Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Muse Don't

The muse don't care what chords you use
The time to burn is yours to choose

- Rivulets, "Ride on, Molina"

* * *

Some things won't leave me alone. This song is one of them.

* * *

The universe doesn't care about your worry. You do, but it doesn't. The whirling, spinning, expanding math of the universe doesn't care about your worry, your hesitation, your sense that things have to be just so before beginning. It doesn't care about redemption or remorse or reinvention. The muse don't care what chords you use, only that you play. The idea that we have to be right, correct, perfect, spot on, worthy is utter bullshit. That thought does more to stymie, stifle and cut you off from the flow of that spinning, unwieldy math than anything else. Life feeds on life. Motion, motion. The more you do, the more is done, right? Arguing with yourself that because your life, the art of your life is mottled, ragged around the edges, sore to the center, not completely formed and you, therefore, are an imperfect vessel misses the point entirely: you are formed in the floods and waterspouts of attempt, essay, dare, uncertainty.

The task each has set before them is to remain willing to move, to act while all is uncertain, to leave security for the dawning next, to get started, to start a fire with nothing left to burn. 

The muse don't care what chord you use.

* * *

As you stand, so you hold within you the possibility of entering into the stream of the mad math, the burgeoning sense of the new, the birthcry of what happens next. It is within you to engage it, to run to the space just ahead of you, outside of your well-worn path and be struck dumb by what you find there: such is the beauty of such daring. No ease, no promises of peace, no money to be made, no pats on the back, no love save for the love of belonging to the world and it to you and seeing, seeing, seeing it as a god might see it, as God might see it, as you, the god within you sees it. 

In dire times, when institutions are failing, our patterns failing, the cure is not to cling to the past, but play the future into being. It is entirely within your capability to form the world, to bend the math, to bring about a life you'd put your name to and so alter the arc of the spinning math for others, who then are dared to do their part as well. Circling back, retrograde dreaming keeps you stuck, keeps you trapped, cedes your freedom to choose to choices already made. Do not wait on moments, do not tend to ceremony. No time will ever ripe.

Of the river's secrets, however, today he saw only one that seized his soul: This water ran on and on, it always ran and yet it always was there, was always and ever the same and yet at every moment new!

* * *

We believe the gods fussy, jealous, hard to please because we are fussy and hard to please. But the flowing math is not anthropomorphic. It is a flowing fire and it seeks fuel. You, my love, are that fuel. The doings of your days are the straw for the fire. This is no bad thing. It allows you a hand in the arc of the math, the river's flow. What you say and do here and now will set the stage for what happens next. What will you have that be? If you stay where promises can be kept just know you've stood on the shore. Is that the inheritance you meant to leave? There is time. There is time. If you can read this there is time for you to enter the stream, to be part of the flow, and even now, even now, even now after all you've lost, suffered or feared, after all of that - whatsoever it may be - you can still add your weight to what happens next. The specifics of your life are simply what brought you here.

The muse don't care what chords you use.

* * *

I wish you well.

_________

Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Cannot Mend

You cannot mend the chromosome, quell the earthquake, or stanch the flood. You cannot atone for dead tyrants' murders, and you alone cannot stop living tyrants.

- Annie Dillard, For The Time Being

* * *

The strength of our weakness is without end.

* * *

We exist in an agreed upon space. All that has been determined as good and meet has been determined long before you arrived. We rise into forms predicated on such agreements. Our ideas about self, marriage, community, work, faith, aspiration, desire are agreements we enter into. It is here we search for, discover or build meaning into our lives.  We, by every decision made or unmade, accumulate by degrees, the life we are now living.  To be an outsider, a rebel, a non-conformist is simply a function of the agreed upon space. It helps define the norm.

This is where the limits of our will meet the vastness of proscribed forms: this far and no further. You cannot mend the chromosome, quell the earthquake or change, by one iota, the forms of religion, politics or money. You are but one in a sea of ones who cannot agree that the sea even exists. What are you going to do? 

W. H. Auden once said, "Poetry makes nothing happen." He's right. It, too, is one of those proscribed forms that very few now bother with. Yet, I'll argue that it is poetry, or something very close to it that does not yet have a name, that makes everything happen. Poetry is pattern, sound, and seeing. Done with some sensitivity to those three things it mirrors the experience of cresting a hill. While you are walking, or hiking, the hill looms in front of you, occupying most everything you see. In those last steps as the hill lowers itself under your feet, what had been unseen now reveals itself and you stand on the edge of the new.

This sensation of emerging into the world, or having it reveal itself to you, is the synapse of creation. What hadn't existed a moment before was now present, a new connection forged between you and the world as it is, not as you've presumed it to be. The key to this revelation are those steps, those acts undertaken to find and meet the world as it reveals itself. The world where you know what happens next, the world of proscription and damnation, of rewards for compliance is the wasteland, the land of the dead who just don't know it yet: the tyrant's schoolyard. The wasteland is where you are trapped by your job, your obligations, where you seethe in your inability to change your circumstances. It is where you die each day instead of once and for all.

The cure, if there is one, is something like poetry. It is pattern - both obvious and latent (ten fingers, ten toes, the slalom curves footsteps make on unmarked paths, Fibonacci, atomic numbers, slant rhymes, breath) - interacting with sight and sound that draws you forward, carries you forward, draws you on to the emergent, unknown territory between what you've experienced and what happens next. Sitting back births the same thing over and over again. This is why you are trapped, stuck, lost. It takes courage, the courage of a poet, to crest the hill in front of you and find the world you haven't been able to imagine.

The problems we face, as a species, are vast and overwhelming. You cannot stanch the coming flood. You can, however, create a way of being in the world, as it is, not as your fantasy wishes or your pastor tells you, that can forge the connection to the next step, and then the next step and the one after that. It is always the same step, but you must take it for nothing can happen until you do. 

Don't worry about looking foolish or failing. That is the judgment of others and of little use. Those worries are part of the closed loop of the wasteland. Take a step, and another. A world you did not know existed will come into view. To walk like this is poetry itself.  To walk like this is to join life's inherent, creative pulse for what comes next.

* * *

The poet Christian Wiman wrote: 

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shapes exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows.
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Dark Night

The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost and all seems darkness, then comes new life and all that is needed.

