Anaïs Nin on the Importance of Delving Into the Unknown
We need more adventurers in life, less people who are afraid of the unknown.
There are truths and lies that are hard to articulate. Fortunately, literature has made-up for this lack of the right words to express them, but overall, literature has helped the world to rest importance to this truth/lie dichotomy, giving way to the creation of the most brilliant stories.
In her diaries, Anaïs Nin left us an extraordinary record of an individual past with universal value: hers. Her first diary began as a letter addressed to her father, written aboard a ship that took her, along with her family, to live in the United States. This letter was never sent for fear that it wouldn’t arrive at its destination, and yet the missive marked the start of a new habit for Nin––to write about everything, all the time.
Many writers, such as Henry Miller, claim that Nin’s diaries are her true masterpiece. Actually, many of her works began inside the pages of this diaries that she took everywhere with her as faithful confidents. It is here where we have the imprint of her different versions of herself: the woman abandoned by her father, the thinker who wouldn’t stop questioning what it meant to be a woman, or the social philosopher who searched for herself through the relationships she had with others, including Miller himself, Otto Rank, Gore Vidal or Antonin Artaud.
Nin’s diaries contain a series of meditations on character, paternity and even personal responsibility. But probably one of the most interesting parts of her multi-volume diary comes from Volume Five (1947-1955), which contains the author’s experiences in Mexico, California, New York, and Paris, her psychoanalysis, and her experiment with LSD, alongside a memorable reflection on the feared unconscious and the need to acknowledge an artist’s commitment to sincerity.
In the unconscious lies not only man’s demons (as we feared), the primitive, the instinctual, the uncontrollable forces of nature, but also this creative, expanded force which connects with the universe, found in such great figures as Beethoven, Einstein, in painters and writers of value.
Nin herself never compromised her artistic sincerity. In this volume she states that fearful people –– those afraid of the unknown –– are the most fragile and deeply insecure people of all. Hostility towards what is different could not, in her opinion, be characteristic of innovation, whether this is felt by an artist, a scientist, or anybody at all. “We need adventurers in the world”, she says. She also describes how we often tend to abandon our own pursue of interests in favor of stupid social conventions. In this sense it is important to remember her philosophy and maybe delve into her ever-so-brave diaries as a source of inspiration that has the power to prompt us to facing the unknown –– to exchange bravery for intellectual and emotional richness that otherwise could remain hidden for all our lives.
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