ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
We are allowed to grieve, even for things not right for us. The wrong career path, the faithless lover, the secure job that doesn’t feed us, the accidentally deleted chapter, the abusive parent, the lottery ticket that blew away.
We are allowed to grieve our youthful recklessness, our wavering self-confidence, our blissful ignorance, our will to live. In other words, we are allowed to be human.
A while back I turned down the job offer of a lifetime. A position in that would provide two paychecks a month, health benefits, and retirement, for something I’m already skilled and experienced in doing.
Why would any reasonable, rational person do this? The answer is that no person in that frame of mind would. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have good reasons. Not the least of which is: I need to write. It is that simple.
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
So said Joseph Campbell. How many of us truly believe in this? How many act upon that belief? Do I believe? On good days. Do I act on that belief? Well, in that case I did. In truth, I have been for years. Every time I put words to paper. So far though, most of those doors I’ve had to kick down or pry open.
I’m not whining. Ok, I’m whining a little. I understand that most writers work in the dark, with mostly self-manufactured hope. Which is known to wane from time to time. Unless you are one of those blissfully self-confident types. Which probably means you’re not a writer. So forget that last part.
As a writer, I believe in a few irrational things. One is that I can make a decent living as an artist. Despite society’s reluctance to do things like fund the arts or pay for books and music, I believe we still live in a world where the gift of art is essential to our lives.
Also, I still I grieve. For the opportunity I passed up, for the simplicity and stability it would have offered. And I also know myself well enough to understand that I am simply unable to cut the rope on all my head-banging-against-walls aspirations. On the writer’s shack in my backyard. On becoming living proof of the ability to live our dreams.
We cannot see into the future to determine what will be, what would have been. We cannot see into past lives to recapture what we learned there. Even looking backwards into this life, we are unable see clearly. Our vision is clouded by the lens of perception.
Blake said, If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. But absent the aid of mescaline or DMT, this is a difficult state to achieve.
What are we to do then, those of us so unavoidably fixed in our artistic inclinations? I see plenty of ridiculously talented artists around. Those who work the scene constantly, are connected and knowledgeable, and still must bartend or pull espresso in order to pay their rents.
There must be a way to rebuild our communities, our society, our nation-state, our world, so the bankers and defense contractors have to bus tables on the side. And the artists of the world, who enrich our lives so much more, could just focus on their art.
True, it isn’t just about money. Money, though, is an undeniable fact of life. Money is energy, a spirit made flesh. Like air or food, we rely upon it for our existence. If we had a thought to completely eschew money, we wouldn’t have incarnated here. We’d have stayed in the unbroken realm of light.
Because we are here, we agreed at some point to take on this messy state of being. We agreed to ride the ever-shifting balance between the mud and the rays of light. Wearing this skin means we not only experience joy and happiness, but doubt, grief, and sorrow. One of the tricks to being human is to master the alchemy of turning these states of being into beauty.
If we want our lives to be filled with beauty, we must be brave enough to create it, generous enough to pay for it, compassionate enough to support it, and bold enough to see our vision through to fruition.
When you want something, all the universe
conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Despite my occasional frustration, I still believe. And I still grieve. And this is the clay from which art is made.
This is an excerpt from the Nautilus Award-winning book Happiness Is An Imaginary Line in the Sand. If you’d like to own the whole collection, it is available here.