No Mystery Greater

There is no mystery greater than our own mystery. We are, to ourselves, unknown. And yet we do know. The thought we cannot quite think is nevertheless somehow a thought, and it lives in us without our being able to think it. We are a mystery, but we are a living mystery. The most alive thing about us is what we are when thought breaks off and our mind can go no further—for that is where our yearning begins, our inconsolable yearning, and the loneliness that begets compassion, the forlornness that prepares the heart for love.    —Powell Davies, 1902—1957


No mystery greater than our own mystery.

It is the secret of story, our being a mystery even to ourselves. Especially to ourselves. Isn’t that what draws us to seek stories, what draws some of us to create them? That we cannot look into a mirror, even the mirrors in the eyes of those who love us, and know ourselves whole. We keep seeking ourselves in story. Keep reaching toward the moment when we can say, “I didn’t know anyone else every wanted that, thought that, felt that!” And how thrilled we are to discover, once more, that we are not alone.

We are, to ourselves, unknown. And yet we do know.

I set out to write a story simply because an idea has inhabited my mind. The story is rarely autobiographical. I insist on that. I’m not writing about myself. It is just an idea that has taken possession of me.

Yet, of course, I know there is some reason this particular idea clings, why it makes this story seem like one I need to tell. Because the first audience I am writing for is always myself, the question I am trying to answer is always my own. That’s why my character struggles to find what I seek, to know what I long to know.

The thought we cannot quite think is nevertheless somehow a thought, and it lives in us without our being able to think it.

And when the story is done, I sit back with a sigh. Ah, yes. There it is. Again. I have spread myself on the page, transparent to all but myself. I have spun this story out of the substance of my soul. And I didn’t even know my soul was present when I was writing.

We are a mystery, but we are a living mystery.

Growing, changing, seeking. Alive. Alive. So blessedly alive.

The most alive thing about us is what we are when thought breaks off and our mind can go no further—for that is where our yearning begins, our inconsolable yearning, and the loneliness that begets compassion, the forlornness that prepares the heart for love.

And when thought breaks off and our mind can go no further, our meaning can be found in the words that flow from our fingers, from our hearts. Out of that inconsolable yearning, stories are born, because stories are the incarnation of desire. Out of that loneliness that begets compassion, our deepest wisdom.

Out of that forlornness our own love for our characters, for the world we populate . . . and finally for ourselves.

And that’s what it means to be a human being and a writer.

bauer_favicon