Hardheaded Nation

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Watching an old episode of a favorite show, I was amused at a line one of the characters quipped about another. The current boyfriend of the girl had been making fun of the recent literary work of her ex as the three of them awkwardly sat at dinner. When her insulted ex stormed off and she confronted her boyfriend about it, he dismissed it with the phrase, “He’s a writer. They’re always sensitive.”

Of course, he was just being facetious. It was funny, though, because it was true. The other guy was the girl’s ex for a reason. He had been moody, unreliable, quick to take offense, spontaneous in a lot of unpleasant, inconvenient ways, but also brilliant, well-read…and a newly published writer. All the stereotypes in one smooth blow.

There is some practicality behind the stereotype. Writers have to be sensitive. It is an occupational necessity, an innate requirement. It encompasses not just emotional sensitivity, but also sensual receptivity. A writer has to be able to let things in so that they can accurately relate the true nature of things. To be closed off from your subject makes for bad writing–it would show in every line.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to turn off. There is a fine line between sensitive writer and a tortured writer. Life under that sort of constant stimulation can become tough to handle. We’ve all heard stories of various self-destructive means many writers have taken to get relief. I know this world, which makes it hard for me to understand the reverse state.

Imagine my delight to find the poem “Egg-head” by the great Ted Hughes. In the poem, we get a glimpse into the experience of the not-so-sensitives. I hesitate to call these people ‘insensitive,’ because it brings up images of those with an obvious moral lack, rude or even cruel people. No, I’m talking about those who by nature or by conscious choice do not let outside stimuli affect them, whether physical or emotional. Or, plainly speaking, they don’t let things in.

Hughes begins his poem with a list of intricate, delicate attributes of nature that sensitive people would find beautiful, but which our Egg-head would experience as “manslaughtering shocks” if they were let into his consciousness. Other people (you know, those self-destructive sensitive poet types) ‘dare to be struck dead’ because they let in overstimulating nature, but the Egg-head is all about self-preservation. He is a ‘veteran of survival,’ more concerned with ‘defense’ against the overwhelming outside world.

We learn, then, that some people choose to cut themselves off from the world to protect themselves. Fear is king here. They are afraid of being overcome; they are afraid of the loss of control, the possible loss of self, the possible hurt and devastation. Perhaps they had suffered a great emotional blow in the past and subsequently decided it is too risky to ever allow anything in again. So, they shut the world out. We all know people like this, don’t we?

With masterful language, Hughes describes what this kind if thinking would look like. He speaks of the brain being in “opacities” and “walled in translucencies” as the person “shuts out the world’s knocking/ with a welcome.” The outside world speak only to the “deafnesses” of this brain. The highly poetic language shows us how blind and deaf the person has made himself out of “prudence,” to keep the self safe.

But how safe is he or she?

Hughes’ poem explores the idea of the title. This person is an egg-head, a.k.a quite fragile, unfortunately. There is huge risk, huge danger, huge drawbacks to living life this way. Hughes speaks of the “fragility” that “rounds and resists  receiving the flash of the sun, the bolt of the earth.” It takes a lot of work to keep the world out, people! The poem describes “juggleries of benumbing,” among other things the Egg-head must utilize to keep himself from feeling and sensing things. It’s a losing battle. The poem compares the fight to a “dewdrop frailty” having to stop “the looming mouth of the earth with a pin-point cipher.” It is an impossible fight, but the Egg-head will not give it up.

The whole point of it is keeping the self intact, right? What else could fuel such a panicked obstinacy than that? The Egg-head wants to keep that “staturing ‘I am’,” that “upthrust affirmative head of man,” no matter what.  He would even “trumpet his own ear dead,” or remain in his closed, cramped—but safe—egg shell forever rather than let in the sun.

That’s downright impressive…if tragic.

I had a friend like this. He was smart, successful, and attractive, but he seemed incredibly ignorant about the emotional states of others (even himself). Not that he was mean-spirited, but you could just tell that he was protecting himself from possible emotional harm by cutting himself off from all perception of other people’s states of being. It was as if he could not see, hear, or feel the world around him for fear of getting involved, and therefore knocked off balance. It was tragic, too, because it was obvious that he desired emotional connection. Yet, that required vulnerability and vulnerability wasn’t about to happen to someone protecting a fragile self-identity, so he chose to stay protected, even if unfulfilled.

