The Act of Innocence
June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
Reading a bit of my current bedtime favorite: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In the section on Giving Anne talks about the importance of innocence and naive conscience. She believes this quality enables quiet heroism. It certainly goes beyond writing. It applies to life. To being. I hope you enjoy it.
Here is the best true story on giving I know, and it was told by Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre.
An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.
The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”
Sometimes you have to be that innocent to be a writer. Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it’s right. To be great, art has to point somewhere. So if you are no longer familiar with that place of naïve conscience, it’s hard to see any point in your being a writer. I can almost promise that this quality is still in you, that you are capable of quiet heroism.
This sophisticated innocence is a gift. It is yours to give away. We are wired as humans to be open to the world instead of enclosed in a fortified, defensive mentality. What your giving can do is to help your readers be braver, be better than they are, be open to the world again.