Maybe then the problem of identifying the spiritual is simply a subtle one requiring a sharp eye and a talent for reading the resonance of events. To perceive the spiritual in a slice of life or a piece of art we may have to make a good story of it, because a story has the uncanny ability to raise the spirit out of the flesh like bread rising yeasty in a warm place.
– Thomas Moore, Best Spiritual Writing 2000
To write about one’s life is to live it twice, and the second living is both spiritual and historical, for a memoir reaches deep within the personality as it seeks its narrative form.
– Patricia Hampl
I haven’t a clue as to how my story will end. But that’s all right. When you set out on a journey and night covers the road, you don’t conclude that the road has vanished. And how else could we discover the stars?
– Nancy Willard
The very act of writing, the kind of dredging up of these questions and these tentative answers out of the past and out of the inner self-that very process, putting it down, trying to say it right, is the consolation. And so it is in the work of writing the work that the consolation comes, as it is in the quest that the finding comes. For a spiritual quest means precisely that: not starting in a vacuum at square one, but starting where we are with what we have and with what we have found, to quest for it again. In Augustine’s beautiful term, it is fides quaerens intellectum-faith in search of understanding-so that, having found understanding, faith can search yet again. Over and over.
– Jaroslav Pelikan
Novels are completed when they are finished, but the memoir changes its own conclusion by virtue of being written… I was not at all the same person, when I handed the manuscript to the publisher, as I had been when I began. A memoir may always be retrospective, but the past is not where its action takes place.
– Nuala O’Faolain
The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and about all time.
– George Bernard Shaw
Reaching into the past means nothing if it does not change the present.
– Nancy Napier
I used to think that writing had substituted for religion in my life, but I’ve come to see that it has acted as a spiritual discipline, giving me the tools I needed to rediscover my religious heritage.
– Kathleen Norris, Dakota
Poets and monks do have a communal role in American culture, which alternately ignores, romanticizes, and despises them. In our relentlessly utilitarian society, structuring a life around writing is as crazy as structuring a life around prayer….Deep down, people seem glad to know that monks are praying, that poets are writing poems. This is what others want and expect of us, because if we do our job right, we will express things that others may feel, or know, but can’t or won’t say.
All of our theology must eventually become biography.
– Tim Hansel
We weave our memories into narrative, from which we construct our identities.
– Leonard Shengold
Autobiography is the most fascinating thing you can do because you get to touch the human condition. And in the end, what else is there? To me, it’s the ultimate affirmation of life, and a miracle of this transient, extremely fragile organism. To celebrate that, I think, is a noble thing to do.
– Jim Dine, Minneapolis Art Institute 6/02
To recognize that mystery, we must go down deep into ourselves, into that place where the walls of our being are layered with our own memories. Remember that, as in any pool, when we cast one pebble we will see many, many concentric circles. One memory begets another and then another, building into stories.
– Meinrad Craighead, artist
When we write about what matters to us most, words will take us places we don’t want to go. You begin to see that you will have to say things you don’t want to say, that may even be dangerous to say, but are absolutely necessary.
– Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace
One seeks to know the self better in order to know God better.
–Edwin Gaustad, Memoirs of the Spirit, xv
The subject of autobiography is always self-definition, but it cannot be self-definition in the void. The memoirist, like the poet and the novelist, must engage with the world, because engagement makes experience, experience makes wisdom, and finally it’s the wisdom—or rather the movement toward it—that counts. “Good writing has two characteristics,” a gifted teacher of writing once said. “It’s alive on the page and the reader is persuaded that the writer is on a voyage of discovery.” The poet, the novelist, the memoirist—all must convince the reader they have some wisdom, and are writing as honestly as possible to arrive at what they know.
–Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story, 14
[Memory] is a passion no less powerful or pervasive than love. It is [the ability] to live in more than one world, to prevent the past from fading, and to call upon the future to illuminate it.
–Elie Wiesel, And the Sea is Never Full
The real subject of autobiography is not one’s experience but one’s consciousness. Memoirists use the self as a tool.
–Patricia Hampl, NPR 5/15/03 91.1