The art of repair through language

Sage CohenProductive writing9 Comments

You know that old saying, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? 2011 was a year for me where pretty much everything broke. And it’s yielded some incredible opportunities for fixing in 2012! Sometimes, as the adage advises, things just need to completely fall apart before they get our attention. And when they’re completely, utterly broken, the fixing process can become pretty interesting–liberating, even. Because there’s not just one part to fit back into place. There’s a whole, new composition to make of the pieces.

My dear friend and brilliant thinker Ed Batista just tweeted an excerpt from a post I wrote on September 11, 2006–that he re-blogged a few days later. I was fascinated with the synchronicity–to see how this snippet from my past proposes the kind of opportunity I was just about to suggest to you now:

At the rehab vet’s office tonight, I met a Corgie on wheels. His hind feet were wrapped in bandages and covered with neon socks; they dragged behind him as the little metal cart supported his rear end. By compensating for his back legs with wheels, the cart allowed him to leverage his front legs for complete mobility. His “wheelchair” had a little American flag poking out of it. This crippled, happy, well-loved dog was the metaphor I needed today to reconcile my 9/11 unease. There is cruelty in this world, and there is joy; we can feel unlucky that our legs don’t work or lucky that we are fortunate enough to have wheels.

This dog’s parents were there in the waiting room together (you almost never see both parents at the vet’s office) and they were in such a darn jolly mood about everything – including the hour + backlog of waiting, that I was shaken out of my own small thinking about what had seemed earlier today like insurmountable struggle. I was reminded that people can simply be happy together; that this is the brick and mortar upon which our world is built and built again. Kindness is our most precious natural resource. It can never be taken from us, no matter what falls from the sky.

Isn’t it remarkable that simply encountering a dog on wheels can change a person’s entire outlook in a moment? And that we can invite others to shift their consciousness even briefly, simply by sharing an image through the weightless word and story?

I have long considered writing to be the art of repair through language. In my own literary cosmology, it seems to me that we are restoring ourselves and our world by arranging the fragments of experience, memory, and emotion into a collage of meaning through which we transcend the parts and move into unexpected wholeness. I want you to have access to this possibility–and to cultivate it in whatever directions you most want it to grow. I want you to remember that an image, and how you hold it, can change everything.

That’s why I’ve been working hard behind the scenes for many months to now to introduce a new, high-performance online platform whose beauty and intimacy will allow me to offer you some really interesting experiences, classes and tools. My goal is to bring writers all over the world together to make new discoveries and define new futures in writing–together. My first offering is getting close to fully baked. Stay tuned for news about how we might learn together online. And, if you’d like to connect in person, I’d love to see you at one of my upcoming teaching and presenting events this spring!

In the meanwhile, if you find yourself holding something broken–a story, a heart, a history, a trust–see if there might be even a wisp of gratitude you might write yourself toward–if it’s your time for that. Or maybe words might smash some possibility wide open. The choice is always yours.

9 Comments on “The art of repair through language”

  1. Sage, it was the German philosopher Heidegger who wrote “language is the house of being”. Meaning that as humans we have access to language and from it create the meaning of our experience, our being…all comes from it. Our moment of experience is created either through the thinking (in language as our little voice in our head), spoken and written.

    As you can tell, I liked your sharing.

    1. Mike, and I liked your sharing, too! Thanks for adding a refraction of lovely insight to this contemplation. Ed, there is nothing more powerful and valuable than having a long-term witness and friend. The mirror you have always provided since that first encounter in the elevator at Catholic Charities has been one of the great gifts of my adulthood! I look forward to more reflections and investigations of the mutual archive!

  2. Sage, I love that your original post inspired me and six years later inspired you again. I suppose that this is how we keep in touch not only with each other, but also with our archived selves. Good luck with the new platform–will look forward to hearing more. -Ed

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