- Joseph Campbell

* * *

We are in the dark night as a nation. We have reached the same nadir as Reconstruction. The forces of racism, misogyny, homophobia and violence have taken a majority of those who voted. What comes next is terrifying if you believe in a liberal democracy, if you care about a warming planet, if you are trying to raise children to be kinder than you were. Make no mistake, millions are celebrating the return to white, male hegemony. The flirtation with a post-racial America is long dead. It wasn't simply rural whites, it was across the board: educated or not. It was fear made manifest: fear they no longer mattered if a black life mattered, fear of global others who took their jobs, fear that the mythology they were born into no longer fit the world. It no longer fits the world, but they could not change, so they sought to destroy what had changed around them, passed them by.

This has nothing to do with free trade or immigration or any of the excuses made to paper over the unalterable truth: the long dominance of white males over national life is coming to an end and they don't know what to do except re-trench, destroy and lash out at the change that will consume them anyway. They are fucked not because same sex couple can marry, but because they have lost the ability to change, to evolve, and emerge as something other than what they were born into.

I do not pity then. I loathe them for what they have done. This action contains the potential not simply to destroy American ideals of civic responsibility and equality before the law, it threatens the planet. The men who surround the next President are vile, corrupt, angry, lecherous men. I do not overstate the matter when I say, we may not survive.

I loathe the stupidity.
I loathe the sense of spoiled entitlement.
I loathe the smug satisfaction of promises to upend our laws into vehicles of vengeance.
I loathe the willful blindness to what can happen next.

These are no longer ordinary times with ordinary political disagreements. We now live in a authoritarian state that must be resisted.

* * *

For six years, seven years, I have written here about the trials of the individual to find his or her name, to come to a place past the the fear and mistakes and inequity where one could stand, could be who they were complete - no part left out.

I hope you were listening, because things have changed with this election.

It is easy to point to figures like Dr. King, or Susan B. Anthony, or Cesar Chavez and say you're just an ordinary person, there's nothing brave or special about you. It takes a figurehead to lead. But that is exactly wrong. First, each of them had people who were willing to be beaten, jailed and killed to serve the cause of justice. You and I are foot soldiers here. But more importantly, if you have gleaned anything from these writings you know it is incumbent upon you to act from the truth you know. You don't have to lead a march, or be jailed. You simply stand against racism in your day to day life. You stand against misogyny in your day to day life. You act out of a sense of shared destiny rather than self-interest. If you have children to raise you must model this or they will take on what is being modeled around them by those in power. Are your children to be bullies? Your daughters to be objects of male violence and gratification? Your sons perpetrators of these crimes?

Whatever life you imagined for yourself has now been altered by these facts on the ground. As Campbell says, you have to let go of the life you planned for the one waiting for you.

* * *

I woke this morning after a night of little sleep and suffocating dread. Years ago I berated an older gentleman for the shit world he'd left behind: the work of his generation the atomic age and ecological destruction. This morning I realized I was of the generation that allowed this horror to come to pass. Not by the way I voted, but by the way I lived: never working for anything other than my ego (at first) and then my kids. But don't be fooled by that last clause. What I did for my kids was necessary, but missed the mark. My spirit should have been broader, more generous, more willing to fight for an inclusive world. I could have been a better example of how to fight for what is just. Instead, I circled the wagons, got us through and could only think about how to pay my fucking bills. I didn't do them wrong. I just didn't make clear the larger circles.

And now we stand on a precipice. If you think I am over-exaggerating, then fuck off. You've learned nothing here and you are beyond my care.

But if you recognize that the life you have lived, that you assumed would be there has suddenly shifted under your feet with this hideous expression of male impotence, then I have something for you. What was true once remains true now: The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost and all seems darkness, then comes new life and all that is needed.

A fight has been joined while you slept. Your old life has ended whether you wanted it to or not. You are now being called out of yourself to act from the truth you know in your bones: you are not alone. It is frightening to stand in the open, but you are not alone. It is difficult to resist racism, to call out misogyny, but you are not alone. It is dangerous to disagree, but you are not alone. What you need is at hand and it is enough to begin. The courage you are uncertain of is already in you. 

For people who think like this, we face hard times. Do not be afraid. You are not alone and together there is hope. I have no idea what shape any of this will take, my only promise is that I will not relent, I will not give up, I will not give in, I will serve and give by whatever gifts I possess and the ones I'll need to acquire along the way. Life demands life. It insists on your full measure. I promise you mine.

* * *

Noli timere, my friends. Noli timere.

__________

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I'm Gonna Take

I'm gonna take that fear and wear it like a crown.

- Rebekka Karijord, Wear It Like a Crown

* * *

The Japanese phrase "wabi sabi" roughly translated means a lonely freedom, a solitary melancholy, a stoic acceptance of change, the ability to hold life with an open palm. It is the source of haiku. It can become precious, self-referential in unskilled hands. The best haiku is an explosion outward: revealing the sum of life in the particular. But outside and beyond haiku, past poetry itself, I am certain that wabi sabi is something altogether different. It is a type of fearlessness. Neither proud nor foolish, it is a courage to persist, to journey on regardless of hardship, equity or justice. As such it is fiercely subversive. It does not require being alone, but draws its strength from the ability to be alone, to choose for oneself how one will encounter the road, to know, just as haiku knows, that the individual, the specific, the momentary is eternal and encounters the universal by the very nature of its arc, that the arc of one's life is the very nature of eternity. We are eternal while we last. By our individual names we contain multitudes. 

All of this may or may not be true to you. It may or may not strike you as a type of poetry. What cannot be dismissed is that such things as wabi sabi and haiku and the arc of our days insist upon facing our fears (loss, money, love, adequacy, our physical selves, death, illness) and make our way not in spite of them, but because of them.

This is great poetry to do so.

* * *

We ebb and flow. We ascend and decline. We run on and we run on fumes. We burn days like a spendthrift. We count them like a miser. We want to make the good times last and the bad times to disappear. We want the bills paid and bit more. We desire love and touch. We get drunk and don't mind the hangovers (for a while), then, then, then, then, then, then, then, something shifts. We learn hunger, dis-satisfaction. We notice calendars. Our children seem ungrateful. Our partners unfaithful. Everyone is hungry though their bellies are full.

