Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I get up early, usually about 4:30 or 5:00. Those early hours offer up a quiet that sets the tone for the rest of the day. If I stay in bed and rush off to teach without that quiet, meditative reflection time, my days feel "off," distracted, disconnected from a sense of vision or direction.
These early exercises in quiet have begun to alter the direction of my life. I write more, for one thing. I surprise myself with what I say on the page, what I see in ordinary events, what comes to me out the tangled distraction that constitutes the rest of my life. There is a life, or a part of my life, that only comes into being if I compose it, frame it, dramatize it, in words, explicitly. That life bears a stark contrast to the other life, a pin-ball life, that is more reflex and reaction than choice, heartfelt response. Somehow all the scurrying around, all that hyped-up chatter about stuff and gossip and enlistment in other people's projects is not "me." It is in the morning that I see this. In the morning I hear what is my heart's desire.
A small jewel falls out of the chaos and says "This is what is important for you today."
When I examine that little nugget of vision and meaning I feel energized and open.
I also try to remember it as I move through the day, and, more importantly, to act on it. That usually means stealing some time from my work obligations. I work on the prison magazine, a job for which I am not given any release time. I answer inmate letters. Same thing. I plan what we will do in the workshops. I write vignettes about the workshops in my blogs. No pay there either. Yet I feel "called" to do these things.
And things happen. The student newspaper, The Daily Wildcat ran an article about an inmate story being made into a film.
Normally, the English Department would celebrate a faculty member being mentioned in a news article, but for this, nothing but silence, a deafening silence. Hmmm.
And I was invited to present at a book festival, a pretty big deal. Here too: Nothing.
A three day conference on creative writing: nothing.
I have to wonder what Christ meant when he said "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's." Where does Caesar end and that which I cannot understand begin?
That is a question that needs some work, because I am not covering my duties very well, even though I work long days.
This "other" work is like a secret, double life, for which I am not compensated. As a result, I am running in the red, financially, but finally beginning to feel alive, passionate about what I do. I am also getting into some trouble with The Man. No more on that, but the question remains:
Where to go with this...?
My plan for now, is to simply keep moving, one step at a time, in the direction of a quiet voice, a barely visible, shining jewel that resonates with a truth beyond words, a truth of the heart.
Yes, I will listen to that, while having to make some hard decisions about where I will put my time and energy, where the line between Caesar and mystery ends or begins.
That, or just keep sleeping.