Nobel Prize

Editors note: I’ve been reviewing the archives, and coming across some amazing gems worth revisiting. My current self cannot remember writing this. The beauty of writing. I heal myself with an older self, and I am so grateful for these bright pages. Originally published March 10th, 2009.

This has infused itself into my brain for a while, and I go back to it all the time when I’m feeling like the goals I set for myself are all too high. They aren’t really. I recently read that the size and weight of your challenges is a test of the strength of your self. Like lifting weights – your muscles work at the best of their strength when they’re met with a weight that is as big as you can handle. So, I look at my challenges like weight lifting. It is also immeasurably true that I will never give up. I do not want to give up this path that I’m on. I’m not going to resign myself to not achieving my dreams or my goals. Never. Ever. I will be the pioneer who keeps going through the snow and the forest because she knows there’s a glowing candle on a wooden table somewhere at the edge of winter.

My mountain was deceptively skirted by grass at the base, and gave way to denser and denser forests, always on an incline. It felt good to walk uphill, feel myself stronger. Soon the forests gave way to clarity, and I rested on the steppes for a while. Now I’m climbing even higher – and I’m quite alone now on this treacherous path. There was only room for one. Sometimes I send for helicopters or sherpas. But they take a while to come. The rocks are very jagged and the fall is immense. But my feet are firmly planted, and I can breathe the fresher air at the top of this mountain, I can rest on the boulders and push some of them off the dirt road. Rest, absorb the view, eat some berries from the side of the path. Soon I’ll get to the top. Why? Why am I climbing? For what reason do I need to get to the top? Because I can see the people I love there. They have toboggans. One has a hot-air balloon. Some skis, suitcases that are gateways to other worlds coloured like pink and golden sunshine. I may be kidding myself. But that is what I see.

The mountain is made of screenplays, pages of novels, novellas, word upon word. Each step is a word, each word is a step. From the top this mountain, it must feel amazing, I think. To stand upon the stacks of soft edged pages that I wrote, to feel under my feet the novels that are bound like the steppes themselves. Words like pebbles I can throw or keep in my pocket. Soon I know I’ll be able to lay on this mountain of work and let my love for it soak right through all the layers as I lay looking at the clouds, able to breathe, calm. Then I’ll jump in a hot air balloon!! And let other people walk along the paths I made up this mountain, to find the pebbles and steppes for themselves. I’m leaving nice things for you all along the way. The soft beds I made and fire circles I left. It will be nice for you. That is my intention. I might even come back and visit in the hot-air balloon with gifts from other mountains. It is all of life, and life is amazing.

“The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life.”
– Dalai Lama

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It may be hard, but this is all I have committed to do within the realm of writing, ever since I began examining the quality of life itself. Such an intimate history of humanity arrives at my doorstep, crawls into my lap. Painful pleasure, raptures and sorrow. Not sure how much longer I’ll last in this crucible of raw emotion, but it is rigorous, a swelling sea where water falls, so much water: I live on this boat of emotion, wild power, running ghosts, fast hurt, bled knuckles pulling the body back up the cold rocky ravine I jumped upon. I can feel my inner muscle fibres strengthening with every step I rise above. Small victories lead to great ones.

William Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”

Orhan Pamuk echoed the same sentiment during another Nobel Prize acceptance speech, his own – for Literature, 2006.

“What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity’s basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities and imagined insults […]”

It’s painful to channel it, but for some reason I can’t help but let it pour through and out my fingers. Otherwise it gets stuck in my skull like a giant expanding sponge, and that’s not very comfortable, to be honest. I’m glad to have you all here to share what I’ve found on my soaking wet journeys through the emotions of life. If you’re in the mood to feel some of my deepest water, this is something I painfully wrote for a friend who, when I sent him one of the more comedic chapters of Prince Henri, said in his notes that I was “very sad.”

“Why are you sad?” he asked. I don’t think I could answer him because he triggered something in me that touched deeply on that human sadness. The sadness of longing, and missing, and hoping and dreaming. He saw the deep wells of water in my eyes and asked me to write him a piece the following morning. “The Tears of Life. Tell me about the Tears of Life, Sophie.” So I did. Why am I sad?

Haleakala Crater Sunrise at 10,000 feet: "One of the world's most spectacular sunrise viewing spots."

“I am sad because there is poetry in most things. I am sad because nothing will stay, everything shall pass, and when it does, I have held onto it much too lovingly to let it go easily. I am sad because people show me such vivid joy, and then they too must pass away. I am sad because I cannot live alone. I am sad because everyone is alone. I am sad because we are all leaving, and we are all coming home too. I am sad because I miss my mother, and sometimes want to crawl back to the womb, to become unborn from this cruel, cold world.