Sick on my journey
Now only my dreams
Wander the empty fields

We get sick on the journey. What we began with hope or enthusiasm, or at least the sense that we'd find our place, is detoured through losses and fears. We stumble over roots. We fear the dark. We drink too much, distrust too much, withdraw by degrees and bitterness comes easily. This is the sick part of the journey. Wabi sabi tells me I am free of constraints, tells me I am free to meet nature: my nature, God's nature, the natural world of leaf and worm and cycles and rain and snow and its effect on each and all. Bitterness is the opposite of freedom. The narrow mind the narrow gate while the world is free and open. It is refusal because it is hard or unwanted. But that is of no matter. What matters is your willingness to move past the sickness of wanting what you don't have and encountering the world as it is, where you take the fear and wear it like a crown.

This is the single most subversive act available to any of us: to journey on.

When you cease trying to box life into a shape you approve of, life quits resisting you. When you accept your fears, the amor fati Nietzsche called for,  the love of one's fate, when you are able to name the fear and not run from it, but defuse its power by wearing it, by taking it by the hand showing it the world before you, you become free, a solitary being at home in the world. But to be clear: you, as a single being, in this time and place, are, of course and by needs be the reflection of all that is not you. You are all beings, all times, all distances, all suffering, all joys, all that has been experienced. Your eyes are the eyes of God, and if God is too much, then your eyes are how I will see.

A wild sea
And arching to Sado Island
the Milky Way

* * *

We need poetry for the road. We need poetry to make it through the sickness that tells us we're wrong, that we've been wrong for some time. We need poetry like graffiti to let us know others have made their way. We need their stories so we can venture our own. If one can transform sickness and fear, then all can. It is how any of this works.

The old dog
Sleeps heavily–
A lifetime of rabbits

* * *

I wish you well.

__________



Monday, October 24, 2016

One Paradox However

One paradox, however, must be accepted and this is that it is necessary to continually attempt the seemingly impossible.

- Hermann Hesse, Journey to the East

* * *

I will tell you this: the impossible exists solely to draw you into your name.

* * *

Most people operate under the assumption that life will recognize and reward their effort: straight A's, cum laude, staying late, above and beyond, the extra mile, the Rosary prayed, the candles lit, the donation made. And it is true enough that these things tend to be traded for certain comforts - both material and spiritual. But, I'll argue it is none of that, but is, instead, a sort of bribe, a pre-emptive payment to a protection racket. Those good things, when understood as a metaphysical quid pro quo, lose all their goodness and leave you unarmed, unprepared for the real task in front of you: to attempt the seemingly impossible.

Job was a good man who prayed the right prayers, lived according to the rules and his life was destroyed on a whim by a capricious god to prove a point. His fortune was lost. His children were killed. He reputation covered in ash. When he dared to complain he was met with the question: did you make Leviathan? When he begged forgiveness for daring to cry out in his pain his fortune was restored, new children were given to him and his happiness and equilibrium were re-established. It is an odd and affecting story, but Job did nothing to earn his loss or his restoration. He was a spectator to his life.

Did you make Leviathan?

No. I've made something more remarkable. I've made my way year by year, month by month, day by day, thought by thought.

* * *

Each has the tasks set before them. Each set of tasks is utterly unique to the life that confronts them. Each must answer or run away as the case may be. Each is solely responsible for the answer they give or withhold. None of this touches on the impossible. It is only a statement of existential fact: you exist and so you must respond to the call of that existence - whatever it may be. The impossible is woven into your life, whether you acknowledge it or wish it there. The impossible is the obstacle before you. It has no name save for the one you give it: health, violence, economics, psyche, emotion, faith, etc. It can be understood as a tormentor. It can also be seen as a doorway. What it is not is absolute, for what was impossible changes by your response to it. Things expand and contract according to its contact with you. And where you set out for is never where you land.

What to do?

Attempt the seemingly impossible again and again.

It is a false assumption to believe that overcoming an obstacle removes all obstacles - or that you'd want them removed anyway. Certainly, violence, poverty, illness are not things to want to relive, relitigate. But what we want and what we get are different things and if your life presents you with these hardships then that is what your life will be spent answering. What is just or fair has little to do with it. By insisting that life comport itself to an ideal state you are robbed of the experience of attempting the seemingly impossible. It is there, in those attempts, year by year, month by month, day by day, though by thought, that you wind up becoming who you are. And by doing so you alter, by degrees, what is possible/impossible for others. The personal, the private, the unique, the individual is transformed into something public, social, universal.

We are as waves. One after the other altering the direction and flow of the next, being altered by them in turn and so move on to the next and the next and the next.

The idea that you can pay your way out of confronting trial by praying just so, and achieving these grades, and following the rules laid down by long habit is doomed to upend you when you come to recognize the task that awaits. Yet, those prayers, those grades and even those rules are what you will have at hand to work with. You may need to fashion other tools, but if you have lived so, then these will be your first choice as they are at hand. Again, it doesn't matter where you begin, or what tools you have at the start, or what the nature of the impossible is for you. It only matters in its specifics: this task and not that task. Everything depends on your willingness to engage it, to try. No one gets it right, but we're all supposed to try.

* * *

One more thing: this in no way suggests that anything we do is futile. Quite the opposite. The impossible is slayed and re-defined with every step you take. Every step. Every thought. Every gesture. Everything. Nothing is wasted. It is wildly efficient for as long as you draw breath you hold within you the possibility of overcoming the obstacle before you. Not a final obstacle - there is no such thing, just the one before you. It adds ballast to the wave, roots it deep below the surface where the true tides are made, where distant ocean engines run their course: informing each crest and trough on the surface of the water.

You are the impossible made manifest, my love. It is only right that you extend such miracles regardless of your trial.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Friday, September 23, 2016

Irony Is A

Irony is a hedge, an insurance policy against further affliction. It erects boundaries that we hope will protect us from the world by forbidding it access to us. Or, differently put, we double the world, creating a safe, fictional version atop the real one–whether in our heads or on the Internet. We believe that interacting with this fictional copy of the world will save us from both pain and boredom.
     But instead, once the distinction between fiction and reality breaks down, as it always does, we end up rewrapping the proverbial sofa in a new layer of plastic. And on and on and on we go, wrapping and rewrapping our lives and everything within them in increasingly more futile layers of protective covering, all the while knowing that the last one failed to protect us even more than the one before. Irony is an asymptomatic death march into nihilism, one that legitimately claims it averts futility by never quite getting there.

