Can I still do it? Shake off the frost and post here knowing who reads, and who doesn’t, and what expectations I have set? I share this as an opening to relate the vulnerable, very human feeling of being faced with the great canvas.

I’ve been writing, sure. Things are moving along.

I’ve learned much in the year I’ve been absent. Adventuring not to different countries this time but different worlds, geo-politically in a sense. It doesn’t feel like a year, but then I haven’t been able to say much. The irony of gaining access to the more venerable doors is that you lose the ability to talk about much of what is going on. When the purpose is to share rather than promote yourself, anonymity is your friend. At least, by the bar I’ve set here. Not that I haven’t been called out already. In nice ways. Which brings me to my point. How do you sustain?

I don’t mean in the “How am I going to face the NY Times Bestseller list for yet another week? Ennui! Privileged people problems! Calgon!” way.

Even then you still feel the same visceral self-ness you’ve been shouldering all this time thinking there would be some rightness in the end game. Heavy stuff, but hang on. That’s actually a good thing. That’s better than good. That’s brilliant. That’s where the shiniest truths emerge.

Being a writer isn’t a reinvention, it’s an expansion. You. The universe. Hang on. The sugar plumbs dancing in our heads aren’t the reward. Rule one of writer club: don’t confuse the fat lady for the scenery. The reward of keeping the inner aspects of yourself that you once found (or still find) squirmy is knowing you live in a zeitgeist with people who can share with you the same little signal moments of lightning you bow over first to them. Surprising, glowing little moments of shared wonder or pain, or company. Shooting stars of illumination. Flares of path light in the distance. Near heartbeats to slow our own panic.

We are all here for such a short period of time. What stirred this post was not only the need to re-connect with this experiment – and you – whoever you are who keeps twitching my statistics to make me smile knowing this may help salt your path, or who knows what you are doing with it. Have fun. What motivates me is the understanding of someone who gets that even if you have a shrine of awards, or a shrine of bulk-purchased, single-ply you hope makes it past Thursday so you don’t have to liberate the bar bathroom nano-ply next door (again) – that you are still suffering the same, unavoidable fact of your writer existence.

I love every doe-eyed, sad, angry, elated, arms out on the balcony or cliff’s edge to the sunset one of you. I can say that completely sober and mean it because I’ve had a year to go off and see how many people who’ve made it still suffer from the same unavoidable reality. Whatever you were secretly nervous about at fourteen, or twenty-four, or forty, or eighty, sticks to your ribs, and yes you can go to therapy and become one of the West Side, card-carrying, made creative elite, but you will still wake up on a cold sweat on occasion whether you remember it or not, and those things will motivate you to pick up a pen or miss your stop thinking about them from time to time.

Yes, I live in New York. Yes, I clawed my way up the drapes one handful of organza at a time. Great floss, that. Yes, it’s changed me dramatically and clearly marks a difference when I see where everyone’s path diverged. Though how much I can’t yet say. I’ve reconnected with friends who literally landed on the four corners of the earth. Turns out there was something to our little clique after all. Plotters. Every one. And even though I got what I was after (be careful what you wish for) I’m arriving at many truths my doubles found in the heat of the tropics, the arctic north, far east, and lastly sitting in a plastic lawn chair in our old back yard, trading our exotic baubles for early kids and early retirement. Who gets the last laugh I wonder?

I will never retire. This used to terrify me. Now the idea of retiring terrifies me. Not because I can’t think of a million things to do with an afternoon, and lust heavily at times for the opportunity, but because retiring in this sense means throwing in the towel. We can’t get back what we lost.

In exchange for living in interesting times, I’ve tasted a lot of what I always wondered about. Last week I finally discovered the secret to the answer 42.

Go on, ask. There really is one. It’s pretty inspiring and worth finding. And you do absolutely know it’s exactly what Adams meant. Like everything in my life, I discovered this little gem in the course of a completely unrelated research project, and didn’t even seen the synchronicity until the final finish line moments, like this glowing reward for gritting through. As far as longstanding authorial Easter eggs go, that one turned out to be truly nod worthy. Call it luck if you like. But you know, he died at 41, so circle back to this post.

What is the difference between writing, a medium intended to stay around long after we are gone, versus just sitting around a fire being a performer and living what might be a truer source of the craft: bringing the fire to the night, kissing the watchful faces of everyone in the circle with that glow.

The difference is how history is created.

Look at it this way: of all the brilliant performances and works ever written, only a tiny grain of them have ever survived. Not just the good ones, a wide array, almost a completely random assortment.

The new research on why we die is illuminating. Supposedly in virtual models, a society that never dies of old age eventually dies due to lack of adaptation. How long did dinosaurs live? Depends on how you see them: collectively as fossils, or individual as very large and successful moving rocks. That died. And never came back. We know nothing of what they could have become.

