My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
—oh, celestial, soothing, sanctifying process, with all the high, sane forces of the sacred time, fighting through it, on my side. Henry James (1843—1916)
Written in the last decade of his life, when James was in a bad patch and trying to summon up the energy to get back to writing, this has the tone of fervent prayer. We don’t know what was troubling him; he was not the kind of writer who exposes his personal travails all over the page.
What we do know from this “prayer” is that James was not the kind of artist who said, “I can’t do my work because (someone or something) makes it impossible for me to think or work creatively!” He knew that sitting himself down to the work, the “soothing, sanctifying process,” was the thing most likely to bring “sane forces . . . fighting through it, on my side.”
In other words, that, when all else is wrong in the world (and it always is) one thing—the work—is always on my side, keeping me sane, and even, perhaps, producing something worthwhile.
He sets a vital example, not only for writers and artists, but for everyone, whatever the work—mental/physical, major/menial, interesting/boring—provided the work harms no one. The only people who are deserted by the “high, sane forces of the sacred time” are those whose work does harm, no matter what admiration and riches it may accumulate.
(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)