Place of Meeting
Sometimes you don’t feel like writing. Sometimes, for weeks, the only thing you really feel like doing is taking a walk in the woods. To me writing has always been about -- in whatever form, whatever context -- inching a little closer to the truth. But sometimes you don’t want to know.
A speech in Fremont, a classroom in New Haven, a reunion on Nantucket, a library fundraiser in the long ballroom at the Trump Golf Course, dripping chandeliers like a moonless sky drips stars.
A student at Yale says, “Mr. Swiller, I had the opportunity to live in Losotho. There, every man had three interests and three interests only: sex, beer, and cattle. My question to you, Mr. Swiller, is: In your book, where is the cattle?”
At the Trump course, I ask the grandmother sitting next to me whether she thinks the emcee, a television news mega-star, feels nervous before giving speeches. “No,” she says. “But only because he’s got so much botox in his face he can’t feel anything.”
And then I stand up and tell a story to the four hundred assembled guests. As I shuffle my notes, through the enormous twenty foot-floor to ceiling windows, I see golfers loading their clubs unto electric carts, smearing on sunscreen, tightening spikes. Beyond them: a breathtaking view of an enormous rolling valley of fairways, grass so green it glows. I’m telling a story about children dying for lack of clean water, as several dozen waiters make sure our own water glasses are never empty. Afterwards, in the bathroom, a man turns on the sink taps for me so I don’t have to bend down too far.
So, some days, it feels like such discrepancy is the signature of a broken world. And I don’t feel like writing. I go to the woods. And they say: ah-ha don't you remember? the day is exactly as it needs to be. We are the sum total of everything before us (our lives are the reckoning of our lives), and we are also the grace that untouched observes it all (our lives are not our lives).
A dog jumps in a mud puddle. Three teenage boys run along a cliff, spraying each other with supersoakers. In Philadelphia, the future of the free and unfree worlds is decided by fibs and flag pins. Blogger after blogger writes that my candidate is the one true candidate and yours just doesn’t get what the game is – failing to understand that word and world are not separate – you create the vision, and the facts will always fit. To be a politician is to see each day as a battlefield. To be a Buddha is to see all things as Buddha. Which world do you want to live in?
“Do you love America? Do you really, really love America?” the debate moderator is asking one candidate. “Really? Real-leeeeeee?”
I feel embarrassed.
I’m no saint. I’ve made mistakes. Racked up debts. Injured love. But I can go to the woods.
Meet me there.