58 years ago today William Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in literature. In his acceptance speech—which no one understood until they read it the next day in the paper because he was too far from the microphone—Faulkner said that “the basest of all things is to be afraid.” In a Dharma Talk we are preparing for the next issue of Tricycle, Zen teacher Ezra Bayda stresses the same point: He writes that fear “is at the root of all conflict, underlying much of our sorrow” and offers guidance about how to practice with it. Keep an eye out for the Spring 09 issue of the magazine (out in February)—not only will it have this teaching from Bayda but it will also feature a special Zen practice section. Here’s a longer quote from Faulkner’s speech (to read more about it and about how his wife and daughter manipulated his alcoholism in order to make Faulkner go to Stockholm, check out today’s Writer’s Almanac):
The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.