While you have the light
Snowblind travelers, on this tropical New Year's Eve, I hope you feel inspired. I hope you remember the wishes and dreams that in childhood you jotted down on scraps of paper next to your bed. Listen to lots of Bon Iver, Sigur Ros and Iron & Wine. Revisit the landscape of your youth--if only in a deep and dreamless sleep. I hope you have found--or will soon find--the worthy goal that will give your life meaning. I hope that young or old, alone or surrounded, always right about to leave or always just arriving, you greet this next year prepared to grow. Whatever advice I give you, is just advice to myself. Remember May Sarton's words: "Growth is demanding and may seem dangerous, for there is loss as well as gain in growth. But why go on living if one has ceased to grow? And what more demanding atmosphere for growth than love in any form?” I hope that whether you believe in God or the universe or fate or nothing at all you can employ your own version of the Jewish prayer called the Shehecheyanu and thank someone or something for bringing you to this moment.
To become a better runner, run. To become a better writer, write. To become a better friend, be a better friend. To become more connected, connect more. Children seem more alive, but that does not have to be the case. To be more alive, live more. People cling to problems, they seek chaos, they will always find things to worry and be upset about, they have incredible aim for the bullseye of pain. This is distraction. People don’t have to like you. They don’t have to think you like them. There are bigger goals in the universe.
During the past week I've gone back over tons of old writing -- drafts and notes, lists, journal entries, essays, stories I began, letters -- and I don't need them anymore. I can just get rid of them. I am clearing them out. I don't need to save them for some future rewrite or for posterity or for whatever it was -- I've moved beyond them, internalized the thoughts that had any relevance, and gotten past the hangups and gotten past the need to prove things to myself. (Listen to "Yes My Heart", Benjamin Oak Goodman ---right now. Google it, just get the video on youtube -- listen to this song right now.) Creation, not possession -- I will find the quote -- I don't have it at hand tonight. And I have to keep going. Work while I have the light.
Somehow--despite all the failed dreams, the lapsed-New Year's resolutions, the times we said--this is it, this time is different, this time I will change -- and then did not, we still keep making new resolutions, keep jotting down notes next to the bed, keep dreaming. And how could we not? The universe was not made for us, but we are made of stars.
On Christmas Eve, those sugar-plum dreams are full of hope for finding the thing you've wanted so badly all year under the tree in the morning. If only I could only have that toy train I saw in the window of Mr. Hayes' toy store on Main street. I hope I hope I get that one yellow-haired dollie in the rocking chair. The coin collector set, the spy kit, the shiny turquoise dress that will twirl out when you spin. Kids, you’re supposed to want, to dream, to hope. It’s just too bad that what you’re taught to dream and hope for is so unimportant, so guaranteed to not fulfill you but to lead you to other things you want. We owe you a collective, massive apology. Not just for the Santa Claus lie, which is really the least of it. But for teaching you to want things. And for telling you that if you’re good, you’ll get them. On that magical night, that means so much, that shines like Sirius, we have it all wrong.
And yet wanting--something much bigger, elusive, impossible, like stars we still see in the sky that burned out ages ago (part of us now? Are we seeing ourselves out there, literally? )--wanting is the beginning of every story. I wanted something badly enough that finally I had no choice but to do something about it. It's the beginning of this one, too.
*A Child's Christmas in Wales "Now we were snow-blind travelers, lost on north hills"
**Henri Frederic Amiel, "Work while you have the light." (Also in John 12:35, Jesus says "Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness overtake you.")