Yet something keeps me from crawling, because the world is not cruel and it is not cold, we say. Even though we are tired and we are hungry, and we are hurting from the noise and the weight; the bearing weight of excruciation which looms over us like the hand of God, full of our own dreams – we go on – perhaps because our Mother did, and our Father did, and they too bore the weight of this world in order to give birth, to bring about new life, an experience, an experiment – you – some newer creature who would speak in tongues not heard on this planetary marble before. Each child is such a creature: Very New, and Very Old at the same time.

I am sad because of the way the light falls, because I recognize myself in everything, and want to devour life, and I do – the challenges bind and the triumphs release the straps that have woven ever tighter and tighter around the fist as we claw our way up through the foliage. I am sad because I am leaving, because I do not know how much I can do, and even if I do all I can, I do not know if it will be worth the striving. Are those vivid joys worth a world of challenge? It will always be enough, but is it worth giving myself – am I the price I pay for my joy?

I am sad because I know who I am, and yet it still changes, like the way an onion grows beneath ground, wrapping and wrapping itself around the bud, circling with more skins, more clothing, more layers to one day be revealed. And who will cook me? Who will pull me from the dirt and dissect me? Is it God, the cosmic force? Is it me?

I am sad because there IS joy in the world – and my heart aches in the struggle to come home, and also to leave. I am sad because I am angry too, angry that there is no knowing, angry that everyone suffers the same and that you could never shift the DNA to edit darkness from the light. I would never want to: I realize that I am sad because I have also been happy. It is the wide gaping chasm in my heart that was once filled with joy, that now fills with tears. My tears carve the sands of my interior, such that the vessel broadens, in order to bear the weight of my laughter.

This is why I am sad. The carousel turns. Joy fades like sunshine. But sadness is a stream that runs deep underground, in the dark hard granite of the soul’s ancient yearnings. I do not know what those yearnings are, but I keep looking, every minute, of every day. Perhaps that is what moves me most: That no matter how soft or how hardly you look, how intensely, how haphazardly, you will not know true freedom until you are released from physicality, out of matter and into the mind. This is another departure for me, and I am not willing to let go of all I have fallen in love with here on Earth, in order to seek this bliss, and find what it is I am looking for.”

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This has infused itself into my brain for a while, and I go back to it all the time when I’m feeling like the goals I set for myself are all too high. They aren’t really. I recently read that the size and weight of your challenges is a test of the strength of your self. Like lifting weights – your muscles work at the best of their strength when they’re met with a weight that is as big as you can handle. So, I look at my challenges like weight lifting. It is also immeasurably true that I will never give up. I do not want to give up this path that I’m on. I’m not going to resign myself to not achieving my dreams or my goals. Never. Ever. I will be the pioneer who keeps going through the snow and the forest because she knows there’s a glowing candle on a wooden table somewhere at the edge of winter.

My mountain was deceptively skirted by grass at the base, and gave way to denser and denser forests, always on an incline. It felt good to walk uphill, feel myself stronger. Soon the forests gave way to clarity, and I rested on the steppes for a while. Now I’m climbing even higher – and I’m quite alone now on this treacherous path. There was only room for one. Sometimes I send for helicopters or sherpas. But they take a while to come. The rocks are very jagged and the fall is immense. But my feet are firmly planted, and I can breathe the fresher air at the top of this mountain, I can rest on the boulders and push some of them off the dirt road. Rest, absorb the view, eat some berries from the side of the path. Soon I’ll get to the top. Why? Why am I climbing? For what reason do I need to get to the top? Because I can see the people I love there. They have toboggans. One has a hot-air balloon. Some skis, suitcases that are gateways to other worlds coloured like pink and golden sunshine. I may be kidding myself. But that is what I see.

The mountain is made of screenplays, pages of novels, novellas, word upon word. Each step is a word, each word is a step. From the top this mountain, it must feel amazing, I think. To stand upon the stacks of soft edged pages that I wrote, to feel under my feet the novels that are bound like the steppes themselves. Words like pebbles I can throw or keep in my pocket. Soon I know I’ll be able to lay on this mountain of work and let my love for it soak right through all the layers as I lay looking at the clouds, able to breathe, calm. Then I’ll jump in a hot air balloon!! And let other people walk along the paths I made up this mountain, to find the pebbles and steppes for themselves. I’m leaving nice things for you all along the way. The soft beds I made and fire circles I left. It will be nice for you. That is my intention. I might even come back and visit in the hot-air balloon with gifts from other mountains. It is all of life, and life is amazing.

“The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life.”
– Dalai Lama

Read more