Just finished going back through The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower book 3) and trying very hard not to cry. Not because the ending itself is emotional – it ends on a rather infuriating cliffhanger, actually – but simply because this brings back everything about these books which meant so much to me at a very, very difficult time in my life.
We escape into these worlds, don’t we? But they don’t always treat us kindly. The best ones, however, become places we regret leaving and to which we long to return. The characters become friends and companions, and they can mean almost as much to us as the “real” people in our lives. We suffer with them, we mourn with them, we rejoice with them. We learn with them and hopefully we become wiser, better people. Sometimes we’re their company when they die, unseen and unfelt – perhaps their only company.
I’m reluctant to embrace any narrative which places some ideal of “humanity” above any other way of being, but I do believe that stories and storytelling are one of the most fundamental – possibly the most fundamental – things that make us who we are. Creatures who feel and love and learn and grow, who imagine. Whose existence is bound by time but which also transcends time and exists simultaneously forward and backward along a linear trajectory.
We imagine the past, we experience the present, we remember the future. We’ve always done this. It was the first form of play that ever existed, the first form of history, the first futurism.
Tell your tales in whatever form they come. Build them, maintain them, return to them. Be glad.
The world is not cyclical, not eternal or immutable, but endlessly transforms itself, and never goes back, and we can assist in that transformation.
Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders. It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming. You stand before them bareheaded, shriven. What is expected of you is attention.
Your songs are your planets. Live on them but make no home there.
What you write about, you lose. What you sing, leaves you on the wings of song.
Sing against death. Command the wildness of the city.
Freedom to reject is the only freedom. Freedom to uphold is dangerous.
Life is elsewhere. Cross frontiers. Fly away.
– Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet