Thank you to Brain Pickings for posting excerpts from Saul Bellows’ 1976 Prize Acceptance Speech. Here’s a quote that resonates:
To find the source of trouble we must look into our own heads.
Reading and reflecting on it now, it feels obvious to me. For the most part trouble is something we get ourselves into and out of by virtue of the choices we make and the lives we lead. It’s our own heads that get us into trouble.
Digging a bit deeper, perhaps Bellows is also suggesting that our heads (as opposed to the rest of our bodies/souls) are particularly good at getting us into trouble. If so, there are lots of reasons why he might have felt that way.
One way that I think our heads get us into trouble is when they fail to make meaning out of life experience. The true implications of life don’t come directly from lived experience. Instead, they come from the meanings and conclusions we draw from these experiences.
Between the experience itself (whatever that might be) and the meaning it has for us is our head. One way that our heads get us into trouble is when they fail to do the meaning-making work that turns experience into wisdom, growth, insight, awareness and so on.
While it’s natural for our heads to do this meaning-making work intuitively, there is an art to cultivating this capacity. Heads that never stop to think about what comes between experience and meaning can definitely increase the trouble in which we so often find ourselves.