- Ian Bogost, Play Anything

* * *

     Our ages have evolved. We have moved from the Holocene (the interglacial period that birthed us as a species and encompasses the whole of our history) to the Anthropocene where the impacts of that history, especially since the Industrial Revolution, are destroying our ability to sustain ourselves and myriad other life forms on the warming blue marble we call home. With this move from history to the effects of history we have also moved from paranoia to irony as the singular means of confronting reality. Paranoia is the watchword of politics, of nation building, of enemies of the state, enemies of the church. Paranoia exerts itself in the tribalism of opposite pairs: us/them, black/white, capitalist/socialist, Irish Catholics/Irish Protestants, Republicans/Democrats, north/south, ad nauseum. It is the product of believing in acquisition, conquest, control, as if a final good could be reached once and for all to enshrine the winning team's history (to be subsequently erased by the next set of winners). But even the most full-throated endorsers of the way it's been know the chain has slipped. We swim in new, warmer waters: the bill due on hundreds of years of extraction and conquest.

Enter irony.

Irony is the arm's length, the refusal to be sincere, the smug appraisal and the snark driven commentary. Irony withholds itself, holds itself above the fray, outside the toil and moil of securing a livelihood, a shelter, a way to try and stem the tide of rising tides. Irony doesn't lift a finger; it is clever, self-satisfied, the smartest guy in the room able to riff on all that is wrong or unworthy, but incapable of anything more. To do more, to do something would be to betray the distance created by irony, that carefully curated distance broadcast on every social media platform that both begs for attention and dismisses said attention as folly. Irony numbs us to reality. It takes the actual and places it on a shelf, behind glass, where it can do us no harm. Except the seas still rise and they care nothing about shelves or glass or how many followers you have on Instagram or how clever you are or how sad you are that you were born too late to enjoy the days when no one cared about who or what has been lost or the simpering namaste whispered to one's self as a panacea for sins. Irony is always self-centered, narcissistic and cruel. It is the nadir of the chant to "mindfulness."

* * *

Bogost quotes Oliver Burkeman, who works from a quote from Alan Watts:

"When we feel insecurity, we are really feeling the wish for our own permanence. "We do not actually understand that there is no security," writes Watts, "until we realize that this 'I' does not exist."

And as Burkeman also divines, mistaking the world for our world is another name for irony. Thinking of ourselves as centered bodies drawing meaning and contentment towards ourselves like gravity to planetary bodies, bodies that deserve something from everything. But our refusal to relinquish faith in the "I" that does not exist, says Burkeman,

...explains in the most complete sense why our efforts to find happiness are so frequently sabotaged by 'ironic' effects, delivering the exact opposite of what we set out to gain. All positive thinking, all goal writing and visualizing and looking on the bright side, all trying to make things go our way, as opposed to some other way, is rooted in an assumption about the separateness of "us" and those "things." But on closer inspection this assumption collapses.

* * *

Which is to say that the central construct of human life as played out over millennia, namely that we human beings are of a higher order, closer to God, chosen by God for dominion over the things of the planet, that we are central, Ptolemaic, the heavens spinning around us, serving us as we serve as overseers is the defining assumption of history: conquest has its rationale. And now, with no more territory to claim, no more gold to mine, no more room to move (save for the last strips of rain forest), the effort to control the terms of our willingness to meet the world has moved inward. The self-help section is larger than the history section at Barnes and Noble. It is all about you, baby. You got this. You can do this. You can find love, lose fifty pounds, work 2 days a week, start a revolution, raise charming children, improve your SEO, and find your inner goddess by throwing runes. 

We have subverted the idea of mindfulness and turned it into a competition, a spiritual one-upmanship that only leads back to the self, the impermanent self, the self that craves permanence. It cannot be done, so we hold all things at arm's length and criticize the thing we'd like to be able to love: life itself. We deem life an unfaithful lover: why bring me here, why show me this beauty, this horror and leave me so helpless in front of it, so transitory?

But that is what fucks us, love.

We are of life, not separate or above it. We are one of many, of millions, of billions. We are owed nothing: not happiness, not fulfillment, not meaning, not purpose. Nothing. 

We are, however, free to see what there is to see. But the price is to stop placing yourself in the center. The center is everywhere at the same time. Our innate ego, the thing that convinced us that we were essential, is stubborn. It wants the stage for itself. How different would your life be if you could share that stage, let go of the need to be right, to win, to control? This isn't to say what makes you unique and singular is to be discarded. Not at all. This isn't binary. You are one. You are one of many. You are whole. You are part. We destroy our lives and the lives of others we share this planet with by insisting on an imagined primacy. It simply doesn't exist.

Yes, be mindful if that helps you. But try being worldful as well. Meet the world as it is, not as you would have it be for yourself. Meet it in its desolation and dream. Meet it and love what you love without reservation or distancing. Meet it in its transience. Love what passes away. Love what comes next. Our ego, our "I", wants permanence, but all is transformation. Paranoia and irony both refuse this. 

* * *

You are here, so you might as well play. Your life is not for you alone. It belongs to those closest to you, to the ones who knew you when, to the ones that will follow. Your life belongs to the stories you tell and the stories told about you. Your life is larger than your solitary self, it reaches further than your ego. To unfuck what's gotten fucked in your life you have to be able to see yourself as something other than your personal desires and tragedies. You are in context, here, now, at this moment and not any other. Happiness cannot be pursued. It can only ensue when you give yourself to a cause other than yourself. And through that door no irony can pass.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Friday, September 16, 2016

They Ask Me

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep remembering
mine

- Lucille Clifton, "why some people be mad at me sometimes"

* * *

You see, it is through poetry the world is known, made knowable. At least in part.

* * *

We toggle through our days running for something, towards something, from something: running because others run, because there's a track, because we have feet and running feels right, because stillness brings an encroaching fear that maybe we aren't certain about our running and our feet and the track and the others out there running. We toggle through. We run. We get good at it. We get good at not noticing things, at not seeing the details clearly - more a blur, something possibly seen at the corner of our eye - at not wanting the detail for it would bog us down, slow us up, trip us up and bring us down. But even as we run, even as we toggle, topple, toddle, tipple and fall and catch ourselves before we fall a memory appears against our will: a piece of grit in the soft palate of an oyster. This memory troubles, grows, becomes a pearl of very great price: it is us, it is our I-ness, it is the burr of our soul irritating every step we take. It will not let up. It will not cease its growth until we stop to consider it, to turn it over in our hands, to marvel at its color, to wonder at its presence in the midst of all this running. And there it sits in the palm of our hand, small, round, the size of a hazelnut. We look and we say to ourselves, "What can this be?" and the answer comes without volition, "It is all that is made."

