Tenn: You Can Never Be Too Kind

Tenn and Maureen Stapleton

Tenn via Telephone
New York to Baton Rouge
November, 1982

It is important, of course, to read the great writers; to hear the glorious music; to see the works of art and the artists who create so beautifully in all forms. All of this feeds your soul and your artistic inventory, but I have to also stress how important it is to store up all of your reserves of empathy and strength and courage. You will never have enough--I have stressed that. I mean it. You will never have enough. You can never be too kind or too patient--with yourself or with others, or with the insistent, difficult art to which you have agreed to be tethered for a lifetime.

In my lifetime I have had the occasion to see people in remarkable peril and declivity, and I think we need to make ourselves present in these uncomfortable situations more often, not so that we can be grateful that our minds or our limbs or our imaginations still function, but because it is in these situations that we are all called upon to be fully human, to love and to cosset, to comfort and to amuse. Doing these acts will allow us to grow, and I can't make it any clearer to you than through this phone call that a kind person is a better and stronger artist, because a closed or chilly heart, a soul never examined, cannot share or inspire for any significant period of time.

Let all of our actions--and all of our work--be an invitation to others to be with us, to live with us, to join us.

Every work of art is a form of intercourse. We need everyone to be involved. We need to love and to acknowledge each and every person.

We will fail so often and so openly. We need to take care of those who fail, lift them up, and get back to work--as artists and as humans.

I have been lucky in friendship. I have been lucky in the love of friends. I have been lucky in that I knew to look for a female form to be rescued. I have been lucky in having someone--almost always--to tell my story to. I have been lucky in that I can always, no matter what I do to myself, feel and love and, in whatever way I can manage, care.

Find those people who love through their art. Tell me about them, if I don't know of them already. And keep them close.


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