Anne Lamott’s latest book is a timely guide to restoring our hope and finding our faith as we wait for a new day to dawn. She shares some ideas for how to get by when the world seems especially dark.
What’s the story behind Dusk, Night, Dawn?
I started writing Dusk, Night, Dawn during the tour for my last book. Everywhere I went, the people in my audiences felt scared and overwhelmed by all the bad news—and this was before COVID-19. So I wanted to share my experiences of going through extremely scary, defeating times without losing my essential isness or my capacity for joy and curiosity.
You got married in 2019, and your attempts to deal with this new relationship dynamic underlie much of Dusk, Night, Dawn. Can you describe some of the ways your marriage affects your outlook on broken relationships and forgiveness?
My husband, Neal, and I have been in quarantine together since right before our one-year anniversary, so things have possibly been a little more insulated than we had been expecting. We’re both pretty easygoing, so that helps a lot, and we both hole up a lot to do our writing, so we have a lot of space apart.
When you’re mostly stuck in a house together and the other person says or does something hurtful, there’s a lot of incentive to work through it. And Neal is (almost) always willing to talk things over. Both of us believe that Earth is Forgiveness School, so we practice on each other. Some days go better than others.
In one chapter, you use the image of Soul Windex. Can you describe Soul Windex and how we use it?
Our vision gets so smudged by all the endless and meaningless data that come at us, and by toxic obsessions, cravings, resentments, etc. So Soul Windex is a new way of paying attention to what is real and of real value, so that we are spritzed awake. Think of it as an energetic equivalent to the fluid you clean your windshield with. It’s usually found in nature or in being of service to those in need.
You write about the tricky concept of sin in this book. Can you define sin? How does your definition of sin differ from the traditional Christian definition?
The origin of the word sin is an archery term for missing the mark. So I don’t see sin so much as drug cartels and porn shops, but rather all the isms—racism, sexism, ageism and so forth.
How do you describe forgiveness?
Forgiveness is when you decide not to hit back—when your heart softens ever so slightly toward someone who has harmed you or someone you love, or your country. It doesn’t mean you have to have lunch with the person, but it usually involves seeing them as having acted badly from a place of feeling damaged and empty, not from evil.
Do you feel hopeful about the future?
Yes, I have so much hope for the future! Our young people are so incredibly passionate about climate change and have access (because of us older people!) to the greatest scientific knowledge that could ever be. I never lose hope in science or in most people’s essential goodness.
"Even though it gets darker and darker, the light will return in the morning. It always has, it always will."
How do we recover our faith in life?
Basically we start where we are; we start where our butts are. We do kind things for others, and we pay more attention to all the beauty and goodness that surround us. We make gratitude lists of everything that blesses us, that gives us feelings of safety and nurture, pleasure and relief. And on some level, I think we decide to keep the faith.
What will readers be surprised to learn about from Dusk, Night, Dawn?
How really hilarious so much of life can be, if you have a couple of best friends; how much of life still works, no matter what a disaster the Earth or a family is; and how much light can be found almost anywhere we look, no matter how dark and scary the world can be.
What’s the significance of the title Dusk, Night, Dawn?
I discovered that twilight means both dusk, the trippy light before evening, and dawn, that mystical light before morning breaks. And I have felt very strongly for the last few years that this is the darkest the world has ever been—but we have come through so much, with the little pilot light inside us still burning, and even though it gets darker and darker, the light will return in the morning. It always has, it always will.
Photo credit: Sam Lamott