I had the pleasure of hanging around with Andre Dubus when he was in Seattle for the recent Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. I had asked him to be the Key Note speaker based on my impression of him during our interview a year ago. He did not disappoint. And yet, as eloquent and inspiring as his speech was, amid all the stories and wisdom he shared what stayed with me the most was a single, rather off-handed comment he made soon after he’d hopped up on stage. In describing his experience as a writer, he confessed, “Man, I love this life. I don’t ever want it to end.”
It made me very happy to hear that, and not just because I liked Andre and wanted the best for him. You cannot argue with joy, it is a truth that stands alone unsupported by evidence, rooted only in itself. Words and words and words are great, and they are generally my tool of choice, but joy knows every language—just ask Beethoven—from the piano to the poem, and I will never hear enough of it.
It should be no surprise that the composer’s last symphony ended with the Ode, or that Joyce’s Ulysses concluded, “ . . . yes I said yes I will yes.” Saying no is a requirement to managing your time and life—there is too much that could be done to try and do it all—but yes is the only engine forward.
As a young girl, my wife spent most of her days saying no in an attempt to barricade herself from a world she viewed as constantly encroaching on her peace of mind, and so her world grew increasingly empty. Eventually she said yes to art school, and yes to writing stories, and even yes to me. But she wasn’t actually saying yes to me, she was saying yes to life, which is what Andre did that evening at the conference. Life forever awaits your yes, and when you hear it in another, you are actually hearing it in yourself, because you cannot know what you have not already seen, and you cannot love what you have not always known.