Leaping into the Void

Over the past week I wrote a lot about the year’s end and the year ahead. I struggled with it, primarily because reflecting on the last year inevitably became listing out what I’d accomplished and done, which then led to simultaneously feeling content and sad. My year was good, with the first half marked by finishing graduate school and looking for a job and the last half calm, quiet, and settling into my new way of living (i.e. working full time and not going to school). But I’ve been deeply affected by everything going on culturally and politically and I’m disappointed that I didn’t do more. I’m concerned for the future and I’m saddened by all the loss and fear. While I could say plenty more here, I’ll leave it at that. What I want to talk about here is the year ahead.

I started Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost recently. It feels like the perfect time for me to be reading it. It’s gorgeous and thoughtful and inspiring, and it’s been stimulating my thinking about life and writing. At its core, A Field Guide is about embracing the unknown, getting lost, and understanding the vast nature of what we cannot know – internally and externally. She talks of the “blue of distance” (my new favorite phrase) and appreciating the nature of desire rather than trying to attain what we want.  

We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the desire between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing.
— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Last night, after the countdown to 2018, I read a bit before going to bed. In one of the later chapters, Solnit discusses artist Yves Klein, cartographers, and our fascination with unexplored places “made up out of imagination and desire.” But it’s her contemplation of Klein’s Leap into the Void that most resonated with me. She says,

A leap into the void is sometimes read as a Buddhist phrase about enlightenment, about embracing the emptiness that is not lack as it seems to westerners, but letting go of the finite and material, embracing limitlessness, transcendence, freedom, enlightenment.
Leap into the Void,  Yves Klein, 1960

Leap into the Void, Yves Klein, 1960

I’m interested in viewing my future as a leap into the void. This means for me embracing uncertainty, getting lost and appreciating the sensation of being lost, relinquishing control, surrendering to the vast unknowable. Last year I added Michel de Montaigne’s words, “Que sais-je?” to my arm. What do I know, he asked and I ask. It’s a prompt but also a reminder of the void, of how very much I don’t know and I can’t know.

For most of my life, control (lack of, desire for, loss of) has dominated my life and affected me psychologically, physiologically, and spiritually. I’m tired of trying to control everything, of worrying about what is out of my control. Leaping into the void is the only part of this new equation I can control: Decide to leap, then leap.

Today as I’ve thought about leaping into the void, my mind kept reciting Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck.” Diving into the wreck isn’t quite leaping into the void, but there’s much to cling to anyway:

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.
— Adrienne Rich, "Diving into the Wreck"

In 2018 I have a lot to look forward to, including exciting things that normally would inspire intense anxiety in me, to the point where my excitement would evolve into dread. Yet there’s a new strength in me these days, a sense of surrender and a dedication to making the leap, taking the dive. The leap feels personal; the dive feels necessary.

My leap into the void is opening myself up to getting lost, to new opportunities, to mindfulness and learning the internal workings of my mind. I'm thinking of "On Solitude," where Montaigne says,

Seek no longer that the world should speak of you, but how you should speak to yourself. Retire into yourself, but first prepare to receive yourself there; it would be madness to trust in yourself if you do not know how to govern yourself.
— Michel de Montaigne, "On Solitude"

Diving into the wreck, on the other hand, is how I envision my activism and how I might lift of the voices that need lifting. It’s how I connect to those around me, to those on similar journeys and those on journeys I will never embark upon:

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

I’m ready.

Happy New Year, friends.