Dear Tim Kreider, I wrote this because I aspire to write as well as you.
One small point on an island.
I've always admired the clear sense of humility and truism in Tim Kreider's writing.
If you haven’t read anything by this complex human, start with his book, We Learn Nothing.
I made my way to his collection of short essays after an awful breakup, at an early stage in the recovery process, when youth and inexperience needed those words most. And I found them there, usefully sliced to metaphoric perfection, slender with calm humor and wit, sewn gently in self-awareness, tied to my own unnerving flaws and discontent. I surrounded myself with the friendship of his losses, drove away fears and pain by escaping into his set of difficulties, then comforted myself by the clarity of his set of perspectives and solutions.
I laughed, inwardly, at the truth of it all, then outwardly, at his genius in it.
That this man could, that anyone could, casually find such distinctly universal truths, wrapped in a sense of humanism and humility, outlined in the sharpest of clarity, as if from a spot at the bar across the room, precisely driven to conclusion, impacted my own inner self-reflection. I felt better about the world I was in. Hooked by his cynical realism, drawn in by his swift craft and lense. Slowly, I began to level in to my own new world, and settled on a more reasonable form of existence.
I found that I had less hurt and saw respectively how my own new developments were tied to having read Tim Kreider’s essays.
I saw a change in my joy to anger ratio. I'd found an island, and a fuller sense of experiencing the world and my expectations.
Years later I'd find his thoughts impacting my writing, impacting the way I'd arrive at things. I'd go back, reread his essays and find more depth where the younger version hadn't known to remember.
I would mention his book to those I’d calculated as fit for entrance into this most impactful part of my world. And if someone didn't seem to get his wit I'd take note of that as reference. I liked the way he wrote, how lean his lines of thought were, and yet how solid and heavy they'd land. How smooth and effortless it read. I liked his craft.
Recently, after posting to Medium, one of Timothy Kreider’s new essays came up, algorithmically suggested, and down an internet rabbit hole of his work I went.
I landed on his Facebook page, where a woman had left a kind note, and his response was touching in appreciation. The sentiment made me think, here's a person who's work has impacted my life for the better, and if I do nothing, may never receive the joy of having known that.
I had never before written to someone I admired. I prefer to leave my role-models imagined, on pedistals of perfection, expectations undisturbed. I never needed my heros to be human. They were distant and appreciated like imortals in their own worlds. I thought about this before I wrote, feared the thin veil I could be breaking. This was someone whose work had thoroughly impacted my life, whose work had made me a better person and whose work I hoped to always impact my writing. I didn’t want to get too close. To lose enigma. Or in subtraction, be dismissed. It shocked me that I had even the thought of sharing.
Here's some of what I wrote:
... It's been years since then. You've been an entire inspiration since then. I read your work in joy of trueism, in awe of awareness, then in frustration at how good you are.
...I've had the thought of my own work going out unmentioned to the world, knowing it would be entirely of use if it provided comfort for even one young brokenhearted.
I had gotten my hands on We Learn Nothing, and attribute those essays to so much comfort and respite when I needed that most.
I buy copies as gifts for closest friends. Request them back (unsuccessfully) after short-lived relationships. Tell people that it is the kind of book you take with you your whole life. Take it with me, but never mention it.
I came across a line on your FB page, a sudden reminder of how difficult this art is, even when you're successful, and that I'd never put it to you how much comfort your work brought. I thought I'd do that:
I look at your work with unobtainable aspiration and in frustration for how good you are.
I hit send, thought, likely he may never read it.
I was thrilled a few weeks later when I received a response. It was enriching to see that not only had Tim Kreider read my message, but he had seen some of my writing. That touched me. Inspired me. I felt the worthiness of having someone you respect care about what brings you meaning. Something enormously of value in the process of building worth in your own writing. Something I have since learned Tim Kreider received from his role models when he first started writing.
I responded, attempting something in the lines of humor. I’d give myself a failing grade at that. But I did mention that I’d written something that quoted his work. That I would be thrilled to have his thoughts and guidance but understood and wouldn’t be offended if he couldn’t. That I’d weighted being a bother with the regret of never reaching out, never having tried to share what he had such an impact on.
Months later, as I was working through that same essay, searching again for land to stand on, looking to find valuable critique, I went back to that thread. I had read about a course he might be teaching, thought I'd try and see if that was something I could join.
I was listening to Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins talking about natural selection, when Sam said something to the nature of, "Genes are a kind of memory, encoding knowledge, inscribed solutions to the problems our ancestors have successfully faced."
Maybe, this was all just genetics, coded in to solve difficulties my ancestors experienced with communication. Immigrants in foreign lands, finding ways to overcome differences. How often I look at the power and flaws of human interaction, what we are capable of, if, every so often, we choose a specific set of words.
I went back to that message thread to find that this hero of mine, Tim Kreider — had blocked me.
At first I paused in shock/amazement, but then it stung. Still, I don’t have reasonable judgement to land on. I can only imagine how human that person on the other end must be. We don’t always have capacities, and it’s understandable, even if harsh, to distance ourselves from people, because of our own cosmic burdens, even those seeking our wisdom and guidance, for the security in our own definitive sense of clarity.
So instead, I place these thoughts here, outstretched, in appreciation for what humanity I’ve gained.
One small point on an island. A pixel shedding light among millions. Flickering on a river from a distance.
I drove across that river by bike. A bridge, a mechanical structure, erected for the purpose of crossing large bodies of water. I saw the surface and the island. Giants in the thousands, often reaching out. One small island among many. In a galaxy. A collection of humans moving about, reaching, often reaching out.
The single most admirable objective to this game. To be heard.
Who shall learn how to get it. That all we've ever done has been set in motion, motivated, by this one objective. Coded in— and rerecorded.
To be heard. To be found.