Monday, April 23, 2012
I Do What
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 6, 22.
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Last night, I started reading a copy of Calvino's Invisible Cities that I'd bought second hand some time a go and had never gotten around to (I sold my original copy years ago with most of my library to raise some money. I sometimes think I'll run into one or two of them again as I go about re-building what I'd decimated.) On the inside of the back cover, written in a forceful hand in blue ink I found this:
I am broken at last – not by anyone but me. Broken and free at last to do the living on my terms: not by circumstance or anyone else's opinion on how I should live.
There was no other note written in the book, no marginalia about Marco Polo and the Great Khan, or the fact that all the cities in Calvino's book are all given women's names. Nothing but this stark statement about being broken and free.
It reminded me of Aurelius. (Most things do.)
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I wondered about the anonymous note writer. He, the handwriting is decidedly male, found it necessary to write this note, to place it on a piece of paper, on, perhaps, the nearest thing he could write on - the urgency of it still visible in the indentation his writing made on the soft, thin paper stock of the cover. Why would he need to write it down? If his statement was true, surely he would remember it without the aid of a note written on the inside of a paperback book. Did he write the note there and leave it at that, or did he re-write it elsewhere, expand on it. He was reading Calvino, so words meant something to him. But more than these questions (I, too, will write on anything at hand and often fill the books I'm reading with notes and story starts and exclamations such this) was the shock of recognition.
The dude was writing about me.
He was writing about you, too.
If you are diligent, or lucky, if you persevere to the point destruction, if you have been held captive by other's plans, by your own fears, if you have covered your body in the wounds you have received along the way - their scarring thick and heavy, if you have allowed the authority for your life to drift from your hands in the name of making money, or accepting an offer of love in exchange for your acquiescence, if you have become proud of the limits you've imposed on yourself the most valuable thing that can happen to you is to be broken.
Not like a horse, but a vase.
Whatever shape you've contorted your life into through fear, through false pride, through false suffering, through indecision, through the inability to choose this over that, it is not the shape you would have given yourself, but instead is the one you fashioned out other's expectations - their fears, their inability to cope with life, their ignorance abut what life is for.
Listen, listen, life is not for making money, or even falling in love, nor is it to find Jesus or Buddha or Ganesha. Life is to be experienced as you are. The privilege of a lifetime is to live it.
And if you've been fucked, you need to have that shit broken.
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I do what is mine to do. Your purpose in this world is to discover your work and then with your whole heart give yourself over to it. This is the gift you give others: a soul engaged.
The rest doesn't disturb me. You will either encounter other's fully engaged in living and so receive their gifts, or you will find the blind, the stumbling, the fucked. Either way you cannot live their lives for them. Let go of trying to do so. Live. Your example will be enough for anyone else chooses to see.
The rest is inanimate, or has no logos or it wanders at random and has lost the road. Logos is meaning and lives can be lived without meaning, without purpose. It wanders at random and has lost the road. This you know too well. Don't waste your time yelling at the deaf. Don't waste your breath. Don't waste your heart. Don't blister your heels running in the dark. If it is dead, it beyond reach and the living are sometime more dead than a corpse.
I am broken at last - not by anyone but me. Being broken by circumstance is being fucked. Being broken, at last, by your own hand is freedom from the past. When there is no pride left in being fucked, you are free to experience your life: broken and free at last to do the living on your own terms.
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One last thing. Do not mistake what I say as an excuse to be self-indulgent, self-important, to ignore others (I'm not ignoring you, right?). When you get to the point where you have been broken, where you have discovered your work - regardless of your circumstance - and you have given yourself over to that work, immersed yourself in it, the product of that effort is always facing outward. Your inward work becomes an outward expression and that and that and that is the gift of knowing your name.
One more last thing: the metaphor of being broken is just that: a metaphor. You, the essential you is not broken. You are fine. What needs shattering is the shell of other's expectations and opinions that have closed you off from your life. Break that and you'll see you are unbroken.
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