Some people will say I stole that title from beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Though if I did, it wasn’t intentional. It’s just how it came out. And so I let it. And you should, too. If you want to live, that is.
In any case, nobody owns that word. Or any word. Put another way, we each own every word that comes from our authentic voices. Because those words are what matter. And little else.
I’m not saying words are the only thing that matter. I’m saying your words, from your voice, no matter their shape, are what matter. I’m saying using someone else’s words, hiding behind them for safety, illusion, respectability, while understandable, won’t move your piece down the board at all. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
More importantly, they won’t lead to an understanding of yourself or the world, which is essential to really living. Without your true voice, you’ll just be one of the walking dead, another Dr. Malcolm Crowe walking around believing you’re alive. (There’s a reason why zombie movies are so popular.)
Find what it is that haunts you, moves you, sparks your desire, makes you bleed, won’t let you sleep, completely envelops you, tucks you in and kisses you goodnight. That is what will save you. And most of us need some kind of saving, big or small, from time to time. Maybe forever and always.
I often find myself lost. Somewhere between the world I want to live in and the reality of things like mass poverty, political crimes, profit-based environmental destruction, and sex trade. These worlds are so close to our own, right next door, really. But we all have our own obstacles, which often live much closer, things like equal rights, health insurance, overdue taxes, relationship struggles, and inadequate internet service.
Like you, daily, I have to map my own way out. Towards the ideal creative life of my dreams. Because there is no worn path. No posted signs, no permission slips. There is only my voice. And a long time ago I listened to Sam Phillips when she told me told hold on to it. You should, too.
Find your voice.
If you’ve made it this far into this piece and you’re still wondering what the fuck I’m talking about, it’s likely because you haven’t found it yet. Your thing, your passion, your medicine, your calling, your dream. You know, your voice. (Because we live in the age of YouTube, if you want more of a video example of what I’m talking about, checkout the Power of Words Video Project. www.pow.tlqonline.com)
I’m far from an expert on this sort of thing, but what if there are things more important than enlightenment? Being a whole human being, for instance. I’m not saying that’s true. But I know this one thing, you can’t be whole without your voice. Simply impossible. So I think it’s safe to say that enlightenment requires wholeness. And wholeness requires a voice.
The bottom line is, if you want to be whole, if you truly want to be alive, then you’ve got to do whatever it is you’ve got to do to find it. And simply finding it, you’ll see, is the most important thing. Because once you have, well, there’s no turning back. After that, one way or another, your voice will make sure it gets used.
Catch your breath.
The key, once you have it, is to release that energy. Sure you can ignore it, for a while. But ultimately, it will not be suppressed. Your voice will find a way to make itself heard. Like the songbird, your voice will not be caged by your feeble and useless efforts to contain it.
Your efforts are put to far better use by making space for it to thrive. Clear away as much of the chaos and clutter as you can. Breathe in and open up space within yourself where it may dwell.
Here’s the thing, and I probably wouldn’t say this to just anyone, but we are the light-bearers, the ones who hold the world together. Complacency does not become us. Your voice already knows this. And it is waiting for you to take up the torch.
Let it out.
I’m no different from you. This column is just one of the ways my voice makes itself known. This page is my teacher and these words are my lovers. Each time I sit down to write, my voice acts as flowers, pushing their way through the clay. Awakening from slumber, and breaking through the earth to unleash the beauty of its colors once again.
I know you are afraid. Who isn’t? But you need to know that your voice is a butterfly trapped in the cage of your heart. And it simply must be released. There is no other way.
Thomas Lloyd Qualls is writer, a condition that is apparently incurable. He manages his condition by regular contributions to Reno Tahoe Tonight Magazine and to the borderless virtual tribe known as the Rebelle Society.
The second edition of his debut novel, Waking Up at Rembrandt’s, is now available in print (think of vinyl, only for books) and on multiple e-version platforms. If you want to stop what you’re doing and buy it right now, go ahead. We’ll wait for you. But please come right back, there’s plenty of other good stuff in this magazine.
If you are interested in reading more from Thomas, there’s a new book of poetry entitled love jaywalks, available all over in ebook format. Still to come: a collection of essays, some new paintings and a second novel, painted oxen, due out just as soon as all the words finish lining up. In the meantime, feel free to stop by his website whenever you like. You can subscribe to his online journal, alchemy of words, while you’re there. www.tlqonline.com
*this pieces has also appeared in Reno Tahoe Tonight Magazine.
© thomas lloyd qualls 2014, 2015