In a way, our whole society is like that. We’re all a bunch of Egg-heads. Just watch any of our TV shows or movies. We idealize the unfeeling intellectuals or the tough guys who couldn’t care less about other people’s emotions or the sunsets appearing in the windows. No, they need to be smart and tough to solve crimes and blow up buildings to save the world. Perhaps it mirrors our own fear and uneasiness about negative situations? Sadness, loss, fear, disappointment…if only we couldn’t feel anything, we would be safe, right?

Like Hughes’ poem indicates, though, there are huge drawbacks to this stance. If all negative emotions and sensations are dismissed, the positive ones go with them. Our appreciation of the finer, more beautiful things in life go, too. The pursuit of tenderness, the enjoyment of love…gone. Is it worth it?

What do you think? Is it better not to feel, not to get involved, not to let the world in, just to be safe? Meanwhile, check out Hughes’ poem. It is nothing short of amazing.

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The Stars and the Sea Said…

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I have run around the world twice trying to figure out who I am and what I am about. And I am exhausted.

I glamorized the pursuit of self-discovery. After surviving the inevitable period of life when the need to be accepted by others is the strongest, I made it a priority to insure that my personal integrity is taken into account in whatever situation I choose for myself. How noble and…what a chore.

When a person spends most of their waking hours trying to figure out life or some other unanswerable question, at some point the mind wobbles with exhaustion and craves a break. It’s an imbalance: living the life of the mind and soul while neglecting the here and now.

Yet, this is just how thought processes work for some of us. People like me prefer munching on information before settling on a final understanding, while some need interpersonal conversation in order to learn. Still others cannot fully grasp concepts unless they can be hands on and experience it for themselves. Most of us use a variety of methods; one is not better than the other. It is only when you stubbornly prefer one mode of thinking over the others that we have a comical…and burnout-inducing…problem.

It’s like that old joke about being book smart but lacking common sense. For an example, you can really see the differences in the way people think right in the family. My youngest sister is a paragon of  practicality. She is one of those hands on people who know what is needed in the moment because she is connected to people and things in the present. One day, while I was suffering from a moderate cold, I began over-spraying myself with perfume to prepare for a night out. After some time, I complained that the perfume had to be cheap because I couldn’t smell a bit of it. My little sister reminded me that I had a cold and that was probably why I couldn’t smell anything. It blew my mind. Here I am turning the bottle over and over in my hands wondering what was wrong with that particular bottle, when she knew automatically what the issue was…

Funny when it’s a small issue, but alarming when you’re turning your mind over and over asking, “Who I am? Why am I here? Where am I going? What am I doing? What’s real? What do I want?” My sister and others like her would answer the questions by living their lives, but I and people like me wear ourselves out pursuing the answers in our cloistered and intricate heads.

We are not the only ones.

The poets of the past have grappled with the same questions. Recently, I began thinking of Matthew Arnold’s “Self-Dependence.”

In the poem, the speaker begins the poem much like we’ve already discussed, ‘weary and sick’ of trying to “find himself.” To find relief and guidance, he turns to nature, the sea and the stars, to demand the secret of their poise and peace. In answer, he is given a list of qualities that the natural world displays and he is advised to follow their example.

The sea and the stars, they are neither dismayed nor distracted by mundane occurrences. They don’t demand that others provide them with fulfillment or happiness. They just do their jobs with beauty and grace, not worrying about aspects of the world that they can’t control. The sea and the stars counsel Arnold’s speaker to do the same. They tell him to let the endless pondering go and just be himself with constancy. Only then would he find the peace that he desired.

Sound advice for me, too. I think the best lesson I’ve learned through my life journey thus far is that I don’t have to have it “all figured out;” that it’s okay sometimes to just be. Of course, the poem says all of this much better than I can summarize. For your pleasure, the poem follows. Afterwards, leave me a comment. Are the last two lines any good? Are the true for you?

Self-Dependence

Weary of myself, and sick of asking
What I am, and what I ought to be,
At this vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me
Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.

And a look of passionate desire
O’er the sea and to the stars I send:
‘Ye who from my childhood up have calm’d me,
Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!

‘Ah, once more,’ I cried, ‘ye stars, ye waters,
On my heart your mighty charm renew;
Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
Feel my soul becoming vast like you!’

From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,
Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,
In the rustling night-air came the answer:
‘Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.

‘Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them
Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

‘And with joy the stars perform their shining,
And the sea its long moon-silver’d roll;
For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
All the fever of some differing soul.

‘Bounded by themselves, and unregardful
In what state God’s other works may be,
In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
These attain the mighty life you see.’

O air-born voice! long since, severely clear,
A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:
‘Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,
Who finds himself, loses his misery!’

