A life lived well is never wasted


Lori, LouAnn and Sandy Sue inspired me to read books written by Natalie Goldberg following my share last month.  So I dove into the Long Quiet Highway and came across this passage early in her book.

“Often when you take on the voice of a great writer, speak his or her words aloud, you are taking on the voice of inspiration, you are breathing their breath at the moment of their heightened feelings, that what all writers ultimately do is pass on their breath.”

I paused and reflected on the “great” writers that I have read.  Marilynne Robinson immediately came to mind.  She has the ability to transport me to another place and time – – writing with such grace, such beauty and such humanity.  She’s won literary “hardware” for her three major novels.

  • HousekeepingNominated for the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award for first fiction novel.
  • GileadWinner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and winner of the National Book Circle Critics Award for Fiction.
  • HomeWinner of the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction award.

Soon after I read Goldberg’s thoughts on great writers, I came this excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article shared at Lit Verve  where the writer asks Robinson about Rev. John Ames, a congregational minister in Gilead, Iowa and the main character in her novel Gilead:

“A small-town pastor has no choice but to pursue a theology of daily life — of endless potlucks and coffee shop discussions and late-night prayers in some dark hospital room. Several years ago, in a conversation with Marilynne Robinson, I asked her about such a life. I inquired whether her protagonist, Rev. Ames, wasn’t kind of “stuck” in Gilead, if his intellectual gifts weren’t somewhat wasted in such a small town. Her response: “There isn’t any necessary relation between the scope of one’s mind and where they live. Ames is highly educated. He knows what books to read, he knows what’s going on in the world, and thus is intellectually sophisticated. A life lived well is never wasted no matter what the scale of that life is. He lives toward God. And there is no way of measuring that.”

I found myself re-reading these words and the entire article several times.

And thinking: she did it again.

I was breathing her breath at the moment of her heightened feelings, her inspiration.

She passed along her breath.

And I’m filled with gratitude because of it.



  1. I love the way share, and provide links to, such inspiring stuff – thanks David!


  2. elise mazzetti says:

    I loved Marianne Robinson’s books. You write eloquently about why they had such an impact on me. Good article as well. Thanks…..great way to start the day.


  3. I love the way writers sum up the entire experience in few lines and every time you read those lines they take you to another world and this way you cherish all of its shades one by one. I haven’t read any of her books yet but I would love to.


  4. I loved Gilead, and I’d forgotten all about it until this post.


  5. Oh, that’s really lovely, david! i’ve breathed many another’s inspired breath. and i’ll have to go pick up some new books since i’ve not read either goldberg or robinson. thanx!


  6. I love this visualization … to pass alon our breath via the things we write. Simply profound, deep yet capable of understanding. Great share David. I will remember this always and it will take root and have a place in my mind and therefore my life.


  7. I don’t know Marilynn Robinson, but I sure will soon. Thanks, David.


  8. Looks like I have some catch up reading to do. Thanks for the inspiration.


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