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The distilled essence

Monday 4/22/24

What people think are the simple things are not simple things. They are complex things and people should spend more time thinking about them.

I read this account from a man who loved the Grateful Dead whose father also loved the Grateful Dead. The father's favorite Grateful Dead song was "And We Bid You Goodnight." In fact, it was his favorite song in the world, which is understandable.

When the man's father was unconscious and dying, the man sat with his father, held his hand, and sang him "And We Bid You Goodnight."

Is this a simple thing? I think it is not.

The other day I wrote a story. It was the morning that I went to the symphony, and before I ran my stairs. There really is a lot of time in the morning, and of course in a day itself. I also don't think that's a simple thing.

I wish I could say things about my work that I can't. I would like to be able to say--because it's true--that a given work is the best thing ever written. I'd like to single it out. But I can't talk about any of my work that way because of the rest of my work. But I would like to be able to for that particular work about which that is true, but given that it is true for all of the work, that makes it harder.

The story I'm talking about right now is called "The Bird." I'll likely be done with it today. I am likely done with it now. It's sitting.

On the face of the story, it looks simple. It looks short. But when one reads the story and is fully present, it's not very simple at all, nor is it short. And yet, a four-year-old could understand it, while a seventy-year-old could spend the rest of their time thinking about it. And everyone in between would have much they could do with it.

I think it's the purest distillation of what writing is. Can be. Let's say there was a way to get that essence out of the whole of humanity such that it was a collected in a phial which one person could hand to another. This story would be those contents. And then you just pass it on.

If I had written nothing else, I could say it's the best thing ever written. And it's just this little, simple thing, that is not a little, simple thing. I think millions of people would love it, find it enchanting and true, though because I can do this, and do do this, there is an industry that wants to make sure no one gets to see it. So there is that to overcome.

There are four works of fiction right now which I'm poised to complete, about which I'd like to say this thing that singles them out. They are all so different from each other in subject and style. They are this one, "May Showers," "Friendship Bracelet," and "The Ghost and the Flame." All are third person save "May Showers," which is told by a mother. "Friendship Bracelet" is about two middle school girls. "The Ghost and the Flame" is about a ghost and a flame. And "The Bird" is a about a bird, but it's really about us.

But because of each of the others--and God knows how many more--I can't say that thing, though I know it to be a true thing.

One won't ever see a bird the same way after reading this story. And you see a lot of birds in life.

I did not actually write the work for the kids. I wrote it for millions of people. More than that. I wrote it for people now and people always.

But as I've said before, if you write something for a person or some people in particular, keeping them in view even as you go deeper and further, and you do it the best that that can be done, you write something for everyone, for as long as people are here. Perhaps longer.


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