Women With Something To Say: Sarah Hall

Women With Something To Say: Sarah Hall

Charlotte Prichard, 24 November 2013

Sometimes, it just feels like the world is out to get you. Luckily, Faber author Sarah Hall reveals that things aren't quite how they seem in her reassuring piece, "The Universe Is Benign." We've long been fans of her novel, The Electric Michelangelo, so we're delighted to have her take over our blog as part of our Women With Something To Say series: The Universe Is Benign isn’t exactly my mantra, but it is a phrase that has come to mean something important over the years. I wouldn’t call myself an optimist. Others around me - loved ones and friends - are far more naturally optimistic than I am. In fact, I probably have a rather pessimistic streak, verging on the catastrophic from time to time. It’s a feature no doubt aggravated by being a writer. To imagine drama and darkness, one must imagine what problems and difficulties characters face, even if they do eventually overcome them. It’s a fairly grim business. The phrase first occurred to me when I was going through a rough patch myself. I was living in a place I didn’t especially like and was at the tail end of a relationship. To cheer myself I stuck a postcard up on the bathroom mirror, which was of a painting of aurora borealis - the northern lights - by a Canadian artist. The picture was of beautiful green drifts of light in the night sky above mountains. I looked at it every day. Something about the picture was very reassuring - the idea that nature could produce something I found hopeful, encouraging and edifying. Every time I looked at it the same thought occurred to me: the universe is benign. Soon things had improved considerably, or perhaps I was just recognising the positives – it’s hard to untangle cause and effect. I’m lacking any formal religious belief but I’m very interested in human existence and our search for meaning. We might not be able to control everything as we’d often like to, certainly not the immense structures of the universe, never mind our own personal choreographies, and life can consequently feel rather malignant. But we do have a tremendous capacity to hope, to understand that while there may not be an inherently good or bad cosmic or spiritual scheme, we do have the power to interpret things well or ill, and in so doing help raise our spirits, or dash them. Which leaves me wondering whether optimism is not simply tending towards light, but wanting to tend towards light. For all my dark thoughts and imaginings, professional and personal, I want to tend that way. This phrase is just an indication, or a reminder, of that. Perhaps I am an optimist after all! Thanks, Sarah! We'll be sure to take a deep breath before we think pessimistically again! Now it's up to you, Tatty fans! Share your thoughts on Sarah's piece with us in the comments below and tweet us using the hashtag #WWSTS! Don’t forget, we’re giving you 20% off your very own bespoke Speech Bubble Necklace. Whatever it is you want to say, design your personalised piece online now.
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