For Every One Of Us

The significance of delight. Our right to make things simply because we are alive. The creativity that lurks, no, waits to explode, within us if we will just let it out.

These are a few of my takeaways from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I often listen to her podcast by the same name and continue to chew on many of the things she dishes out in both. I’ve copied down several quotes that have inspired or challenged me, and I’ve wanted to share them all. But in order to keep my post from being as long as her book I’ve narrowed it down to three heavy hitters.

So here are some of the best bits, in no particular order…

Actually, I lied. This is kind of the very best bit, and it’s a quote from someone else. I’ve adopted it as a personal belief statement. Of how I view the world and the base from which I intend to jump my whole life long:

“We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

                                                                                      -Jack Gilbert

Hallelujah that someone said it and said it so well. To claim gladness as a worthwhile, even essential, point of view. Something to hold on to amidst the mess of the world around us. To find the light in the darkness, the glimmer of a gem within the muck, the cool breeze inside the ruthless furnace. If you’ve read my writing before, you might have noticed this jives with just about everything that comes out of my brain and onto the computer screen. I look for the good in the bad innately, because my DNA and experience says I should, but also because I’ve decided I should. Because, as my kindred spirit Jack says, giving all our attention to the injustice and pain and ick is to praise it. No thank you. (Pay attention, nightly news.) I can’t stress enough how much this is a YES to me.

And then…

“The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying. We are all the chosen few. We are all makers by design. Even if you grew up watching cartoons in a sugar stupor from dawn to dusk, creativity still lurks within you. Your creativity is way older than you are, way older than any of us. Your very body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you – the same way it hunted down your ancestors.”

My great grandma made quilts, painted, wrote stories, made clothes, planted a garden the size of a football field, and her kitchen counter was covered in jars of spices – easy access for cooking and baking edible works of art. She wasn’t paid to do it; creativity was bursting inside her and had to come out.

My grandmother made quilts and crocheted baby hats for my babies, and baby doll hats for their babies. She entertained with joy and flair, creating experiences for others with her gift of hospitality.

My grandfather crafted sermons, wrote and edited for a magazine, and could fix anything with his able hands.

My mother has writing in her bones and she makes homemade cards for everyone (these little works of art are so special my children keep them in their treasure boxes).

My dad – oh my – he draws, he paints, he makes wood-strip canoes and tree-ship tree houses and 3-D pirate ship puzzles. He has written a fantasy novel about squirrels. Inspiration has found it’s ultimate host in my father.

And this is just one side of my lineage.

I can attest to Elizabeth Gilbert’s claim that all people ever have had creativity welling up in them. If you look back at your forebears I suspect you will find this, too. From the mathematician to the bricklayer to the only-on-weekends pianist. We are all makers. There is no boss deciding who’s allowed to make stuff. We’re alive, so we can.

And finally…

“…you have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

So get on it! This was my pep talk to get the show on the road of writing for real. Pursuing it as more than a three-hour-a-week endeavor. I’m excited and scared and back to excited about saying with my life that I believe this quote is true. And you should too, in whatever way brings you joy. Pick a curiosity (that’s another main point of Gilbert’s book) and follow it. See what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. But it won’t be a waste of time. You’ll be using your inborn creative juices for fun, and possibly the benefit of those around you.

And you should probably read Big Magic. It’s for every one of us. If you have a pulse, you can make things. Congratulations and get to work.

 

Yes. And Yes.

Sometimes a particular idea will come at me from all directions. As if it’s supposed to. Even a single word can become a theme for a period of time in my life. Remember, gather, and sit have all been recent centerpieces of my thoughts. But the words for this summer that really hit home were both/and, stuck together just like that. I’ve actually thought about them before – wrote a post by the same title a couple years ago (see here), but this summer it was if every podcast I heard, conversation I had and book I read was related to these words. Surely that’s an exaggeration, but when a thought wants to be considered I think it makes itself known. This summer, both/and came crashing through the ether.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about it in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. After a couple hundred pages of explaining why creativity is both innate in us as human beings and essential to living life to the fullest, and also often taken too seriously by the creators themselves, she summarizes the dichotomy on the last page:

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.

What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.

We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.

We are terrified, and we are brave.

Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.

Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.”

It makes no sense and it makes total sense. This is the both/and. Both things are true at the same time. Just as I love my children and they make me crazy. It’s even a scientific principle.

I’ve written about this particular genius before, but he’s worth another whole post. His view of the world is that impactful. I heard the nobel prize-winning physicist and author of the book A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design, Frank Wilczek on the podcast OnBeing speak about both/and from a different vantage point. Using a different name. Complementarity was first coined by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. It deals with the concept that two contrasted theories may be able to explain a set of phenomena, although each separately only accounts for some aspects. In simpler language: that two things can be possible at once, even if not seen at once, and that a fuller understanding accounts for both. For example, light is both found in wave form and in particle form, and though not observed as both at once, together they present a fuller description than either of the two taken alone.

