Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Render Unto Caesar
Taxes are due. Like most of us, I have to pay mine. As I write the check, I think about the price I pay for what I have in this life, and the price I pay for wanting so much comfort and security.
I wanted to be a writer but ended up a teacher. That's mostly OK, but there are times when I wonder about the dreams and where they went. Who is to blame for things not going according to the dream?
I came to writing hoping to make it as a literary icon, fatuous dreamer that I am.
I have struggled to find my way through the gauntlet of influences, genres, purposes, and disciplines that define the writing tribe. I have been caught between the conflicting desires to be edgy, hip, disaffected and passionate, beholden, and defined, between poetry and politics, between imagination and research, between safety and danger.
There was the literary scene, the aesthetic longing of poetry and story, and the draw of Richard Shelton, Edward Abbey, and an MFA. I dabbled there, but did not commit. That was the land of the genius, the star, the error of mistaking the art for the artist. I did not want to worship at that altar. And I don't have that kind of talent, that knack for thrilling fiction. I kept looking at what I saw, my life, the lives of those around me. In that I saw a subtlety that was far less interesting to an audience wanting space wars, action, and beautifully sculpted heroes.
Then there was the socio-politico-economo world of angry political scholarship. I sat in Harvey Goldberg's social history classes and soaked up the elan of his rage at lost potential in the capitalist world of exploitation and corruption. Eduardo Galeano, Cold War history, counter-insurgency, cover-ups. I wanted to be a revolutionary, almost joined the Socialist Party.
But again, saw the need to adhere to the party line at all costs as something I could not do.
I was beholden to something else. That something was the connection between soul and story. I wanted to commit to therapeutic writing, but was not strong enough. There was no there there, at least not yet.
I have been looking for answers outside myself for too long.
I love sitting and journaling, of finding life and a way into it with words. I want to live there, to read and write for the rest of my days, to produce something true and beautiful, to synthesize what I have learned in this life in a way that others will find helpful. I feel like this is my purpose, my mission. More than anything, I want to write. That is when I feel whole and at peace. Whatever pulls me away from this place keeps me from my real life's work. But to survive I have to do things I don't want to do.
That's just the way it is.
When accounts are tallied, you either made it or you didn't. I made it as a teacher, not a poet. I have no one to blame but myself. I have not worked as hard as I could, nor have I defined what it was that gave me life. That is what I will have to answer for in the end.
When it comes to rendering unto soul that which is soul's, I am in arrears. I have forgotten that debt, or put it off, or decided somewhere that it was something I could not afford, did not deserve.
There it is, and I find it gratifying to lay the cards on the table to see where I am.
The rest of the story is up to me.