A couple of months back, Sarah’s son Henry had a high school track meet here in town, and after the meet, a group of the boys were invited back to our house for pizza and to celebrate their victory over another Montana school. In what Sarah later told me was proof positive that I’m an odd duck, and that she and I were probably not going to be the ‘normal’ parents when it comes to her kids and their friend groups, the night ended up unfolding in strange ways. Rather than focusing entirely on video games, like they usually do, somehow, the night turned into a long dive (on their behest, I swear it, into poetry, typewriters, and a few of his friends falling in love with the medium. They wrote, for the first time, the only poems they’d ever written for themselves, outside of any educational demand, and in an interesting and surprising twist, they truly loved it. Scattered amongst the typing, the jotting down of ideas, the explanations of blackout poetry, they asked some really amazing questions, asked for some pretty pointed advice, and were beyond receptive to what I had to say. It got me thinking, first about how lovely it is to be surprised, as in truth, neither Sarah nor I would have ever expected the night to unfold as it did, but more than that, never would have expected these kids, in this day and age, to take an actual interest in it. Secondly, it really got me thinking a lot about one simple truth that I believe unites us all, a truth I want to get into a bit today:
We are all, each and every one of us, whether we know it or acknowledge it or not, on a quest for inspiration. This quest manifests itself in a wide variety of ways, translates into a panoply of behaviors, but when boiled down, we are all seeking inspiration, seeking the ability, the permission, and the space, to create what our souls wish to create, what our hearts are asking for. Problem is, and the reason I bring up the track meet hang-out night, so often we are so clouded by what we feel we should be doing, creating, hell, BEING, that we lose sight of what we want to be doing, making, and yes, being. We convince ourselves we fit into some box, some pretty little box with a perfect little label, and we stifle away, ignore, or even worse, never even bother to discover, what it is we’re called to do. These young lads that started truly asking about poetry, it unlocked something, and I don’t even care if it was for one night, it unlocked this place in them that I know had been there, they told me, but they never felt they could actually entertain. It wasn’t “them” they thought, they couldn’t possibly try, for something as simple and silly as a poem typed on an old typewriter.
In the endless pursuit of perfection, we forget what it is to try and to fail, we forget what it is to make for no other reason than to create. In the constant strive for balance that seems to be the strange new advice given to everyone, all the time, by these ‘experts’ that say we need to achieve, I think we’re actually doing a disservice to the actual happiness and joy our lives are capable of absorbing. To hell with balance, I say, damn the strive towards equilibrium. Life is short, death is so long, if anything, I think we need to drastically tip the scales more towards our passions than our demands, more towards thriving than simply surviving. We need to redefine our ratios, and in the process, redefine which things in our life fit on which side of the scale. We need to step back, ask ourselves what is calling out to our souls, what is begging for more time in the spotlight of our minutes, and which can be relegated away to make more room for them.
Young as they were, these kids had already begun putting themselves into those boxes. As athletes, they thought that writing poetry was not part of the pre-designed packages that came along with that status. Nowhere in the box with letterman jackets, shiny new Nikes, sweatpants, and water bottles, was a typewriter, was a Whitman (or hell, even a Gregson haha) book, no where was the permission slip that said they could, if they wished, attempt to write a poem. They wouldn’t dare disturb the universe, as Eliot would say. What was beautiful to witness, was once they started, they really couldn’t stop. The words came out like they had been waiting to come out, and while I don’t know if it’s at all something they’ll continue in the future, or just remember as a completely random piece of a completely random night, matters not. It sparked something, and that’s what this whole journey through life is all about, sparking enough somethings that it adds up to a fire, a fire that warms us, that shines out for miles and brings in those it has always been destined to bring in.
What I’m asking of you all, is to tip your scales, to strive not for balance but for an overwhelming bias towards the things you’re most passionate about, the things that actually make you feel alive, that define life as more than going through the motions in order to survive another day. What is the point of this place, this life, if all we do is get by?
Find what sparks you, and put yourself in a position so much more in line with doing, being, having, understanding, whatever it is that truly warms you. Please, I beg you.
Life is short, find your fire, and fan it with everything you’ve got.
Call out your passions,
demand they take center stage,
and don’t fall away.