IN the same week the students read some of the classic ‘Why I Write’ essays, I pick up a Loot parcel at lunchtime, tear the packaging limb from limb to release Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing, and come upon this passage on page 9:
“I am a writer. I write what I see out of the window. I am writing about the fear on the faces of the houses. I say as fast as I can, what preoccupation I see in the sick houses of bombarded London, and I write that the houses of bombarded London do not understand their own fear.”
My words fall into the street with absolutely no echo at all, as clear as if I were talking to myself, and, just as clear and distinct to my ear come the quietly spoken words of the man in the helmet.
“What have you just written about us? Have you written about our courage?”
“I have written that you folded your arms and frowned at me from under the shadows of your helmets. I have not written about your courage.”
Now they whisper to one another, again, their heads nod until they turn again to where I am. The other one says (the one who had not spoken before):
“Who are you working for? Why do you write that our houses do not understand their fear: rather write that they do not understand their courage.”
“It is the same thing.”
“Then what do you know about our courage and our fear? Where do you come from? What is the basis of your statements about us? You say you write what you see, but no two men see the same street, here. What do you see that you write? What do you mean when you talk about our courage and our fear?”
“I am still trying to find out: and that is why I write.”
Thanks TM, that’s what I call LUNCH.