Interviewers are a funny lot. Around a month ago, I was sent interview questions from a creative online outlet by the name of CultureSonar. Their stated mission for those unfamiliar with them is:
to help grownups find cool music, film, TV, books, events, activities and other worthy things. There are lots of people who are as open as ever to new experiences, but whose lives are a bit more, well, complicated than before. Finding the time to wade through the tsunami of available content can be daunting. We can help you find the good stuff.
I was thrilled they wanted to promote my latest book of short meditations, Signposts to Elsewhere, and help me reach a new, wider audience. So, after receiving the interview questions, I woke up early and put in around 2 hours carefully answering each query -- knowing that we were receiving out-of-town house guests later that day who would be with us for around a week, and I'd not have much quiet time.
Then, I sent out my heart laid bare, after meticulously proofreading my responses and waited; and, waited some more. The slated date of publication came and went. I dropped a short note gently reminding the editor of this, and received no reply. A week or so later, I wrote, again; still, no answer.
Finally, this morning, I received the briefest of emails notifying me that the profile was live -- only to discover that around half the interview had been cut out?!
Here, is a link to my unceremoniously shortened interview, which has gone live just moments ago and, below, for the exclusive reading pleasure of Steemians is the missing rest...
YOU'VE MENTIONED A PRACTICE ON DOING A "SILENT FAST." IN THIS OVERLOADED WORLD, HOW CAN SOMETHING LIKE THAT HELP? WHAT ARE/WERE YOUR EXPERIENCES FROM THAT PRACTICE? WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
I tripped into experimenting with silence, during my first year attending college, in America. I'd been an obnoxiously noisy kid and this new life presented me with an opportunity to start, again. I wanted to overhear myself, primarily, try to figure out who I was, as I experienced my first stirrings of becoming a writer. On one level it was a kind of detox, ridding myself of all the noise that didn't belong to me and, on a deeper level, I was practicing the art of listening -- both to myself and the new world around me.
In our age of short attention spans and shot concentration, with so many built in distractions, I think of silence as vital to our well being. It is both a steadying influence and a source of healing. As an artist or seeker, I think of Silence as a capital of riches; no real thinking, feeling, meditation, or profound realizations are possible without the space and depth it affords. Below, is an extended reflection on what silence means to me, that was intended to be a book, and ended up as this essay: YAHIA LABABIDI: NOTES ON SILENCE@Arts & Opinion
WHAT "TRIGGERS" OR INSPIRES AN APHORISM FOR YOU?
Good God, who can say? Not I! Even seemingly effortless aphorisms can be the result of matters I've been mulling over for ages -- years, even decades. At some point, triggered perhaps by a good book, conversation, or inner realization, I'll make a connection and release a thought from my clutches in a neat or evocative sentence. Of course, not all aphorisms are as weighty as that, and some are more playful or inversions of existing aphorisms. But, still, I cannot say in good faith where aphorisms, or poems, come from and will have to plead the (Robert) Frost:
“A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
CAN YOU CREATE ONE FOR OUR CURRENT MOMENT OF "CHAOS'?
I can no sooner write a poem on command, than I can compose an aphorism on the spot. That said, I believe, to an extent aphorisms are crisis literature, and that we consult them in times of calamity. In fact, I'm invited to discuss my aphorisms, at Oxford University, and the name of the talk is taken from one of my aphorisms (regarding the current moment of chaos, we all find ourselves in):
"In the deep end, every stroke counts"
Below, are a few more aphorisms that might speak to our troubled times:
Where there are demons, there is something precious worth fighting for.
Our salvation lies on the other side of our gravest danger.
If our hearts should harden and turn to ice, we must try, at least, not to blame the weather.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
Good question :) Currently, I'm putting the finishing touches to an eclectic collection -- tentatively titled, Truths & Fictions -- made up of cultural, spiritual and philosophical essays written over the last decade, along with interviews, blog posts and genre-bending, creative pieces. The trick will be finding a publisher for this unruly beast. After that, I cannot see past my nose.
Permit me to end with a lovely poem, The Real Work by Wendell Berry, in praise of bewilderment and not knowing:
"It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings."
Thank you, Steemit, for indulging me and allowing me to scrape my heart off the cutting room floor and share it with you.