It's like a light surrounds your face
It's like a light surrounds your face
It's like a light surrounds you
What does it mean now?
- Karl Wallinger, "What Does It Mean Now?"
It occurs to me that the various threads woven into this work, into the writing I'd done before yesterday, into the thoughts that animate my life are utterly unoriginal. I crib and copy and quote the work of others. It bounces around inside me like a super ball and I manage, for a few moments to think I have done this, that I have written x, that I created any of this.
It simply isn't true.
I have arrived too late in the game to create anything new. It is a function of being alive now and not 2,000 years ago, or 2,000 years before that.
No, my task - our task - is not to be original, but like the Baal Shem Tov we are to restore the scattered light, the fragments of that original story that lay in pieces all around us. The world is suffused with shards of light, pieces of truth, the sparks of God. The Baal Shem Tov prayed in grass fields releasing the light hidden in blades of grass and gathered that light, re-joined it, and so just that much more was added to the unimaginable whole.
I search in books and music for the same. I listen to the words my friends say, my enemies shout, my lovers whisper and I search in them for more of that light, more that I can use. My work is not to be original, but to connect, to hold the one piece of the puzzle that is absolutely mine - my life - and look for those other pieces that might fit the life I have. In this way every time one piece is added to my own (Viktor Frankl, RL Stevenson, "Sigh No More," George Simmel, Joseph Campbell, Annie Dillard, Philip Glass, etc...) the possibilities for new connections, new ends reaching out for the ties that bind grows exponentially.
The only original act left to any of us is in how we combine, re-combine and add to the one elemental piece in this puzzle - our own lives.
* * *
I have written the same story a thousand times, and will write it again and again in the belief that it adds meaning to my life, purpose to my days and that this work makes me worthy of my suffering. I have failed at many things in this life, but in this I must not fail, for this is the that solitary spark that is hidden inside me. I must keep it alive.
The same is true for you as well.
What I call the fucked life is the life we lead when we lose sight of this spark, this light and believe life is just to die, and if we so believe we die a thousand times in the pursuit of only those ephemeral pleasures that seem so important to our day to day existence. Don't get me wrong - they are. Money, sex, affluence, influence - it is all here for us to partake in as we can, but each only points to another goal to be attained: I will earn this; I will sleep with her; I will control that.
This what is meant by hungry ghosts - no one is satiated.
I am a hack, a profound loser. I have lost most of the gifts this life has showered me with. I am down only to that scattered light. At any moment along the way I could have stopped and tended to this spark, but could not until I had been stripped of all my hubris and conceit.
I am here now and I will begin again.
Frankl and Stevenson and Campbell and the sayings of the Buddha and the sayings of Christ and the music of Beethoven and the smell of my beloved and the sorrow of longing and the fear and anger behind each lie and the color of the sky just before dawn and the mercy of friendship and the wooziness of love and the determination to try again and the ache of death and the foolishness of pride and the taste of tears the taste of blood and solitary lives lived anonymously and the heroism of paying bills and the sermons on Sundays and the indifference of time and the word that hovers over the page waiting to be found all point inward. This is an inward journey - not an external one - and in the end it is solely taken to find that spark, that shard of God and live by that light.
I have had to lose everything this world cares about, that I care about in order to say these things. It didn't have to be this way. I chose it. Through fear and doubt and ego I chose it. This, too, is now part of my story. You don't have to lose everything in order to see the utter beauty, the stunning uniqueness of your life.
The only original act is to live by the light in your head.