Take That, Blank Page

Some days the empty page is downright hostile. Document1 snarls, you don’t really want to write that, do you?

Shrinking under its judgment, I look away from the screen. Cleo is curled on her dog bed next to my desk, her squeaky egg under her chin, half asleep with her eyes open, ears perked. Her pose says, go ahead and write anyway.

She is practicing the Buddhist concept of radical acceptance—total non-judging. Whatever I might type is just fine by her. And so I begin, even if I’m just talking back to the blank page.

When I’m ready to post an entry or send out a manuscript, Cleo will listen without criticism or applause. Sometimes I think she absorbs my words like Vasudeva, the ferryman from Siddhartha in one of my favorite moments of the novel:

This was among the ferryman’s virtues one of the greatest: like only a few, he knew how to listen. Without him having spoken a word, the speaker sensed how Vasudeva let his words enter his mind, quiet, open, waiting, how he did not lose a single one, awaited not a single one with impatience, did not add his praise or rebuke, was just listening. Siddhartha felt, what a happy fortune it is, to confess to such a listener, to bury in his heart his own life, his own search, his own suffering.

This is how Cleo listens. And this is how my writing, with all its flaws, gaffes and awkward phrases, unburdens itself to her sleeping form. Then the piece can be redeemed, or at least revised and passed along.

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