Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Nicole Baute’s fiction piece, Run
John: Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Do you agree or disagree? How do you think the narrator of your story would respond to this?
Nicole: I grew up on a farm in Ontario and when we were kids my brothers and I were not allowed to say we were bored—it was against the household rules. Our parents expected us to entertain ourselves by creating, building, asking questions. These days people are largely over-simulated and distracted, and sometimes I worry that humanity is losing its ability to innovate at a time when new ideas and ways of seeing are so desperately needed. I think many people are afraid of their own thoughts and unwilling to engage critically and creatively with the existential threats we face.
Despite the general speed of her life, I think my narrator would ultimately agree. I think she feels a sense of peace when she is finally forced to be still.
The protagonist of this story says, “It takes a lifetime to realize your accomplishments are only things that happened…” Are success and failure both really illusions? And in this case, is there a reason to leave Pascal’s room?
I just spent three years living in India, where life can feel particularly precarious and fleeting. It’s true that many Indians are hungry for success, but there’s also sense of surrendering to the inevitable that permeates the culture, and I think it may have rubbed off on me. Although I definitely don’t believe success and failure are illusions, I’ve come to see my life as smaller and not nearly as significant as I expected, and that has been strangely freeing.
But yes, leave the room! Always leave the room.
To steal from Pema Pema Chödrön, if death is inevitable but the time of death is unknown, what is the most important thing?
To be honest, I have no idea and I don’t think my character knows either. I suppose the worldview underpinning my story is somewhat nihilistic, yet I find something hopeful in the idea that you do not have to make sense of your life—your job is only to live it with your integrity intact (this demands enough of us).
If you could have anything in the world dedicated to you, what would you choose?
A library with a green view.