An interesting piece of aunt-like advice from Martha Gellhorn to Leonard Bernstein. She emphasises the importance of not only finding a nugget of peace within yourself, and the conditions to nurture it, but the fact that maintaining it is a constant endeavour, if not struggle.
I also like the list of things which help her find or re-visit that place of peace. For me, it isn’t solitude or silence, but yes, the country, the walks, reading, and a lack of a timetable. I work, think and recharge best when I see an open stretch of time, in some sense unlimited, even if it’s for a day or a week.
Shall I say some ominous aunt-like words about peace? I think I will. It is a subject that I have really thought and worked on, you know. So: no one besides yourself will ever help you to get it; everyone, even with the best will in the world, will nibble and shred it. You have to fight for it, yourself, and it is perhaps the most essential fight there is. If you haven’t got (and keep clinging to, through every reverse) a hard kernel of your own private peace, maybe no bigger than a pea, you cannot be, do or give any real thing. Practically, I find it works like this: one learns what conditions one needs, for oneself, to bring back or foster one’s interior nugget of certainty and calm and happiness. For me, it’s absolute solitude and silence, in the country; long walks, no timetable of any kind, no telephone, no mail, no newspapers. Long mooning walks, reading, sleeping a great deal.
Source: Martha Gellhorn, letter to Leonard Bernstein, 14 January 1959, in Nigel Simeone ed., The Leonard Bernstein Letters (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 411
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