Thinking about my life purpose, with some help from a poet,
an author/theologian/educator/civil-rights activist, a priest,
and a butter sculptor.
Two days ago, completely off my new-normal posting schedule, I issued post #303, a lovely palindromic milestone. For anyone blogging daily, it wouldn’t be significant. For me, with a weekly posting schedule only recently expanded, it’s a big number. I remember being a little startled when I hit 100 posts!
Moreover, it represents about four-and-a-half years of my life, which is a biggish chunk. After all, there was a time (Christmas 1956, to be precise) when four-and-a-half years represented my whole life.
I’m glad I didn’t stop then: I would have thought life was mostly scratchy dresses and bad haircuts, and would have missed job convulsions, physiotherapy, and near-death experiences entirely. Not that I’m bitter.
Like all milestones, this one offers the opportunity to look back and to look ahead. That impulse is intensified because I’m now on a cruise descent into retirement, working less and, perforce, doing “something else” more.
So I’m thinking about what that something else will be, at least for the next little while. It’s the age-old question (Hey! Don’t say “old”!):
What will I be if I grow up?
So I thought I’d see what advice I could get from some pretty thoughtful people.
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your own wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
You know, Mary, at my age, I’m not sure “planning” is the best approach: “Doing” seems better suited to the schedule constraint.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
Howie, that sounds wonderful. Truly. But do what?
” . . . many of us hesitate to express our creativity for fear that we will be too-amateur and too-unskilled to measure up. And so we don’t write poetry, write music, write novels, paint pictures, do sculpture, take up dancing, do carpentry, raise flowers, or do gardening because we fear that what we will produce will be too unprofessional to stand out in any way or to measure up in a way that it can be published or exhibited publicly so as to receive recognition and honor. And so, mostly, we mute and hide our creative talents because we cannot do what the great ones do. We punish ourselves by thinking this way: If no one will publish it, no sense writing it. If nobody will buy it, no sense painting it. If nobody will admire it, no sense doing it.
But that’s the wrong idea of creativity. We are meant to create things, not because we might get them published and receive honor and money for them. We are meant to create things because creativity, of all kinds, has us enter into the deep center of energy at the heart of things. . . . Creativity is its own reward.” Ron Rolheiser
All right, then. Never mind that I’ll never be a best-selling author or a professional photographer: Writing and photography are part of what I’m doing with my one, wild, and precious life, because they make me come alive. And as Ron argues, both are, indeed, their own reward. (Not that I’d ever, you know, object to a little critical acclaim.) But both are also tons more fun when shared. So thanks for coming along.
But, you know, it’s possible to get a little too serious about this. It turns out that I didn’t need to go to such high-falutin’ sources as poets and theologians for validation of my creative impulse, such as it is. This week’s news included a report of a butter sculpture of a dead raccoon (Toronto’s favourite dead raccoon, apparently) at the CNE. Category? Celebrities.
All right, then. I’ll see you at my next milestone: a butter place, I’m sure.