* * *

To know a truth about yourself is to be in opposition to the truths others have for you. To know your story against the stories others would have you know is to be in opposition to them, to their stories. Not as an adversary, but simply separate, distinct, vital without needing approval. Others, unless they are strong in their own story, will find your insistence on your own memories, your own knowledge about yourself and what your life might be, difficult to understand, possibly a threat to their own participation in the running stories that keep them runningandrunningandrunningandrunning without a moment to themselves. You might be asked about your story, but they really want you tell them about themselves, to assure them they've done well and they did you no harm. Give them this story, give them this memory and approval awaits. Validation is yours. Refuse their offer and your story finds no venue.

And it is here doubt comes calling. You may decide you've been kidding yourself (it's so hard to know for sure!) and you set aside that truth, that story, that memory, that pearl of very great price, place it possibly in a lovely box that you keep on your dresser as a sort of talisman to youthful exuberance, a talisman to being unwise and you find you can forgive yourself for such indiscretions. It is easy to do and you get on with living a different sort of life, one that knows very little about pearls and hazelnuts, but a great deal about running and blurring details and being welcomed home by the other runners.

And if you are lucky, very lucky or blessed as you see fit, a memory appears against your will: a piece of grit in the soft palate of an oyster. This memory troubles, grows, becomes a pearl of very great price: it is you, it is your I-ness, it is the burr of your soul irritating every step you take. It will not let up. It will not cease its growth until you stop to consider it, to turn it over in your hands, to marvel at its color, to wonder at its presence in the midst of all this running. And there it sits in the palm of your hand, small, round, the size of a hazelnut. You look and you ask, "What can this be?" and the answer comes without volition, "It is all that is made."

* * *

You are free to repeat this as often as you need to.  Some will need to gather but one pearl in their lives. You and I, well, we might need a bag full. Our sorrows, our failings, our losses, our missed chances, our mistakes, our fears, our doubt, our tragedies, our wonderment, our hope, our memories, our desires, our love, our goodness, our faith, our laughter are all bits of grit, the source of our identity. Or at least, they can be. It is up to you what you will remember, what you will use to build your life around. For, in the end, anything can be the place where you begin and the rest of the stories separate themselves from you. And make no mistake, you will make others angry and uncomfortable with your insistence to build up your life around an idea or memory that they consider odd or difficult or unworthy. It can make for loneliness, but only for a while. That never lasts. It isn't permanent, or doesn't have to be. By staying rooted in yourself, by heeding the call of this memory, this truth about yourself and by organizing your days around that you become a light that draws others into their name, into their memory, into their truth. Your life, lived by the soul of your truth, becomes connected to others who live so, or are trying to be so. In the simplicity of being true to that which animates you, you are a sign and a signal pointing to a truth larger than yourself, a cause greater than yourself. And you accomplish this by letting others be mad at you, and keep on remembering that pearl, that bag of pearls, the hazelnut in the palm of your hand: everything that is. 

And you are its keeper, its steward. At least for a while and then it needs to be handed off. The works you leave behind are the means of that transition, a bet placed on the courage of those you'll never know.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Goethe's Saying What

Goethe's saying, "What is important in life is life and not a result of life," is the answer to any and every senseless attempt to solve the riddle of historical form by means of a programme.

- Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West

* * *

There is a divide, perhaps more felt than acknowledged, that exists in anyone who reads, who thinks, who dances, who creates, who struggles, who wonders, who doubts, who prays, who tries to move on: the divergent impulses between following a path and cutting a new trail, between a scholarly, businesslike approach and the free form of discovery, between the mechanical and the organic. We are, in some ways, data points on that continuum, leaning more heavily in one direction or the other as suits our needs and predilections. The closest example I know of is the teaching of creative writing. No such thing exists, but the process of engagement with the creative impulse has been turned into a commodity with matriculated steps along the way and a useless MFA at the end to hang on the wall. When you layer a programme (such ancient spelling) over an inherently organic and undefinable process you create the illusion of mastering it and its focus is on outcomes (another commodity) and not the process itself.

As above, so below. How you do anything is how you do everything, etc.

It is easy to give lip service to valuing process over the product. All that alliteration makes for a pithy meme. But instead of process, perhaps a better word is life. Now the formulation changes and becomes at once heavier and lighter than any process: What is important in life is life and not a result of life.

An emphasis on life's products, on the mechanics of life is, inherently and inviolably, a backwards looking approach to life. An emphasis on life in life, on the organic is, inherently and inviolably, an emergent world view.  The former breeds satisfaction as its highest good, the latter engenders courage and dance.

* * *

It isn't as easy as flipping a switch to move between these ideas, these approaches. There is a great deal of incentive to devote yourself to the mechanistic world view. There are well defined routes, and very specific rewards for sublimating the life you feel in your veins. Yes, you give up some (okay, most) of your autonomy, but you weren't using it anyway, and besides you have bills to pay, debt to service and its time to get on with the business of being an adult. That is the unfair, knee-jerk description of what is, in reality, a very muddy picture of conflicting desires, expectations and possibilities. Just as unfair is what is likely presumed by the term organic: all drippy with folks whispering namaste and being in the moment. Not at all. No, that, too, is far more complex than the associations we've built up around the word organic or natural or free form, etc.

If you are a scholar or a businesswoman, it is entirely possible and indeed preferable, for you to approach your work with a sense of discovery and the not-yet-here, instead of a pre-determined outcome. If you are a painter or poet do you create to discover what it is you have to say, or do you say what is expected of you? It does not matter where you begin, or even where you are right now, or the work you do to sustain yourself.  For the matter at hand, those concerns are immaterial. What does matter, what does have the power to guide your life is either a reliance on someone else's program, or the one you discover and hew into place by looking ahead and not behind.

It is fundamental: if you are fucked and stuck and going nowhere, you are looking backwards; you have slotted yourself into the mechanical. To get things moving again you must have the courage to be uncertain with what comes next and trust you'll come up with a response that will keep your feet moving. That's what I mean by organic: as yet unknown, but knowable moment to moment.