The species that died, or dies continuously to force room for the next generation created us. Now that we have the insane problems of our family dysfunction as a species firmly established, we can see how totally unavoidable it was that we all ended up frothing, volatile beakers, largely unattended until someone noticed the magnetic phone interference and electrical problems thirty floors down. We are dangerous because we are in an experiment we created.

The first little amoeba said to the second: “I’ll wait here. You have the crumb. I’ve had my life, and I love you more than dessert.”

Some say the whole construct we’re applying is simply our own coping mechanism against the chaos. I say, yes! Both! Neither! Open the box and find out! Open another box and find out if it happens again! I am a writer.

So are you.

The bad news: you will lose your life and there is no cake. So you get even less than the lone romantic amoeba who had an actual hand in all this.

(As it turns out, romanticism in amoebas wasn’t a success for evolution purposes in the amoeba per se but the decision still turned out to be a good one.)

The better news: you are the sum total of a million-trillion molecular, astrophysical, bio-revolutionary mistaken paths that worked.

Welcome to your existence, the intersection of a trillion-trillion-trillion lucky breaks. You’re a fractal that pulsed awake and stayed together instead of breaking apart within three weeks. 18,144,000 seconds to convince your mother before she noticed. You are Christmas cake made of stardust. Lick your lips when you taste the cold. You are sunshine.

I can be a million-trillion molecular, astrophysical, bio-revolutionary illusions. I am a writer. I can be anything. Anything. And so can you, because the thing about being a totally unmonitored experiment is all the beta features we’re passing along to the next generation. Because the harder it is to fit in at that dull day job, or gazing out the window on those family vacations you have to just remember are material, the more James Bond top secret gadgets you’re going to light your shoes on fire with as soon as you find them – attached to your own inherent existence. This is the secret of what makes life so obscenely compelling. This is the mystery and sheer, utter joy of it.

You either take the pledge to test them out or let them die with you, and if they die with you, it’s highly possible no one will ever seen what you could have uncovered. The uncomfortable parts that aren’t fully releasable yet will have no author to master them. But wait, you are a writer. You don’t even have to read the manual to become the fiery spectacle you are. The task of being interesting all on your own comes in exchange for the things you wouldn’t have had anyway. Because let’s face it, a trillion-trillion-trillion combinations later, you still wouldn’t be whoever you think you’d rather be.

But…

There is a cost. For every one of us still chasing shadows and bringing the light forward as best as we’re able, given the circumstances of our experimental nature, the result of which absolutely requires our free will, some have fallen. Our speed race is against the death of our ability to carry forward all the other success that will be lost. Loving the mechanics of being together circling the fire is loving the beating heart of being human. If we don’t love the collective, we cannot sustain. That doesn’t have to mean agreeing with it, in fact most times loving something and agreeing to let it fail are completely opposite impulses. Take our love struck, hypothetical amoeba, for instance.

People, some at least, are natural performance artists. We do it because we do. Art of the early primordial variety is the stuff that we were programmed with to guarantee the pilot light comes on when it’s time. That happens to spark the same cascade of future art spilling ahead like a line of gasoline to light the spectacle for the next. Sometimes the light gets lit too early, and that has other implications. Sometimes it gets lit too late. Both require a lot of strength to get through if you found the wrong forest or saw the reflection of a past or future forest lit before you were able.

But if we don’t test out all these glorious, terrifying experiments we call ourselves, we leave nothing. We lose all the beautiful joys we ourselves experienced as a result of the previous tenants.

Case in point. You likely do not know Lesley Harpold.

But her writing lives still. Hers was either an incredible life, or a performance pulled off to the fullest degree of any performance stunt known to me. Her life would be unbelievable to me if I hadn’t said the same several times over the course of many others. People have presumed me gone or in danger of being gone before, which is a bit unsettling the first time it happens. Actually, this is a pretty strong reoccurring theme in the lives of writers, either those scattered into hiding from the repercussions of particularly effective alter-egos, or those who really are what we might call “off being dedicated.”

In my usual skeptic sense on the uncertain things in life, I can only say bravo to what I read of Lesley’s that turned into a two-hour exploration of what it means to touch lives anonymously. Whoever or where ever she is, or whether you believe or not, this is the legacy she left, starting with the piece I read.

http://workbench.cadenhead.org/leslie-harpold/possible-scenarios-for-heaven.html

I’d say this is another case of a forest clearing I came upon too late.

And to anyone wondering how to keep going…

So what if all these crazy experimental aspects of being human were landed upon us in a flourish of cold mathematical beauty? So what if there is or isn’t someone watching. We have ourselves. You can blame teacups in space and still come to the same conclusion. There were beautiful people out there years before now, the best of which make us who we are today, and in order for that to have any meaning moving forward, we do our part. We go forth.

And when we are done, we can just know, remembering the fireworks lit at the coldest moments around us, that the ship does not go down with the crew.

Spark your flares and send some memories ahead. You know they’re watching. Remind them it was worth waiting for.

Advertisements