The late Ray Bradbury is on my nerves. In his book Zen in the Art of Writing, Bradbury said “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Part of me finds inspiration in this quote, but another part of me struggles with the implications.
Is it true that reality can destroy us? Probably. There is something about the human heart that cannot accept the cold world into which we were born. Deep inside – where we push against death and disease and loss, where we fight the emptiness crouching at soul’s door – we sense a type of nothingness here. Look into the nothingness too long, and it will pull you into the shadows, into the dark where monsters attack.
What is this world, if not a shadow place? Shadows define the night, obscure the moon, delineate seconds ticking away in time. Shadows can be fun, whimsical shapes on a child’s bedroom wall. They can also be dangerous, mysterious outlines of a stalker staying just out of reach.
A shadow leaves us guessing, while the real thing remains hidden, waiting to be revealed. Albert Einstein, arguably the most intelligent person of the twentieth century and a man firmly grounded in science, once said that “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
This concept – the idea of reality being an illusion – drives my desire to write. Yes, I agree with Ray Bradbury that writing can be a form of intoxication if we so choose. We can write to escape, a dozen shot glasses of words lined up on the counter in self-destruction. Or we can use it to illuminate this present shadow, to shift the light and drive away the edges of illusion.
Which one will it be?