Thursday, October 3, 2013
Epiphanies and Other Malfunctions
When Robert Jordan and Maria make love for the first time in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway tells us that "the Earth moves out and away from beneath them." I imagine them there, suspended, briefly, in timelessness, utter bliss, clarity, serenity. They both know they are one, mated, born to live and die together.
Writers also talk about a zone, a peak awareness, a something, that happens during intense athletic efforts, times when things just come together in a perfect symphony of grace, calm and beauty. That state is often accompanied by an insight, a realization, or an "understanding." For example, "The Eighty Yard Run," by Irwin Shaw tells of a halfback finding an opening and "for the first time (in his life, it) was not a meaningless confusion of men, sounds, and speed." The main character takes that moment as a sign to live the life of football and all that goes with it.
Others talk about connection to a world larger than the self. Emerson finds his moment walking across a field. He writes "Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear... I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me."
Eye ball, yes, and a theory of nature too.
These peak experiences visit randomly, unexpectedly. They may come in moments of intimacy, as with Hemingway, or in physical challenge, or in drug-induced euphorias, or out of nowhere.
They disrupt normal ways of seeing, complacent ways of looking. Often, the brain slips a gear and sees things in a way that it normally does not. The intensity of such focus and insight jumps the track of comfort, dissolves habit. It, in other words, aint always fun, enjoyable, or even nice. But truth is like that, and can get you into trouble.
One epiphany sent me off into my current line of work.
I got knocked into the next week one time after colliding with a British defender in a soccer game. I chipped a tooth. When I came to, the Muses were talking to me. They told me to get up, put some ice on my head, and write about why stories are so important.
Weird, I know, but true.
Since then, they have been following me around whispering in my ear. Their words have become the driving force of my life.
I teach stories, I live stories, and I fail miserably in the rest of my life because I have become utterly impractical. While other men are out making money or traveling to Europe I am sitting with demons trying to figure out the story line.
Unfortunately, it is not my place to write the stories, become famous, and glide into a life of parties, excesses of whim, and doomed romances. No, I am supposed to facilitate others in the telling their stories. Very hard for the ego. I began my quest with the vision of becoming a poet and ended up a teacher. It has taken me thirty years to begin to come to terms with that fact, now somewhat at peace, if broke, anonymous.
Still, the chatter doesn't stop, even in my sleep.
Now, I am waiting for the next delivery from the Divine Celestial Message Board, or whatever it is.
Until then, Ernie, Irwin, and Waldo, help me. It's getting a little crazy in here.