Dear Isabel (Letter/1)
by Mark Chmiel
Saturday 20 June 2015
What an honor to receive your letter.
It could be published AS IS on a blog.
You could give it as A TED Talk. (18 minutes!)
For starters, I’m gonna go paragraph by paragraph, and respond to your miracle missive over the next two week.
Page 1, paragraph 2
I had to laugh, you fearing “skimming the surface of life”! Compared to whom? Skimming American-style is sports, TV, fashion, making it, showing off, gimme prestige, pleasure, power, and profit—I don’t associate any of those things with you. But if I’m wrong, if you ever come to St. Louis again, I’ll take you shopping at Plaza Frontenac. It may be time for a new PURSE!
“being discounted after doing my best”—discounted by whom? Whose voice and opinion and evaluation matter to you? Could you identify why they matter to you? I think Gandhi’s got something for us, as writers; well, it’s really the Bhagavad Gita, which Gandhi used as his manual for daily living. The Gita teaches to renounce the fruits of your action: do the very best you can (like you aspire to do) and let go of the results, or, in Gandhi’s theocentric view, let God take care of it. Integrating this attitude could save us huge amounts of energy.
Check out this post.
Page 1, paragraph 3
What would it be like to say as a mantra, every day, at least 20 times:
I’m a good enough sister
I’m a good enough daughter
I’m a good enough friend
I’ll do it with you.
OK, you may want to tell me off at this point, and surely you have some reasons for thinking you’re not good enough. Good, you’re not in danger of being boastful. Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to befriend our demons, be warm and welcoming to them, and that’s why I suggest you learn to say, “Oh, my old demon friend who thinks I’m not good enough! How good to see you! Mira, I have a pupusa for you!”
Re: your comments in this paragraph too, see the above on the Gita. But for each of these fears, we can see what we can learn from them:
My writing will be rejected: It’s not in my power to get anyone to like, appreciate or rave about my writing.
My writing will be seen as untrue: If someone can give us good reasons that we are inaccurate, we should accept them with gratitude. Not that I think any Zionist would read my novel, still, others may point to matters I didn’t mention, and maybe I could learn something from them.
My writing will be seen as trite: I think people who survived the Guatemalan holocaust in the Highlands in the early 80s might see The Book of Mev as one long exercise in triteness. Whatever. Again, it’s not of my business what people who’ve suffered a million times more than me say about my writing.
My writing is co-opted: Be savvy. That’s a good mindset to have and know what you can get away with in the mainstream.
My writing is a waste of time: Compared to what?
My writing is a silly dream: More pupusas.
Let me say before closing that you’re way beyond a “good enough correspondent” with me. Mev never wrote me a 13-page letter of such depth, my best friend in Louisville has never written me more than 2 pages. You have raised the bar to a very high level.
You are loved.