Sadly, the festival is starting to feel like some hazy dream I once had a long time ago, but I am doing my best to keep hold of some of what I experienced and get a few more chunks of my notes up here before it slips away entirely.
The following are excerpts of Marilynne Robinson’s talk at the Festival, in which she primarily addressed the fear that has become such a large part of our culture, adapted to some degree from her essays in her latest book When I Was a Child I Read Books.
1. The only people we should fear are those who could make us not love; that you have one set of beliefs does not mean you are accusing others of not having them; people are willing to be gracious to religious expression that is gracious to them
2. fear is a stimulant that makes you focus on things that aren’t there; it’s addictive and becomes normalized
3. we think ourselves weak and threatened, which makes us deal unwisely and insensitively with others; we act as though people are justified in their fear and that it’s okay to act pre-emptively; in the old Westerns, the heroes were the ones who were reluctant to shoot–the cowards were the ones who shot first and didn’t want to take off their guns.
4. we think we can’t write about what is most important to us, which creates tremendous anxiety; people get alienated from themselves because it’s so easy to stigmatize words and identities–this makes people vulnerable to having their identities stripped away.
5. Whatever is essential to you is the basis of your human dignity. There is a great dignity in refusing to fear.
6. We need to talk people out of their crouch; if you’re frightened, you’ve let yourself be deprived of an important part of your dignity; if you’re frightened, you don’t trust God. Trust God and abandon fear.
7. In regards to writing Gilead and how popular it became: “I was writing about something important and interesting to me, and that’s what people want for themselves.”
From a later interview:
1. She loves Wallace Stevens–“he saturates experience with attention” and there is no greater writer in the American language; she admires his “devotion to the idea of the ordinary perceiver” and the transformation from the ordinary to the beautiful/transcendent.
2. When asked about her popularity in fairly diverse settings (both liberal and conservative) and how that’s possible, she responded “I don’t recognize any obligation other than to speak what’s true.”
The Christian Science Monitor also did an article about her talks, which you can read here: http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2012/0424/Marilynne-Robinson-Why-are-we-so-afraid