While personal reading choices will vary depending on need and diversions from other commitments, we will occasionally hunger for a return to the space where renewal and new ideas are generated.
While I have many “favorite” authors, including Arthur Clarke, J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert, I also have a writer/philosopher who pushes me to reflect every time I pick up his book published right after the Second World War – The Plague, by Albert Camus. It provides a safe harbor for me to anchor, to stop for awhile to replenish and consider why I’m here. I come back to it every so often to see and learn from it about my own life.
Camus was an existentialist philosopher. Existentialism looks at the problem of human existence and considers the subjective experience of thinking, feeling, and acting. Existentialist thinkers frequently explore issues related to the meaning, purpose and value of human existence. In The Plague, people are dying from a slow insidious virus that invades a seaport in Algeria. The population is ordered to quarantine at home as the main character, a local doctor, labors around the clock to save victims. Sound familiar?
Heroism and acts of shame are ever present in the narrative, illustrating the selfishness of some and altruistic efforts of others who toil for the greater good. As the physician works tirelessly during the spread of the disease, he ponders life’s absurdity and risks.
When we return to a work of literature that entertains and inspires, it can also be an object lesson in why we write. There is nothing more affirming or rewarding than having someone tell you how they were touched by what you wrote. While I have published only one book, hearing someone say, “I was camping in the Quetico. It was raining and I read your book. I cried.” And another, “I wasn’t tired, so I thought I’d read your book that was sitting on the night stand, hoping it would put me to sleep. I stayed up till I finished it.”
These are real world examples of how to connect with another person. Getting there demands commitment and a kind of faith in ourself and a healthy respect for the process. While our finished products can be enjoyed in a few days or hours, moving down the road from inspiration to hours of thought, writing and editing in no way ends. Never mind finding someone to publish it!
There are all kinds of reasons to write and always a risk of going “philosophical” and getting lost in the weeds somewhere. Every writer takes a philosophical stance or in some instances a religious perspective when they write. We tie our lived experience together in loosely structured bundles, take a position on them, and then articulate our own vision.
While personal reading choices will vary depending on need and diversions from other commitments, we will occasionally hunger for a return to the space where renewal and new ideas are generated. It is a place that allows time for seeds to be gently planted and nurtured to fruition.
Doug Lewandowski has walked a varied path. He was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and is a retired Licensed Psychologist. He writes a column in the Duluth News Tribune and has had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in 2020 in the Jade Ring’s short story contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. Another short story was recently accepted for fall publication in the Jack Pine’s Writer’s Bloc “Talking Stick.” He was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. Doug transplanted to Duluth in 2018 to be closer to grandchildren. You may follow him on his blog douglewandowski.com.