Sometimes it’s 5 a.m., and all you have is faith.
Did you guess that it’s 5 a.m.? Yes, it’s 5 a.m.
Things I do not have at 5 a.m.: The ability to think clearly. Appetite (feeling sick, actually). The ability to concentrate on any task. I have spent the last seven hours going over a manuscript that I somehow, over the last month, got down to 120 pages. Of academic prose. (Including endnotes.)
In academic prose, you are not allowed to use figurative or poetic language. You have to make sure that anything you say can be supported. You cannot make claims that are too large, but if you make claims that are too small, you don’t have an argument. You can’t say different than: it’s different from. There are all sorts of other rules, but at the moment I’ve forgotten them. That’s what happens at 5 a.m.
At that time, when it’s still dark and you’re sitting there in the darkness, with only a desk lamp on, typing on your computer (as I am now), all you have is faith that what you’re doing is worthwhile, that what you have written is worth something even if, looking at it again for the hundredth time, you think it may have been written in a foreign language. Because you no longer understand it.
We tend not to talk about faith too much. It’s not very popular nowadays. We would rather have ambition, intellect, drive, whatever it is that allows us to get ahead by our own efforts. Faith is for the times that you’re so tired you can barely keep typing. When all those other things seem to have gone away, and your mind feels completely empty. When you can’t even remember the definition of figurative language. (I had to look it up.)
You can have faith in the internal – in your own abilities. Or, and again this is not very popular – you can have faith in the external, in whatever it is that the universe intends for you. (Mother Night, the tapestry woven by spiders, the pattern we don’t see: there you go, symbolism. Figurative language.) And I do believe that we shape our destinies, really I do. But I also believe in a pattern, and that I am a part of it, and that it will come out right in the end. Despite all the places where it doesn’t look like it’s coming out right, because I’m only seeing the part of the pattern I’m in at the moment, not the whole. And anyway, I’m only seeing it from the back.
I do wish the universe would let me get more sleep?
Although here I am writing, because I had these thoughts on faith and the necessity for it. And in particular because a friend I was talking to earlier today mentioned the subject, and I wanted to say: have faith. That’s always a difficult thing to say to another person, because it seems presumptuous, doesn’t it?
But even though it’s dark now, at 5 a.m., it will soon be light, and even though I can see banks of snow from my window, they will soon melt, and Spring will come, and time will pass, and things will change. That’s not even something we need to have faith in: we know it will happen. What we have faith in is that the change will be meaningful, will bring what we want or need into our lives.
I have faith in that too, that things are changing for some purpose. Probably a purpose I won’t understand until whatever it is has happened, and the manuscript I finished tonight is part of that change. Everything I do now, every story I write, is part of it.
The prospect of change always fills me with optimism. Even at 5 a.m., when I’m so tired that my hands are heavy on the keyboard.
Good night, good morning. It’s time to get some sleep . . .