I miss my books.
I didn’t carry all of them with me to Australia because I didn’t know whether or not things were going to work out. Now here I am, over two years later. Dang it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to ship my books here at the moment , so I must now draw inspiration with the select few favorites I was able to fit in my suitcase without going over 50 pounds. As I scan my little bookshelf, I can clearly see the void where my treasured Maya Angelou, Robert Frank (photographer), Alice Walker and Mary Oliver used to be.
But I do spot Henry Miller. The Colossus of Maroussi.
It takes me no time at all to recall why I chose this book for my journey to Australia out of countless others, back home. First, his decision to move to Athens in 1939 fuelled my choice to do the same in 2005, when I desperately needed a new life to inspire new chapters on and off of the paper. I completed my first manuscript that year, giving me confidence for the very first time in my ability to be an author, published or not.
Transplanting myself from the US to Greece was also the implant of travel into my heart. For now, I cannot live without it. I experienced how immersion into a different culture—the gift of its people and landscape of a different planet entirely—unhinged nearly every door of my mind. And yet all of this difference made me realise more than ever that we’re all more alike than we are different. Pair all of this with the empowerment I gained through existing and moving about in a foreign country on my own, and tell me why I would ever want to be without travel:
“No man had could have chosen a more circumlocuitous voyage than mine. Over thirty years I had wandered, as if in a labyrinth. I had tasted every joy, every despair, but I had never known the meaning of peace. En route I had vanquished all my enemies one by one, but the greatest enemy of all I had not even recognised—myself.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi
Secondly, Henry Miller is an absolutely magnificent, beautiful, brilliant writer. This book has more folded page corners, underlined passages and bitty Post-It notes than any story I own. For me, it is a miracle to see just how his words flow onto the pages. Particularly in The Colossus of Maroussi, Miller allows himself to become lost not only in the beauty that he witnesses but also in his own subconscious genius. And he shares this wisdom with us, not with arrogance, but humble humanity. We are with him, together, for first-time realisations
of the mind:
“At that moment, I rejoiced that I was free of possessions, free of all ties, free of fear and envy and malice. I could have passed quietly from one dream to another, owning nothing, regretting nothing, wishing nothing. I was never more certain that life and death are one and that neither can be enjoyed or embraced if the other be absent.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi
of the experience:
“Everything here speaks now, as it did centuries ago, of illumination, of blinding, joyous illumination. Light acquires a transcendental quality; it is not light of the Mediterranean alone, it is something more, something unfathomable, something holy. Here the light penetrates directly to the soul, opens the doors and windows of the heart, makes one naked, exposed, isolated in a metaphysical bliss which makes everything clear without being known.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi
Reading Henry Miller, I am inspired to write. I am inspired to live outwardly. And to my greatest delight, one cannot survive without the other. One of the best aspects of this book is that wherever you are in life, there is probably at least one sentence that will resonate with you. Whether you’re looking for that muse we sometimes need to write or to exist fully, you will find it in The Colossus of Maroussi. Here is mine, on this quiet Sunday:
“For hours at a stretch I would lie in the sun doing nothing, thinking of nothing. To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too. To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself…the body becomes a new and wonderful instrument; you look at plants or stones or fish with different eyes; you wonder what people are struggling to accomplish by their frenzied activities…When you’re right with yourself, it doesn’t matter what flag is flying over your head or who owns what or whether you speak English or Monongahela.”
Thank you, Henry Miller.
In memory of Henry Valentine Miller, writer and painter (1891–1980)