Your deadened words are of money, pleasure, ambition, diversion, of sex without attention, of fun alone, of silver things that are jammed in ears, that go in mouths but are never felt on tongues. There can be nothing that I could possibly say to you, nothing ever, nothing at all, because you have said No to life without ever knowing it. You will never know it. You can have no Yes. You have no life. “How to live”: for you but a forgotten question, for you a set of periods, firm statements, all risible to us fellow Yes-sayers.
In darker moods, we laugh at you. In lighter moods, we laugh at you. To us, you are non sequitors.
I turn to kindred spirits held fast by the condition, “If life is brought into question.” We must understand the condition, “If life is brought into question,” as a formulation of the wayfaring No, stuck now between a former Yes, ever lost, and a higher Yes, yet to arrive. We pray for the Yes, prayer our soulful meditation, and, in praying, transform ourselves, within the ramble of time, into those who will have the capacity to say Yes. We must see life’s having been brought into question as an honor bestowed upon us, not as a burden we carry, not as a fate to shirk or deny. We cannot abandon the question, for that way lies despair. For who can be so blessed that their lives can be brought, like a thought-crystal, into sharper focus? For who can deny that this clarity is the clarity of the highest order? Who among us can claim that our lives, held up to the bluest Irish eyes, can flow softly in our hearts?
Go away, the rest of you. Get away with you, you social aspirants, you careerists, you pleasure-seekers, you fools. In your presence, I cannot say. I do not give you my words because you know only how to grab. You will take them, surely, you will claim them. If you could, you would grab the sun, turn a sunray into a resource. I am tired of you chatterers, exhausted by you ‘academicians’ who write of the problem of other minds yet who have never felt entombed; of you metaphysicians for whom the Grund has never been shaky; of you financier who, wanting, lacking, wanting, have never known a dry mouth; of all of you the all too clever ones, what with your sharp words and your right answers, your easy ease, your frictionlessness. Go now, leave, for you are all Nay-sayers without knowing it. I want alone, by me only the hard won, the knocked about, the warriors of the spirit. The rest of you are as nothing.
I speak only, can speak only to fellow inquirers for whom life is complex, a marvel, a complexity that longs for inquiring, disentangling, understanding, much in the way that wine requires tasting, metaphors, analogies. I address only those for whom life–I am speaking of life!–cannot be a question of “health” or “sickness,” cannot be grabbed by “normal” or “abnormal,” by “function” or “dysfunction,” “standard” or “non-standard.” I am speaking of life of which it can only be said that it is faring well, on the way to faring well, or neither. Are our lives faring well? How are our whole lives, the whole of them, not this moment, not this action, not this thing, not this problem but, I mean, our entire lives? How are our entire lives faring?
The Yea-sayers are non sequitors for Nay-sayers and that is all. We leave you be. Leave us be.
Yea-sayers, we have talents–gifts–that yearn to be realized. We, guides ourselves, are in need of guides who can direct us gently, lovingly, caringly along the path of inquiry. In all seasons we wear moccasins, feel warmth, have icy toes, sense holes, use thread, mend. We seek the imminent end of the path of higher truths. As we walk along the path, we are put in touch with higher things. And the more we walk along the path, the more we come to higher truths. “Towardness” means both of these things at once: walking toward and being within, so that higher truths are not beyond our reach but ever in our hearts, ever the whole of our lives.
We, radiant ones, long to lead radiant lives. Bathed in radiant light, we are grateful for life’s having been brought into question, for the hallowed space of inquiry, for the recognition of our talents, for the manifestation of our talents in words and acts, and for the road that passes toward higher truths. We are grateful for having been put in touch with life, grateful for having been invited to be answerable to a sense of mystery, grateful for having been attuned to the transience of existence, grateful for having been brought this morning, this very morning, before the budding magnolias, the garrulous daffodils, the trailing vine, the singing birds. We tend and attend. We have found life hospitable. We are devoted to life.