* * *

There is this also: all organics are perishable.

This must not be avoided. It is, in truth, the essential dynamo for what comes next. 

To adopt or acquiesce to the mechanical, the programmed, to the world of products and outcomes and results is an act of narcissism and a retreat from life. It says, "These goods that I have accrued are the sum of life." It is a cultish (by definition - narrow) response to what is possible. It leaves nothing for those who come next except an intact program to follow. It is reductive. To dare uncertainty, to engage with life's processes of waxing and waning, is to look forward, is to imagine a future other than your own. It is generational and a cause larger than the self's ego. It finds meaning in life, not life's results.

You will die, my love. I will die. Better to keep this forward in the mind instead of pretending it doesn't exist and won't happen. This is not to be maudlin, but instead is to serve as the spark to get your feet moving while you have feet to move. Those close to you will be changed by such courage and the things you discover as you emerge and walk the leading edge of your life will encourage those who come after you and help them to dare to pick up their mantle and do a bit of courageous dancing in their time.

The mechanical life is a wheel: cogged and precise, built to repeat itself
The organic life is a wave: never the same twice, but ever pulsing.

* * *

My comments about the teaching of writing were just how it worked out for me. My MFA is an albatross. But for others I know they used it as the engine of their discovery. Anything is usable. Anything can be the door you pass through to another way of living. If it is at hand, use it. 

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

 




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The List Is

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order.

- Umberto Eco

* * * 

- You are not alone.
- Commerce is not life.
- You are here to experience being here.
- You are part and whole.
- What makes us human is our story.
- People need hope.
- Service to others is our highest good.
- Creativity is the umbilical to the universe.
- Because we are finite, we are to leave gifts behind.
- Hatred is the denial of mystery.
- When we come to know God we become God.
- We are free to fail. Narcissism is proof.
- Resisting the mystery induces sorrow.
- We are easily deluded.
- We mistake metaphors and signs for reality.
- We fear death because we fear life.
- You are part of the trees.
- We are to be amazed, alive to wonder.
- Fear is the absence of trust.
- You have something to give: your life.
- Life is an on-going act of creation.
- We cling to unhappiness because it is known.
- All gifts can be perverted, used poorly.
- All communication is imperfect/partial: a sign pointing past itself.
- Every life is a sign.
- It is less teaching and more simply reminding.
- Selfishness is born from a lack of imagination.
- We are to give it away.
- It takes courage to walk your road.
- Our job is to create so others will find it and be emboldened to find their way.
- The expectations of others will drown you.
- Compliance is death each day.
- Everything is at hand, everything is nigh.
- Immersion is how mastery is approached, how life unfolds.
- Time is a measure of fear. 
- What is called God is simply loving the mystery–trusting it.
- You are to care for your body so your soul can do its work.
- Artfulness is artifice: shallow.
- Wake up to your own way of seeing things and never doubt it.
- We get lost because we forget all this.

* * *

I wish you well.

___________

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Writer Is

A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he hadn't started to say them.

- Wm. Stafford, "A Way of Writing"

* * *

As above, so below.

* * *

I have come to disbelieve in the idea of outcomes, end points, products, completeness, finality, terminus, omega, the definitive, once-and-for-all, the drolleries of certitude, and the sense of an ending. Not that these things don't exist, but that I have abandoned their presumed utility and dominance. All stories stop. My story will stop some day - the wherefore and why to be determined - but until that very moment all that matters is engaging with the life I have. This point of view squarely values the process of living over any thing made along the way.

Creativity, in the arts, in putting one foot in front of the other, has become a commodity to be monetized. The pervasiveness of turning everything into a dollar soaks into every pore. Writers struggle for publication, a measure of result, cultural heft, an audience. So, too, painters, dancers, sculptors, actors and the whole of the fine arts, but more so in the creativity we expend as parents, siblings, co-workers, bosses, husbands and wives and friends. This creates a linear life with specific rest stops along the way. It is a matriculated life. And that is fine, but it is just one way of encountering this experience. Just because it dominates doesn't mean it is the better way for you. It dominates because it is the lowest common denominator with articulated rules that even if you hate them, you know them.

What Stafford suggests occurs in his writing, that things arrive and as they arrive they lead to other things you couldn't have intentionally set out for, I will suggest occurs in our lives and if we pay attention we can be brought into a different sort of life than the fucked up jumble we have. This new life has no religion other than its faith in meeting what happens next. Out of that encounter between who we are at that moment and the arrival of a thought or idea or understanding we didn't see coming a new, third, thing emerges and so leads to the next arrival and its interaction with who we have just become and so on.

This is a meandering life. At least from the outside, from the world of productivity and judgment, but there is an internal logic that sustains it: the process is greater than any of its effects.

To get here it requires not having something to say, but the willingness to discover what might be said.

* * *

There is an over-ripeness to the banality that things change, that the only constant is change. It is spoken as if it were an acted on wisdom, but in truth those ideas that change surrounds us at every moment is an entrenchment to resist change, to withdraw, to not hope for too much, to acquiesce to fate. It has the effect of getting in line, shutting up and being thankful for what you have. I am all for gratitude, but not the meek and timid kind, the kind printed on a t-shirt or shared as a meme. No, the only gratitude I can offer is for the chance to try again, to keep working, my feet to fly, the world to see, the mystery of our breath set aside to breathe in the mystery. 

There is nothing rote or safe or known before hand. It frightens and thrills. It tests and saves. It calls and you respond. And here's the thing: when the hour comes and there's no voice left in your throat another will take up the cause and so keep us discovering who we may yet be. And those effects that I don't believe in anymore, those products and creations? They become part of what those who come later will encounter and process and transform in their time. The only value I can see in these effects (poems, children, songs, gardens, laws, dances, stories, images, films, trees planted, students taught) is in the message at the root of each one: you are not alone.

* * *

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live in a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face–
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

And you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

- Wm. Stafford, "You and Art"

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Friday, August 19, 2016

In What Way


In what way were we trapped? where, our mistake? what, where, how, when, what way, might all these things have been different, if only we had done otherwise? if only we might have known. Where lost that bright health of love that knew so surely it would stay; how, did it sink away, beyond help, beyond hope, beyond desire, beyond remembrance; and where the weight and the wealth of that strong year when there was more to eat than we could hold, new clothes, a granfanola, and money in the bank? How, how did all this sink so swift away, like that grand august cloud who gathers–the day quiets dark and chills, and the leaves lather–and scarcely steams the land? How are these things?