This can be applied to just about every part of life. Complementarity, both/and are all around us. It’s just another way of taking a new perspective on things, which always, always helps.

Humans are just a collection of particles and light, and they are also thinking, feeling beings.

Parenting depletes all your energy. Parenting fills you with overflowing love.

Faith is about action. Faith is about sitting still.

My husband and I love and support each other. My husband and I are grumpy and selfish.

My grandmother is 90 years old and full of old-age aches and pains. My grandmother is 90 years old and full of stories and giggles.

These are the best of times. These are the worst of times.

Chocolate is bad for you. Chocolate is good for you.

Republicans don’t know everything. Democrats don’t know everything.

Mosquitos spread disease and misery everywhere they go. Mosquitos (supposedly) serve some purpose in the world.

Life is painful. Life is joyful.

Neils Bohr thought physics described humans’ knowledge of the world. Einstein thought physics described God’s.

Yes. And yes.

None of these is mutually exclusive. All of these are true, though usually not at the same time. See? Both/and.

So how will I apply this today? Maybe the lady who is rude in the line at the grocery store is also a loving mother. When I listen to NPR and hear about death and crime and natural disasters, I’ll wait for the next story about a person who helped feed the homeless. When the political circus erupts all around me, I’ll remember that even Trump and Clinton are human beings with beating hearts just like mine. That one’s tougher, but it’s true. It does me good to remember.

Thank goodness for complementarity. For both/and. I’m fine with the dichotomy.

As Frank Wilczek points out, it’s all part of the beauty.

 

Love Over Lust

I feel love in the age of lust.

I feel love in the age of desire.

That snippet of a song was playing as I walked through the kitchen one morning. Just two lines, but my ears perked up. I then googled it and found that the lyrics belong to Sam Weber, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose album I have now listened to in full. Many times. This happens a lot: my husband plays music from a new artist, I notice the words, a voice, or both, and a new obsession is born. But rarely with such a short introduction. These two lines sparked a rocky, complicated trail of thought, the way words do when at their best.

Since then I’ve been thinking and re-thinking about the idea of lust. What, exactly, is wrong with it, what separates it from love, or just wanting something badly. And I have to say, I got stuck. I couldn’t write about it because I wasn’t sure. Until I read a random comment on WoodenBoat Forum.

What?

Yep.

I know nothing about wooden boats except that my father built one with his bare hands (which is pretty badass). I simply googled the words “want” and “lust” together in a desperate attempt at clarity and the forum popped into view. And Ted Hoppe, whoever that is, made it all clear. He pointed out that once the lusted-after object is obtained, it “lacks the intense attraction it had before.” Whereas a want, once acquired, can be a “step in self-discovery.” Ted, you are a wise man. Thank you for sharing about boat building and the human condition.

Lust is not just about sex; It’s about wanting in general. But with more fervor. With less logic involved. As Ted Hoppe also said, “A want rarely leaves you with a burning sensation, a guilty feeling in the morning or a retainer fee for an attorney.” In high school I wanted things to the point of lust. To date certain boys. To have the right clothes. To feel popular; it all felt urgent. I wasn’t longing for these things for anyone’s true benefit, even my own, but for instant gratification. Immediate over long-term satisfaction, with no consideration of the end result. That is lust. And that can’t last.

A passionate desire for something. 

“a lust for power”

And some of the synonyms it lists:

greed, desire, craving, covetousness, eagerness, cupidity

In contrast, here’s what I know about love:

It is patient and kind, not easily angered, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In high school I didn’t know much about love, as is the curse of the teen brain. I thought short-term. Perseverance played no part in my yearnings. My desires for popularity weren’t motivated by kindness and patience or protection of others. My cravings were all about boasting. Completely self-seeking. Add hormone fluctuations and lust was clearly running the show.

When I had my first child, something I had wanted for a long time, I experienced an explosion of self-discovery. Luke’s birth met a desire which had long been smoldering in my body and heart and satisfied in a way that lust never could. My love for him was patient and kind, not easily angered, and it certainly always protected and hoped and persevered. It’s the closest I’ve come in my life to the love described in an ancient letter to some corinthians, and it pointed me toward something higher. Someone who loved me in the same fierce but gentle way.

It seems that for most (minus a certain political candidate, and those like him), age brings a mellowing of lust. A realization that it will never satisfy. That wanting can be good when it comes from love – love of a person, an idea, a line of work or a hobby – but only then. I want to write, for example, because I love writing. I don’t want to conquer or claim it just for me; I want to experience it, and share it with the world. It continues to satisfy because it is a “step in self-discovery.”

That’s what I’m after. Discovery of myself, the world, those around me. Sam Weber’s song helped me think such thoughts today.

From the last verse…

There’s love in the age of lust.

Like a fool I chase this desire

Like a fire, the constant reminder

Of what will comfort me

I know that I’ve had enough

And I know what’s taking me higher

I feel love in the age of lust

I feel love in the age of desire

 

Hear Love In The Age Of Lust