Tennessee Williams on Love and How the Very Thing Worth Saving

Aug 6, 2018 by

 love Is the Thing That Will Save Us


“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills,”Tolstoy wrote at the end of his life in his forgotten correspondence with Gandhi about human nature and why we hurt each other, as the global tensions that would soon erupt into World War I were building. How love can save us and what exactly it saves us from — each other, ourselves, the maelstrom of our intersubjective suffering — are questions each person and each generation must answer for themselves.

Tennessee Williams (March 26, 1911–February 25, 1983), born several months after Tolstoy’s death, addressed this abiding question with uncommonly poetic precision several months before his own death in a 1982 conversation with James Grissom, who would spend three decades synthesizing his interviews with, research on, and insight into the beloved playwright in Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog (public library).

Tennessee Williams (Photograph: John Springer)

A quarter century after Martin Luther King, Jr. made his impassioned case for reviving the ancient Greek concept of agape, Williams reflects:

The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.

Complement with Jeanette Winterson on how art saves us and Elizabeth Alexander on the ethic of love, then revisit Williams’s conversation with William S. Burroughs about writing and death and his stirring reading of two poems by Hart Crane

Tiny, Perfect Things: A Lyrical Illustrated Invitation to Presence

“My experience is what I agree to attend to,”pioneering psychologist William James declaimed in the final years of the nineteenth century as he considered how attention shapes human life. At the dawn of the following century, Hermann Hesse offered in his increasingly timely manifesto for savoring life’s little joys as the portal to living with presence“My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys.” His was a world without radio, television, or the Internet, predating the golden age of consumerism — a time we can now barely conceive of, before busyness and distraction became the governing law of every waking hour. And yet, even from his inconceivable vantage point, Hesse could foresee the direction in which humanity was headed — toward habitual flight from presence and accelerating grandomania.

A century on, poet M.H. Clark and artist Madeline Kloepper offer a mighty antidote to our inattentive apathy in Tiny, Perfect Things (public library) — a lyrical invitation to apprehend the small wonders that strew the everyday: the yellow leaf blown to the ground, the smiling face of a neighbor, the spider laboring at her web, the red feather in a passerby’s hat, the snail triumphant atop the fence, the pale, luminous moon against the nocturne.

Radiating from a young girl’s vibrantly illustrated neighborhood walk with her grandfather is a lovely embodiment of Henry Beston’s insistence that “in the emotional world a small thing can touch the heart and the imagination every bit as much as something impressively gigantic.”

Complement Tiny, Perfect Things with Be Still, Life — a songlike illustrated invitation to living with presence — and Sidewalk Flowers, then revisit Annie Dillard on choosing presence over productivity and cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz on learning to see the wonder in our everyday reality.

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tennessee Williams on Love and How the Very Thing Worth Saving | “Global Possibilities” | Just The Messenger - […] Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills,”Tolstoy wrote at the end of his life in…

We welcome your comments!