Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Inhabiting the Story

If you fully inhabit a story, it feels as if you live there, that you’ve shut the door behind you and have entered another world, another life. Looking through the eyes of those who people the pages, you breathe there for a spell. You take on the texture of their skin, their scent, their torn hearts and seething minds. What at first feels like a distant universe, a flat existence, becomes a place you know intimately, where you recognize the wallpaper patterns and the shape of the head pressed in the pillow. The faces in the mirror – not yours – become your own. All of the people in the story have hearts that beat with erratic rhythms, just like yours. When you closed that door, you shocked their hearts into starting.

If you fully live there, you believe everything the characters say. Including their lies. You have to. After all, you invited them there, offered them pieces of your flaws and joys, fed them facets of your own beauty and ugliness. Some seem nothing like you, but they are. They’re human.

Sometimes you become the watcher in the story, silently observing that world, but you’re still there. When you fully inhabit the words, your characters inhabit your body in return, each with a little bit of you nested inside of them. Your body is crowded with stories and poems. They expand your life. You inhabit yourself more fully having written the words.

Charles Baudelaire wrote a prose poem called “Crowds” that touches on the same theme. Here’s an excerpt:

The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege that he can, at will, be either himself or another. Like those wandering spirits that seek a body, he enters, when he likes, into the person of any man. For him alone all is vacant; and if certain places seem to be closed to him, it is that, to his eyes, they are not worth the trouble of being visited.

(From Twenty Prose Poems, translated by Michael Hamburger)

The photo was taken 7/26/08. Click on image to enlarge.

3 comments:

Vesper de Vil said...

yes, exactly!

ann said...

I love this, thanks for sharing. It fits.

Christine said...

Thanks, both of you, for taking the time to read it.