The Mind of the Artist

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On a long plane ride to Atlanta, I finally found time to catch up on a writing reference I’ve been trying to finish. In preparation for the novel contest in November, I’ve been studying the basics on plot, characters, dialogue, and point of view. One of my favorite aspects of studying writing is the many top-notch authors that the books sample. In one fell swoop, I can discover new authors and remember why I appreciate the ones I already know.

On the point-of-view chapter, William Faulkner was referenced, of course. As anybody would know from reading this blog, I’m a pretty big fan of the king of Southern Gothic. In particular, the book talked about his novel “The Sound and the Fury,” but my mind instantly brought up another great one, “As I Lay Dying.” Faulkner’s mastery of point-of-view techniques in that latter book has always struck me because its power revolved around a disturbingly quizzical character, Darl Bundren. Not only is he responsible for the majority of the narrative, but he also represents the mind of an artist, a writer, in particular.

I had been thinking about this a great deal, especially after a recent discovery of John Milton’s “Il Penseroso.” I’ve even written about it on this blog several times. Our culture has a deep and long-lasting trope on the image of the Romantic artist. They are usually eccentric, isolated, dressed in dark clothes, roaming the woods at night, and scribbling furiously into notebooks or drawing pads. And let’s not forget the most important and perhaps most dangerous characteristic…they are usually melancholy at best, outright psychologically disturbed at worse. (For the first part, you can sometimes substitute mathematical or scientific genius, which would satisfy most people’s preconceptions, but the second half almost exclusively belongs to writers, painters, musicians, actors). Artists carry the burden of their culture’s emotions and experiences, and boy, do they show it. As the story goes, it wears on them until they goes completely insane or end their lives. Before they get there, though, they are also horrendous company at the dinner table.

Of course, they would rather be loitering under the stars somewhere, waiting for inspiration to strike, trying to make sense of it all, trying to solve a specific human problem that plagues them and ultimately has no solution.

This is the Darl Bundren of the novel. He’s a character every reader trusts because he is an objective point of view. He sees and hears everything, even things he shouldn’t technically be aware of. Yet, in the world of the novel, he is known for being quiet and even shiftlessly lazy about the place, which leads to the discomfort of the people around him. They think he’s strange because he sees through everyone and everything, but without actively participating in any of it, which makes him a great narrator but a poor social being (i.e. inadequate brother/son/productive member of society). Although he is a failure as a human being, he’s a great writer; a critic attributes to him the mind of an artist because of his poetic ability to paint scenes and understand their deeper significance.

Of course, he “goes crazy” at the end, and we realize that his superb narrator brain was simply a elaborate mask covering deep layers of emotional and psychological pain, suppressed feelings of abandonment, anger, jealousy, and obvious grief from his mother’s rejection of him and her death.

The theme here seems to be that poetic genius stems from psychological conflict, or that damage somehow makes an artist more observant, more intuitive, more perceptive. It’s a cultural trope, so it must be correct, right?

Who knows?

I think I’ve been an unconscious member of the melancholy poet club. I’ve had enough irritating reminders from work colleagues to smile more in the middle of a lunch-time rush when I’m lost in thought, trying to figure out a huge existential issue. Perhaps I’m pondering over serious aspects of our daily lives and I carry an air of pensive sadness, but am I unhappy when I rush away at the first moment to write down what I’ve seen and heard, what I’ve learned? I can be a fulfilled person without smiling all of the time. But to be completely honest, the necessity of psychological trauma, depression, or mania is not a prerequisite to art either.

Artists share their unique sensory experiences of the world (their unique minds). Perhaps it seems more romantic if their genius is accompanied by some fantastical story of their poor, poor lives. What do you think? Do you believe that severe circumstances not only influences how writers think (i.e. differently from the rest of the population), but also produces good art?

Departures

(In celebration of the recent 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I’ve devoted a post to the first play I read by him: Romeo and Juliet.)

Loved ones should not have to part. No bigger tragedy exists, especially when the separation will be for an extended time or even permanent. Of course, Shakespeare is the undeniable king of tragedy, so it fits that he has written several scenes in his plays that captures those sentiments exactly.

Unfortunately, Romeo and Juliet has become such a cultural staple that it has lost some of its power, becoming symmetrical more with pathos than transcendent art. The funny thing is, my attraction to the play when I was a fourteen-year-old Freshmen in English class was not the “sappy” love story, but the poetry of the whole thing. The poetry that could reflect with such joyful creativity the real emotional life of real people. It was the genius of Shakespeare: the mirroring of love and hate and grief in language. So, it is with this attitude that I must approach Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Taking Romeo and Juliet from a new angle brings back all of its old power.

