More from Pico Iyer
Published: July 30, 2004
|Does global consciousness help create a global conscience? Do you think writers have any kind of responsibility in this regard?|
Spiritual leaders are more obviously the home of global conscience, but I do feel that if the word "global" is to have any meaning today, it has to be applied to global responsibility and global conscience. One way writers can do that--as I try to do in my new book of magically real travels--is to speak for the Cambodias and Tibets and Burmas of the world to which we now have access as never before. A book like Lawrence Thornton's Imagining Argentina showed how the human rights issues of one country become the responsibility of us all (and he wrote that without ever having been to Argentina!).
Are you familiar with the term kairos (roughly defined as a combination of appropriateness and timeliness)? I believe you mention Northrop Frye in one essay, so you, no doubt, are. Is "time out of time" where you go when you "fall through the gratings of the conscious mind, and into a place that observes a different kind of logic?" Can you write from this place?
Exactly--and Frye was one of my heroes when I was growing up, a reason I longed to study at Toronto (though I never did), and to me a godfather of the global imagination.
I try to go to a monastery, and to live in a monastic setting in Japan, in order to step out of time. In practice, it can be difficult to write from such a place--the prose becomes too otherworldly and weightless, and is too quiet to be heard by those in the world (has too much of the sound of someone whispering to himself)--but at least I go to those places, as I would to other countries, in the hope that some of that larger spirit will enter me and my sentences when I come back out into the world.
You may be interested to know that one of the little trailers where I stay in my monastery is actually called Kairos; others, equally aptly, are called Logos and Hesychia!
If you see the world as illusion and impermanence, as the Dalai Lama surely does, you are liable to think in terms of results not always seen in the long run. Does this apply to you and your own work? In effect, what do you see as permanent?
I very much write for the future rather than the moment, and see writing as a way to step back from the crush and blur of the moment, and address whatever will last and not change. In all my portraits of places and people, I am trying to find some core of "changelessness" that should make the piece as relevant 10 years from now as today; and I see the job of the writer as giving the reader a larger and deeper perspective, so she can see things in the light of eternity as well as of time.
In some ways, as you can see, my writing is about trying to find the monastery hidden in the airport--the deeper kind of impersonality inside the surface kind; and I deliberately take myself away from the moment, live without newspapers and television and the World Wide Web in order to try to be closer to what does not shift.
--Posted July 30, 2004