Toni Morrison — I Hardly Knew Ye
What I know about Toni Morrison could be confined to this sentence: She wrote many lovely books of which I have read only Sula. And that was a lifetime ago. Though I do remember enjoying the reading experience, I couldn’t tell you one plot point. Because you know, time and memory and all that.
In the interest of honoring someone I know was an important and influential author in many ways, someone with whom I have almost zero personal experience with her work, I thought I would dedicate this week to sharing just a few of her quotes.
“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
Ahh! I love this quote! I forgot she delivered this wisdom to the world, and me. I’ve taken this bit of writing advice to heart and tried to create original stories that were, in some ways, exciting and interesting to me. Hopefully they translate to others as well. This mode of creative thinking is akin to: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” except it is less altruistic and more artistic.
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Apropos of Ms. Morrison’s passing, it is always reaffirming to learn of an individual who was in touch with her mortality. Though we don’t often want to think about it, we are all in the same lifeboat, and it is one that will some day sink. What’s at the bottom of the sea, no one knows until we get there. In the meantime, “we do language.” And some do it better than others. Many do it better than me. I am grateful for those who do so. Whether I’ve read them or not, the idea that their words are out there, even if they no longer are, is a blessed thing to cherish and smile on.
“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”
Nor, by extension, write. It stands to reason that, if this sentiment be true, she is speaking of all art, across the board, including her own writing. And mine. And yours. Is a story beautiful if it hasn’t been written down? Perhaps a true story can be. But I wonder if the same would be held for fiction. I don’t think so. Because the beauty Ms. Morrison is speaking about here is the real beauty in the world that surrounds us. It exists, whether it is painted or described or photographed. As for fiction, being that it is stranger than truth, I suppose we will leave its faux perfection out of this one and allow the tangible and seeable world around us to exist in our sights.
Observe and admire the tree on the hill. It is not a photograph but a representation of a memory of a tree on a hill you once saw. No, just forget you ever saw the photograph at all. The picture disproves the point. Carry on.
I love that. Of course I would. Anyone embarking on their true passion later in life than they would have earlier hoped will find great comfort in facts such as these. Though it is not a direct quote of Ms. Morrison’s, it is always inspiring to read how some people achieve greatness in spite of their hectic lives. It gives one courage to set the alarm and actually follow through with the getting up part. Put in the work and be happy.
I don’t pretend to be anything like Ms. Morrison, in writing or in life, though again, I know very little about her. All I know is that there are plenty of readers who love her and, I’m sure, with good reason. Maybe someday I will delve into her work and be amazed. I hope so. But if not, I respect her accomplishments and a life presumed well lived.
Toni Morrison did language, or so I gather. God bless and godspeed to you, lady. I hope you will forgive my ignorance.