How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you wanted from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life–
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
- W. Stafford, "You Reading This, Be Ready"
* * *
There are no models, no forms, no myths to live by to order your life, to provide meaning to your life. None. They are gone. The stories remain and it is easy to dip a toe in those waters and feel all shiny and new, but the truth is all that is a self-soothing lie. The myths that bounded the lives of those thousands of years ago lay scattered at your feet, as disconnected from you as the bottom of the ocean.
You are on your own.
You have to write a new story.
* * *
What do you want to remember? What do you want to carry with you wherever you go? Your losses? Your easy victories? The love you share? Adversity overcome? What? It matters how you answer this, for in answering it you prioritize your values, the things you draw meaning from. From those priorities flow your days. Except, for most of us fucked fuckers, we are not conscious of what we carry or why. Conflicting demands eat up our time as we try and sort through which story we will live by, which uniform we'll put on, which form will fit our function. In that maelstrom, we meet with the struggle to make ends meet, love to last, impulse to become discipline, process to become products and we fail and fail and fail and so switch jobs, lovers, attention from one thing to another and none of it, none of it, none of it feels like it belongs to us, to our lives. We soldier on and wonder where a glimpse of peace might be found.
It is because the stories we've been living by no longer work. They died a while ago and we exhume them and reanimate them in film and story and believe they still course and thrum in our veins. It leads to disaster for they were made for a different time, a different place - East or West is immaterial - and they are not of us now.
Except there are traces that remain, remnants of those old stories that persist, questions that have not been answered: how am I to live in the enormity of time? what is the use of a life? why this life and not another? where is the source?
You reading this, be ready, for the answers are at hand, in your hand, and always have been. Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts? It will not, for it cannot. Starting here, right in this room, when you turn around the road will unfold itself for you, but only if you are willing to go it alone, to be responsible for the story you tell by the doings of your life. Absent that responsibility, you are forever trying on the roles and masks and uniforms of others who are long dead. Those were the things they made to fit them in their time. They are beautiful, no doubt, no doubt, but they are not yours.
You have to write this new story. You have the chance to be the ancestor to generations to come who builded up a story, a myth to order time, to reduce to perfect order the spit of time you had to live. In their turn, they'll have to walk away from your work, but that is as it should be, as it must be.
Life is not one and done, but forever renewing and transforming itself. If you are fucked and stuck it is because you are telling a dead story, one that does not suit this time and place. It is easy to see that all stories are one story, that archetypes flow through generations and generations and generations, but they must be adapted, altered, transformed if they are to survive, just as you must be transformed if you are to be what you may yet be.
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now?
* * *
William Stafford wrote that poem 3 days before he died. He wrote another the next day, and a last one the morning of his death. He wrote every day of his life, without exception, for 43 years. Over 9000 poems emerged from that efforts. He was a CO during WWII. These were the things he carried into evening.
The myth you are looking for is in your veins. The freedom you crave, the love you desire, the life you would live is here, right now. When you turn around from this brief interval reading this page, your life will take hold. You just have to live by the light in your head and no other. It may take you 43 years of daily effort to get there, but you'll be home at last in this world.
* * *
Boom, my love. Boom.