The Power of Timeless Words

I just read an amazing book.

It contains words, as books usually do, and offers clarity that can speak to people from any generation, especially women but I think the lessons apply to both sexes. It contains poetry, imagery, honesty, insight, and peace.

While I bought the Kindle version, I wish I owned a hard copy. I want to write notes in pencil in the margin, dog ear pages, and read it over and over again. I know, some of you are wincing at the thought of the desecration of the pristine pages, but I don’t see it as that. I would see it as revisiting an old friend for advice, learning from its wisdom, and giving it the sheen of a well-loved treasure.

What is this book? Perhaps some of you are thinking I stumbled my way into reading the Bible. No, despite my many attempts at reading that story, I have never really found comfort in its pages or lost myself to the beauty of its verse (except a few sections here and there). I have never found wisdom from its messages. I could never really find myself in those pages

You would think that this book, written at a time when the traditional place for women was in the home (1955) would have very little to say to me as I struggle to find my place in the world. But the opposite is true, as this book exemplifies how little some things have changed, and how much we still have to learn. I find myself in almost every chapter, as she explores the challenges of relationships and the lessons of life learned as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a member of a community.

What is this amazing book, you ask? How did I find it? Well, at the wonderful meeting I attended the other day, I learned that this book, written by a Smithie, had been given to high school juniors as a book award. Dean Walters read a passage from it, as she began to talk:

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and impossible of attainment. [. . . ]

[. . .] The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.

[. . .] What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!” ( 42-43)

This passage, which I’ve shortened here, trilled to the person who wrote just a few days ago “The Art of Being Alone, Still Learning”.  I knew I had to read this marvelous book.

Why does this book speak to me so clearly? Because her writing and the metaphor she uses seems timeless. Because even though she was writing from a time and a place very different from ours, everything she says seems applicable today. Here are a few more passages of Lindbergh’s that I highlighted as I read:

“What is the shape of my life?

The shape of my life today starts with a  family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my hear and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all–in fact, as an end to these other desires–to be at peace with myself.”  (16-17)

“We must re-learn to be alone.
It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” (36)

Seashells.

“When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” (100) 

“A new consciousness of the dignity and rights of an individual, regardless of race, creed, class or sex. A new consciousness and questioning of  the materialistic values of the Western world. A new consciousness of our place in the universe, and a new awareness of the inter-relatedness of all life on our planet.” (128)

“For the enormous problems that face the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women–or by men–alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.” (130)

 

I’ve said it before, words have power. The power of Lindbergh’s words lie in the fact that her word reach across time and difference to speak to the questions, concerns and challenges that we all face at different times in our lives. I would love to know that my words have that power, but for now all I can do is keep writing from the heart.

I finished a book today, and I am glad I did.