|The mess I make.|
- Joseph Campbell
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I have been at work writing a book. Actually, I have several projects underway, but one of them is based on this blog and the things I've encountered along the way and as I've been adding pages and editing and sorting and culling I find the happiest of circumstances: my writing is of a very different kind from anything I have heard about.
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Too often what fucks us has nothing to do with us. It is simply the expectations of others. Expectations we adopt because we want to please, be accepted. Look, there is nothing wrong with wanting to please or be accepted. The problem is most of our attempts to please are servile, our desire to be accepted becomes a question of conformity. If you want to please someone, they must be willing to be pleased by what you bring; their acceptance must come in recognition of what is uniquely yours. Resisting the inertia of general blandishments and expected expectations is the central task of anyone who wants to unfuck their life.
But we're often out of practice, or have precious little experience resisting those expectations and placing a primacy on what is authentically our own. This is where the fuckedness takes up residence. We think if we could only be like the others, if we could just get the job and the house and the spouse, well, isn't that the good life? Yeah, sure it is, but not if you fall to it by default. The basic divide between a fucked life and an unfucked life is the gulf between action and inaction, between intention and good enough, between being a verb and a noun.
One moves. The other doesn't.
And there's this as well, any life can be a creative, active life. Any way of living can be creative and active if you choose that life consciously, from the well of your desire. Anything less is a fucked life. Cenobites can be unfucked and free and world travelers fucked. It isn't the outward expression of a life that is determinative, but the inward choices, understandings and resolutions that land you on one side of the fucked line or the other. How you express those choices in the world matters less than having made them. Honest.
But this is an inside-out proposition.
Once you look within, once you recognize your true and essential self, your true nature, the next step is always to give it away. Love is never self-directed. It is an offering to another, to others, to causes larger than your own concerns. Once you know who you are, what your gifts are, what your reasons are, once you have looked inward you cannot help but turn your attention outside of yourself.
Been this way for eons.
Joseph Campbell named it the Hero's Journey: the call to adventure (knowing yourself), leaving conformity behind, traveling to a spiritual realm, and then coming back to give away what's been learned. Short change any step on the journey and the journey remains incomplete.
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Years ago I attended Columbia College Chicago and earned an MFA in Fiction Writing. It always cracks me up because it wasn't my fiction that carried me through. One day I was at lunch with my mentor, John Schultz, the former Chair of the Fiction Department and developer of the Story Workshop® approach to writing. He'd seen a lot of my fiction and had recently read some non-fiction I had started to produce that was shockingly better than the fiction. In between sips of his ever present cup of green tea he said to me, "It's hell when you find your voice," and he laughed and laughed. I did too.
It is hell when you find your voice because now you have to live by it or know you died a coward.
It is hell when you find your voice because all illusion is stripped from you: you are this not that.
It is hell when you find your voice because you now stand alone–no more hiding behind potential.
It is hell when you find your voice because it takes courage to sound like you and not someone else.
It is hell when you find your voice because now you know the true value and nature of your life and if you don't live it, no one else will.
I did alright for a while. I followed my voice. I grew into it. Then I fucked it up and lost track of it. For a long while. And then as I was adding pages and editing and sorting and culling I found the happiest of circumstances: my writing is of a very different kind from anything I have heard about.
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