A few weeks ago, I watched the television series Emily Dickinson on Apple+, an amusing and touching retelling of the poet’s early literary years. I only knew her by name. The series does not seem to deviate from the truth, even though it had to freely interpret what was never known about the writer’s life. The character as shown in the TV series is both right and wrong. We don’t really care.
The central theme of the series could be summed up as follows : voluntary reclusion after a brief struggle to achieve fame, a closed universe, a secret garden capable of giving rise to a wealth of ideas.
The silent poets, the little word artists, but also most actors, dancers, singers, painters, sculptors, and, who knows, those who will probably not leave a trace, all know something of this.
For Dickinson, fame, if any, was posthumous. We could say the same of the first Bach, Johann Sebastian, rediscovered in the 20th century. Art does not need the beautiful clothes displayed in stereotypical thinking.
The American poet was obsessed with death, not in a morbid way, but more, I think, if the TV series and my brief readings are to be believed, through an acquaintanceship with the Grim Reaper. It was probably also in the air of the time, a loose romanticism combined with early existentialism. The Finality is our great empress and muse.
Without wanting or daring to compare me to her, I felt challenged by her story. The contentment she seemed to feel in writing only for writing’s sake, in recognizing that fame is a nasty shadow on the inner flame of an artist, I also came to accept.
Of course, we will never really know if the poet had given up being known in her lifetime. I was told a few days ago that what matters most is that I am happy to write, regardless of what happens next.
The lesson applies to everyone. We are alive, whatever happens to the length of our passage, to the persistence of the trace we make. Legions of men and women have walked this earth. They are part of the water that moves the mill of the universe.
I wonder if there is not a great river that welcomes the tributaries of passing souls. What is the direction of our end ? What do we vibrate to ?
Is there not a melody within us that we must, in our own way, share ? The bricklayer, the novelist, the politician, the inventor, the researcher, the sportswoman, everything that comes alive, and everything that dies out can only compose one mysterious score.
Let’s wake up our ears, let’s smell the air of time and our momentum so as not to miss the concert and its grand finale. And to think I can’t even swim…