Category Archives: writing

Ursula K. Le Guin Passes the Torch

An author leaves us the legacy of our humanity.

The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969. Often misattributed to Hemingway.

Leaving the library with the crispness of winter in the air this last week, I pondered the noisy freight express that pushes us, collectively, as a society, into the time-clock chores that eclipse our existence.

Being so “busy”, I wondered if we could afford to take the time to savor the lives of those who offer us the opportunity to participate in the fullness and spaciousness of being here.

Last night, I got an answer to my question when I heard that Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away. Here was an author, poet, translator, essayist, that I cherished, who has consistently inspired me to step off the conveyor belt.  Ursula was as candidly human, as she was a creator of worlds and encouraged us to honestly engage in life.

In 1968, Ursula originated a wizarding school, almost three decades before Harry Potter went to Hogwarts. But this daughter of anthropologists, steered the genre of fantasy and science fiction past the borders of literature into an open exploration of our humanity.

Throughout her novels, collections of poetry, children’s and Young Adult books, essays and translation of the Tao te Ching, there is a subtlety and finesse that upholds a balance. Her feminism, while strong and consistently well spoken, does not overshadow her humanitarianism. Her writing goes beyond ‘isms’, into a space where we may, “feel that progress is less important than presence.”

Just as the old Jewish adage states that “a good question is worth five good answers”, Ursula K. Le Guin’s writing asks us to ponder our lives. We are invited to consider our need to cling to such things as, hierarchy, gender roles, ambition, overstimulation, rage, youth, status, constant growth, constant noise, and control over everything.  Here is someone whose journey stands as a torch we can take up to venture into the unknown where our lives beckon.

I find it significant that she lived to be 88, the number of keys on a piano-forte. Ursula was like a beautiful instrument, with full dynamic range. The melodies she offered ring out to us as keys to unlock our cages of certainty.

This past year, Mrs. Le Guin had been blogging, active on Twitter and just published a new collection of essays called, No Time to Spare, Thinking About What Matters. (Did I mention she was 88?) I checked this book out from the library and plan on buying the other book she published last year, Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books. Instead of buying it online, because it is more convenient and less, “time consuming,” I will honor her memory by walking into a bookstore, revel in the experience, and savor some human interaction.