I have been debating most of today as to whether I should publish this email exchange between me and Dustin from about 12 days ago. And now have decided to do so.
In response to the New Year’s letter that Dustin sent to a group of his friends and family members, I wrote the following note to him on January 10th.
Dear Dustin:Thank you very much for your letter. I am going to be presumptuous here and respond in ways to which I am not entitled. But I thought you might be interested in my response to what you have to say.My first thought was “what does happiness have to do with it”? And that led me to these thoughts. It seems to me that what you want for yourself is the full experience of having lived (even with the awful cards you have been dealt) and (this second part is crucial) of being able to record that experience. You are a writer. (Yes, you are a father, a teacher, an academic, etc. as well.) But you are most decidedly a writer. Experience doesn’t really count for you unless you can record it as well. You have always lived as someone who intends to drink life to the dregs. And what defines your current will to live, to keep living even under these conditions, is your ability to still reflect upon, still record in words, your experiences. As long as you can do that, you are alive. And why would you not want to be alive? No reason at all.Of course, the ongoing relationship with your children is also primary. What is presumptuous here is my speaking for your motives. But, as I said, I thought you might find my reaction something to chew on–while you can ignore it completely if it is off base.I am assuming there is physical fear. Certainly, in your shoes, I would be feeling a lot of physical fear. But what I admire is your mental courage, your determination to be true to your capacities for thought, reflection, for (essentially) consciousness. You are determined to be fully present to your life, to see it straight, and to record what you see. That strikes me as the right way to be in your circumstances–and as tremendously admirable because so hard to do. May the force be with you. And do call on me–as you call on your various friends and family–to do what we can to make you remain true to your hard and admirable choice.With love,John
To which Dustin replied a few hours later: