“I doubt. I fear. I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul. God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me!” — Bram Stoker, Dracula
I have written some of my best work during unusual times of anxiety, turning points in my life. I will abstain from extra details here, but I will say that my anxiety in those times was born from a need for resolve in all seven of my “Seven Ports of Life”: Work, Family, Religion/Spirituality, Community/Civic Duty, Health, Recreation, and Self-Development
These anxious feelings, and the ways in which I successfully dealt with them, affirmed for me the benefits of exploring through art the horrors of our lives and the horrors of humanity. I found I needed to bare my soul and be honest with myself; “know thyself,” as the Ancient Greek maxim goes. If we do not understand ourselves, we cannot truly understand others or the world around us, and to recognize the basic elements in us is to recognize the evil too, the beam the hypocrites — that all of us are — ignore while picking at the specks in others’ eyes.
Many of my poems are about people in times of crisis, in moments of terror, in days of decision, and I want it to be that way. I could inscribe here facts upon facts about myself and bore my readers to no end. I will refrain. Hopefully my writing will speak for itself.
Anyway, aren’t we all experiencing intense anxiety these days? Politically, socially, culturally, personally? Every morning, it seems, we wake up to the news of more death, more violence, more division, more regression. At this very moment, COVID-19 has spread across our planet like wildfire. The world around us appears to teeter on the precipice of something great, maybe greatly positive but probably greatly negative. It seems our best societies’ hard-earned achievements might be gone in the blink of any eye. We are, all of us together, in a collective shivering moment.
As T.S. Eliot expressed in his “Little Gidding” section of Four Quartets:
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair,
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre —
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
I think if we are honest with ourselves, we will see much truth in Eliot’s sentiment.