You I can see
What in the world has happened to me
The prince of stories who walks right by me
- The Velvet Underground, "I'm Set Free"
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Ages, epochs, eons, eras, they do but one thing: they end and are birthed again with a different set of eyes and hands.
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The easiest thing for anyone to do is to glide along, to not notice time, to move the day in and day out to the year in and year out until it is life in and life out. Closed parenthesis. So it goes. So it goes. If you happen to stumble, if you fall, if you are stopped in the glide by forces larger than your intention you are given the opportunity to leave the glide path. Make no mistake: what has stunned you offers you a new way of being in the world. The question is will your attachment to your losses keep you silent, or will you find a voice in your throat?
This is bitterly unfair. But there is no time left to speak of fairness, only of what are you going to do about it?
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If time has slipped a bit too fast, if the works you'd imagined for your self are drafts, or unstarted, if you have meant better than you have shown, I can only say you must begin now. You must bury every scrap of self-recrimination, every scrap of fear and make one brave push to complete the tasks set before you, the ones you create, the ones you finish, the ones that demand a new iteration, a new genesis, a new shot at coming to fruition. This is not because it is about you and your, as yet, unknown genius. No, love, it is about those who might see your work and so get started on their own. Hiding your light under a bushel leaves the path darkened for those who follow.
It is never about you, but what follows, what is coming into being: emergent.
You do your work because you must. You fail to do your work because you feared it. In either case, others will follow and you either hand off something useful or you fade into the shadows. And what is the most useful thing? Companionship, friendship, love, the sense of not being alone: confidence in your life.
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The only way that I am aware of to do your work so that you can give voice to the forces that move you, that dreamed of you and brought you here is to do it with unabashed commitment. You must soak in it. It is the only way to learn what you are capable of. If it isn't all, then it is nothing. I know that sounds awful, for it is easier to give something, but if you want to sound your depths, then deep you must go.
Many years ago, I was taught by, mentored by and worked for John Schultz. He was as maddening as he was generous: engaged all the time, fierce in his opinions, fierce in his loyalties. Not everyone dug it. He intimidated the foolish and supported those who tried. John lived a life of depth, of immersion, of always working with the materials at hand to fashion some new thing. Though he was a writer, his true work was as a teacher and the materials he fashioned were the lives of those who encountered him.
He died a few days ago. I hadn't seen him in 16 years and never will again. Our relationship was complicated, but he was unfailingly supportive of me, of my attempts to find my voice and use it some. This blog, this website, these words would not exist if not for his influence. When I learned of his death I could only breathe in and hold it there, suspend the news while I checked my pockets for all I owed him. And this is what I owe him: my best effort, a further completeness, a deeper immersion, a re-write based on what is at hand.
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When I was a child, I loved going to church. It was so odd, so beautiful. The buildings seemed bigger inside that outside. My favorite part of the church was the large bank of votive candles off to one side of the altar: dark red glass and white candles. I always asked to light one and I always lit several, taking the light from someone else's prayer and using it in a new one, using it because I liked the light they gave. Though all candles gutter and die, every Sunday that bank of votives was always lit in a new pattern. The light never dying because it was tended to: new life at its term.
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Thank you, John. Thank you.