- James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

* * *
How are these things? By what mechanism do they come to be? Where was the moment the wheel came loose before popping off? What seed was inadvertently planted? What weed came of it? How did intention and inattention become this?

There is no answer, no true answer, just feints and eclipses and ellipses. We are troubled by the answers we find because of their incompleteness. There is no grand unifying theory of fucking it up, having it get fucked up and being fucked. It is unique in its specifics, but I’ll suggest there is a thread–different colored as the case may be–that runs along and through such questions. It is this: the underlying premise that our lives are made meaningful by ease or comfort or success or the good fortune to not be familiar with tragedy is wrong. Our lives are not made meaningful by the pursuit of happiness, but by the willingness to undergo the experience that is uniquely ours. It may or may not hold much peace or quiet or love or relief. It may have all that in spades. What is certain is it is yours to suss out and see what is there for you to see, to learn, to forgive, to experience.

Sounds grim. Lord knows it can be. But that, too, is a type of lie, a keeper on the very experience you’re to wade into. Preconceiving, prejudging, allowing circumstance to be the arbiter of what is possible for you is as crippling as the saccharine mantras of self-help gurus who peddle a snake oil that, at its root, blames you for not believing hard enough.

No, the life in your hands has but one master: you. What you choose to believe, how you choose to act, where you choose to go are all under your control.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”

What is outside of that choice is the outcome, the very circumstance you find yourself in, but to you goes the freedom to choose how you’ll experience your life. This is the only truth to hang a hat on. Everything else you do, from religion to politics to work to love to how you will experience your death, flow from that one point. Culture and expectation may blind you to it, but it is there waiting for you.

* * *

Agee wrote about tenant farmers in Alabama during the Depression. Impossibly hard lives: subsistence farming, no education, crushing poverty and failing health from overwork. Children died early and often. How could that be bearable? How could the yoke of a nation’s indifference have a shred of meaning or purpose? It would be easy to say they lived so Agee could write of them and haunt us with their desolation, but that is facile. No, Agee took with him the photographer Walker Evans to document these lives and if you can’t find the meaning of these lives in the fury and righteous fire of Agee’s words, you’ll see the inherent dignity of these lives in the photographs themselves. The physical, the corporeal, the bent and withered bones themselves answer back: I lived. I struggled. I didn’t choose my birth, but made my way.

Would you switch your life for theirs? No. No one would. But that is beside the point. We have but the life we have to see what can be made of our days. Comparing it to the experience someone else is going through or has gone through keeps you from seeing all there is for you to see. There are no promises made about what that will be, only that it is yours to know.

* * *

Things sink swiftly away when we pay no attention, when we take their presence for granted, when we make assumptions instead of taking the time to learn and know. We do so, in part, because we fear what we might learn: a love shorn of its wonder, a job reduced to paycheck to paycheck living or no job at all, a mole ignored for fear it might be cancer. We tend to delusion, indifference and being a victim as it is easier to skate by. Few things actually sink swiftly. Mostly we lower our expectations for ourselves bit by bit until things are threadbare.

But there is a tonic, a cure: being awake to the life in your veins. That alone is promised (for a while). The rest is up to you.

* * *

“It is not likely for any of you, my beloved, whose poor lives I have already betrayed, and should you see these things so astounded, so destroyed, I dread to dare that I shall ever look into your dear eyes again: and soon, quite soon now, in two years, in five, in forty, it will all be over, and one by one we shall all be drawn into the planet beside one another; let us then hope better of our children, and of our children’s children; let us know, let us know there is cure, there is to be an end to it, whose beginnings are long begun, and in slow agonies and all deceptions clearing; and in the teeth of all hope of cure which shall pretend its denial and hope of good use to men, let us most quietly and in most reverent fierceness say, not by its captive but by its utmost meanings:”

I have lived and this is my story.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Be Not Solitary

Be not solitary, be not idle.

- Robt. Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Sec 4, 2:6

* * *

Suffering is a dislocation, a misalignment from what was expected or desired. It is a broken link in a chain of circumstance. It is unavoidable. It returns like a lost dog coming home and takes on so many forms–both large (in the moment) and small (at a distance). Memory plays a role in it. Those who are once bitten twice shy come to wall off parts of their lives because of life's refusal to comply to expectations and desires. Though seemingly protected they actually suffer twice: first the fear and then the isolation that curbs what could have been possible with their days.

This isolating factor, this add-on cruelty makes formidable what was merely difficult. 

And what are we to make of it? to do with it? I think if we suffer it alone there is hubris in it, a pride in the ability to endure that displaces the causes of our suffering–an injustice and an unjustness as may be the case–with the deeply satisfying thrill of knowing how much you can bear. This is all self-referential, a glorying in being fucked. This is the false suffering Viktor Frankl spoke of. It is, in many ways, our default setting. But that still does not answer what are we to do with this dislocation, this rupture between our expectation and what has occurred instead? If suffering alone isolates us then there can be no value in the experience at all for it is closed loop: it begins and ends and begins with us. It is only when we use the raw material of our suffering to help another, to share our story so another might be spared or comforted, only when we overcome the isolation can the suffering be considered a useful thing, an essential thing, a necessary gift if our consciousness is to inhale all it can and so build our capacity for compassion.

Perhaps I have this wrong, but it seems to me this is the function of our days. No one gets a pass on suffering. No one. But many forego the peace it can bring.

* * *

To suffer alone, to endure, is to suffer without end, without pause, without respite or a cool glass of water. To bear up burdens alone is, in some very compelling ways, heroic: Atlas and Hercules all in one, the golden apple being the certainty that one was strong enough. And like most things heroic, it is foolish, the bluntest instrument to do the job.

No, the answer lies not in carrying an ever greater load, but in transforming it into weightlessness, refusing its gravity by denying the impulse to withdraw, circle wagons, close the blinds and turn out the lights. Italo Calvino wrote:

"After forty years of writing fiction, after exploring various roads and making diverse experiments, the time has come for me to look for an overall definition of my work. I would suggest this: my working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language."

