A scanning electron microscope image of a nerve ending. It has been broken open to reveal vesicles (orange and blue) containing chemicals used to pass messages in the nervous system. (Photo: Tina Carvalho)

Sally Reed, friend and artist, left the following quote from Anne Truitt’s Daybook as a comment to the posting below. It is such a powerful concept I couldn’t leave it buried:

The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own intimate sensitivity.

That wise and sober counsel is coupled with another sentence that stopped me in my tracks. This came to me by way of Lisa who is friend, poet and fellow traveler into the deeper folds of Elizabeth Bishop’s life and work. Bishop’s biographer Brett C. Millier (Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It) identifies what he considers “may have been the most important single piece of criticism Elizabeth ever received” when Marianne Moore questioned her young protégé about the aesthetic problem of “depth”:

I can’t help wishing you would sometime in some way, risk some unprotected profundity of experience.

One interpretation of this advice is contextual: In the 1930s, Moore was advocating that Bishop turn to the moral and metaphysical Christian critique that was being explored by the philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr. That wasn’t the path that Bishop ended up taking for a number of reasons. But the admonishment as it stands has a powerful call to action. Moore’s phrase, “risk some unprotected profundity of experience” is enough to fill the rest of my day with its implications.

Thanks Sally and Lisa.