Other people’s words about … secrets
‘Philip,’ [his mother Rose] said. ‘There are things I could tell you.’From ‘The Lost Language of Cranes‘
‘Tell them,’ Philip said.
‘Why not? I’m prepared.’
She turned, looked at [Philip’s father Owen] slumped on the sofa. ‘Because I don’t believe that just because something’s a secret it therefore by definition has to be revealed,’ Rose said. ‘Keeping certain secrets secret is important to — the general balance of life, the common utility.’
by David Leavitt
I have always been fascinated by people like Philip’s mother Rose in the passage above: people who keep their own counsel. I have a tendency to do the opposite — to over-share, to talk to people for advice, to feel guilty if the life I lead isn’t entirely transparent. I’m not sure why. I may just be wired that way, but I suspect that years of therapy during adolescence and early adulthood ingrained this way of being in me. When you are used to talking things through with someone on a weekly basis, it can feel odd — unsafe, even — once you stop.
Gnarled trunk, early July 2022.
I like Rose’s matter-of-fact statement that secrets don’t have to be revealed. Sometimes, when I am uncertain about a course of action or a decision I have to make, I think of the oath that I’m told doctors must take: ‘First, do no harm.’ I find this oath, applied to life in general, one of the most useful creeds I know.
And so I find myself thinking that Rose may be right. If keeping a secret doesn’t harm anyone, then why feel compelled to reveal it? Why not learn to live in silence with one’s own truths?
Waterways, early July 2022.
Lately I’ve been reading …
- I finally understood, I think, that I keep running because it is the most concrete and effective way for me to feel alive, or at least the one way I know. In other words, I run because I’m afraid of dying: Andrea Marcolongo, on why she loves running (yes, another writer who loves running!).
- It’s never about mastery. That’s what I love about swimming. In the water, I’m always partially enabled, never certain, always at risk. If meditation requires an exploration of impermanence, swimming-meditation activates transience on the skin. Its embodied teaching flashes me into a fragile, tangible, barely hopeful body. It’s the best way I know to understand being a physical form in an unstable world: Still on the topic of movement, Steve Mentz’s love for swimming feels akin to my love for running. Though propelling your body through water is a different thing entirely from propelling it through the air, the sense of rhythm, coupled with a feeling of exertion that reminds us of our physical fraility, is much the same.
- The average individual in the top 10 percent of global earners —- and with the current Euro-to-dollar exchange rate, if you earn more than $39,100 a year, you qualify —- causes about 31 metric tons of annual carbon emissions each: Jag Bhalla on why technological innovation will not save the planet.
- We are creatures of tropical jungles as much as the savannah: Patrick Roberts on why we need to rethink our belief that we (humans) came from the savannah.
- We have always loved and loathed cats: Egill Bjarnason on the vexed issue of cats. I used to be one of those people who categorically believed that feral cats must be destroyed to prevent them from destroying the natural environment. Then Lizzie arrived in my life. She was feral and starving and living in my garden when I first encountered her. Since then, I have fed her, had her desexed, taken her with me when I moved house, introduced her to indoor life … and found myself surprised and moved by the joy and laughter she brings to my household. Bjarnason’s article raises all these topics and more — it’s fascinating reading.