This seems a good place to begin, for what are our burdens, our sufferings except the language we use to describe them and to describe ourselves in the midst of carrying the weight of our losses? This is our story, the one we tell ourselves over and over to make sense out of the facts and occurrences of our lives. But if that story is is only whispered in our own head, if it never leaks out, if it never finds an audience of at least one, then the weight of that story grows until it is impossible to tell where the point of suffering ends and the story of the suffering begins. It becomes all of one piece.

But to dare to reveal it to another is the beginning of a new life, a new way of understanding and dealing with what ever it was that brought you to your knees.  Like all things, even your sufferings are to be used because they are the material at hand. The great flaw in the logic of what passes for stoicism is that life will begin again after the suffering has ceased, that there will be a day in the future when the way is cleared of this debris, but until then all that can be done is to bear up one's pall.

No, man. That ain't right.

Life has not ceased to continue. It continues and flows around you, the way a river slides past a rock. You are no longer carried, but are an obstacle. To rejoin the river's flow you have to subtract the weight and the way to do that is to take what is at hand–your loss, your sorrow, your anger, your fear– and use it to expiate the notion that you are alone in this. We are easily wounded. We are often afraid. What is best in us can be drained by being too long in the wasteland. The cure is not found in seeing how long we can endure, but in finding a way to let grief be a falling leaf. We are not to deny our losses, but to use them to be a bit kinder than we might otherwise have been, to be quicker to forgive, to be present when others are lost, to judge less and live more. This is the pearl of great price: out of suffering comes kindness.

To get to this understanding two things are required: be not solitary, be not idle.

The transformation of your losses is not done in a vacuum. It can only be done with at least one other: your spouse, your child, a friend, a stranger, a cause that touches countless others. To reach out from the solitary into the injustice and unjustness of the teeming world is a refutation of idle isolation. There is a force in it that learns to sustain itself on that contact, that feeds further action. And what is truly remarkable, what is the gift in all this is that action taken to redeem what has been lost, to forgive it, is never self-referential. It moves outward from your unique experience so that others can see a part of their own lives reflected and so feel less alone.

The struggle of our days is not between life and death, but between withdrawing from life, or engaging it. To have been hurt, to have been lost, to have struggled leaves open the door of greater compassion. This possibility is available to each of us because no one gets a pass on suffering, but this is achieved only if you be not solitary, if you be not idle.

I wish you well.

__________

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What Was That

"What was that? Does my face look strange?"

- The last words of RL Stevenson

* * *

In 1894, on the island of Samoa, Robert Louis Stevenson struggled a bit to pull the cork out of a wine bottle. It was the evening. His wife was with him. As he managed to free the cork, he looked up at his wife and said, "What was that? Does my face look strange?" and then fell to the floor. He died hours later from a hemorrhage that flew through his brain. He was 44.

I was put in the mind of this story yesterday when a strange flutter, an angry tremor danced alongside the right side of my head and a whanging headache roared instantly to life, encasing the right side of my head in a vise. I was instantly nauseous and light headed and all I could think of was RL and his wine bottle. Without meaning to, I asked myself, "What was that?"

* * *

We take our days at a gallop, then believe they cease to move. We become stuck in our miseries, trapped, and we come to believe that time, too, is stuck, trapped, stoppered like a wine bottle. Except, invariably we are jarred by circumstance and we wake to see the calendar has fled. Why is this so common a thing as to be a cliche: yes, yes, I know, time flies, etc, etc. I think it has something to do with forgetting. We forget our histories. We forget our wild, unruly dreams. We forget our silences and the deep well that surely exists inside of us: the reservoir of our soul, the umbilicus to the mystery of our existence. We trade it for such passing things as a mortgage, or a promotion, or a partner we've come to believe we cannot exist without. That's fine. We all have holes to fill, but unless we remember ourselves, our central self and try to build a life around the message of that self, then when the cork gets stuck a bit and our face becomes strange what will we have done with this one chance to know the world?

Against forgetting. Let me stand here, against forgetting. Let me stand against the unnoticed drip of days, the unnoticed sun. Let me stand against the tide of commerce and work as a free man. I will stand against forgetting the line of light, the limb of a tree, the sweet line cast out, the line of fathers and mothers stretching back behind me, the line of lives that bent and turned and were broken and healed and shuffled off and brought forth until at last I took my place and replaced myself with another. I stand against the forgetting, the abdication, the fear that whispers futility in my ears and I stand for the deeper well, the well spring of the driven green fuse. I stand with my brothers and sisters who dare to not forget themselves in the crush and welter of politics and instead work and live and create lives of integrity, which is to say lives of beauty. This is where I'll be.

And you, my best beloved, where will you be? Where will you stand?

* * *

The work of our days is to discover this well and never lose sight of it. It can be discovered in the dreams we have. It can reveal itself in the work we are drawn to. It is always part of us, even when we refuse it or ignore it or deny it. Regrets are illuminations come too late. Do not refuse, ignore or deny what is essential in you, whatever that may be. It is different for each of us, but there are echoes and rhymes that help us to feel less alone, part of a larger body than our solitary one. We know this is how love works–we are less alone and more willing to be our true selves. It is the mystery of religion, scholarship, craftsmanship, care-giving. It is what is best in us: to be known and a little more. It is found in respect for the other's journey and the compassion that attends such acknowledgement.

Joseph Campbell said that all of his work, all of writings, all of his scholarship was intended for artists only. He could care less about academia and its ilk. He wanted to get what he discovered into the hands of those who lived out those myths on a daily and hourly basis: those who create. I have always loved that about him. It is frank and telling and willing to stand where he saw fit. I have come to realize that this, too, is my work. I have tried to imagine this page as open and broad enough to take in all who aspire in any manner to find a bit of solace and encouragement. I hope that has been the case. I hope it remains so, but it is well past the time to be honest with myself and you. I know nothing about money or politics. I have opinions, but no knowledge of their workings. I know nothing about religious life. What I do know is the will to sit and write. What I do know is the impulse to create and that, at last, is where I'll stand.

* * *

CAT scans, blood tests, EKG, etc., all came back unremarkable. No change in my face. But I am pulverized this morning. It is the feeling the day after the car accident. On my way to the hospital, my son at the wheel, all I could think of was all the work that remains. Unremarkable tests tell me I have at least today to work at my work, and not at anything else.

I wish you well.

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