Speaking of departures and grief in particular, the scene where Romeo must leave Juliet after spending the night with her packs a punch when you read it with desperation rather than with the playful lover bantering that it suggests on the surface. In Kenneth Koch’s “Making Your Own Days,” he chooses Act 3, Scene 5 for its’ superb poetry, but one can make a case that this scene also portrays two people who love each very much despite the fact that they must separate and they have no idea if they will ever see each other again in life.

All of a sudden, Juliet’s joking about the bird singing outside of their window is not just a cute verbal flourish. It is, for lack of a better term, desperation to keep her loved one with her for as long as she can, because she hasn’t been with him for long enough (it’s never long enough when you want to be with someone) and she unconsciously suspects that it will be the last time they will be together. On the other hand, though Romeo sees that he has to be practical about the matter (after all, he will be killed if he is caught), it’s blatently obvious that he doesn’t want to leave either. If Juliet is desperate, then he is grieved, speaking a few times of their “woes.”

The tragedy is that their fears are real. They do not meet again while both are still alive. In fact, the “loss” of Juliet prompts Romeo to take his own life. And have we not all felt in our melodramatic moments that the loss of someone, the departure of a loved one or friend, made us feel like we wanted to die, too? Separations can be likened to death on an emotionally level. And is it not true that death is the most devastating separation? The hopelessness, the powerlessness that accompanies it…I wonder how humans can stand it. How have we stood it?

Recently, I learned that some dear friends of mine were moving away–far away–across the Atlantic for good. It was as if I had paused while the world continue to rush on around me. It took several days for the idea that I would probably not see them again for a long time–if ever again in person–to settle itself in my brain. Separations happen all the time, but when it happens to you and people you care very much about…

You see why I say that loved ones should not part.

But life must go on. Loved ones do part. We all have our own paths and we must follow our own opportunities for growth. The lesson here is to never take for granted the friends and family you have while they are with you. You never know how much time you have.

Do you have any Shakespearian insights to share?

The Undesired “Truth”

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Why is it so hard to change?

A couple of months ago, I was so confused about the stubborn, destructive behavior of a friend—and even my own self-destructive tendencies—that I honestly wondered if it would make a difference trying to improve. As in the case with many things, I took my wonder to Google. I asked, “Do people ever really change?”

By the way, it seems I never learn not to use Google for such existential questions: billions of results appear (more so than usual), each contradicting what the last one says. Why? Because every situation is different. People search because of  a misbehaving romantic partner or a family member with a debilitating addiction. Or they are trying to lose weight or become more socially outgoing. Perhaps they’ve failed in trying to change themselves or a significant other. Yet, there was one underlying theme that I managed to tape together from the hubbub.

Change is possible, but it’s extremely hard work and it gets harder as you get older. Also, be prepared for many failures, setbacks, genuine instances of “you-know-what?-I-give-up.”

The last one is the most confusing, because by that time, you’ve convinced yourself of the rightness of the change and you’ve been assiduously working hard to make your life better, yet you find yourself prepared to throw it all away for a moment’s peace. Your determination melts into “Hey, things can stay like they are. After all, they aren’t that bad.”

Why do we do that? One word: Fear. It prompts us to remain just where we are, even when we know that where we are is detrimental to our well-being.

No one wrote it better than Gwendolyn Brooks in her poem “truth.”

I’ve always admired her for the simple music of her poetry. Though she sings about such issues with piercing depth, her poems always allow a certain accessibility. In this one, in particular, she compares the truth to the returning sun and she asks a question (in fact, most of the poem is a series of questions; no room for dogmatism here). ‘When the sun comes back, the good life that we’ve always wanted appears, do we really want it, now that we’ve gotten so used to the darkness?’

That’s the million dollar question. It’s what stops a recovering somebody dead in their tracks when they are faced with the enormity of their task to change, to be better, to do things differently.

After all, we complain, don’t we? We might not like how we treat others or our stubborn adherence to bad habits. We all dream of having happy, peaceful lives. Yes, with amazing alacrity on human nature, the poem continues: “we have wept for (the sun)…we have prayed all through the night-years.” Still, we have lived in what Brooks calls a “lengthy session with shade.” We have learned to live with our afflictions; we rationalize them until they’re whittled down to nothing…yet still managing to bruise our unconscious minds, but hey, we reason away why they are there.

The emotion behind this stance is fear. In her succinct lingo, Brooks proposes that we would “dread”, “fear”, “shudder”, and “flee” when the sun returns with all of its’ light and goodness. The poem asks if we would not rather seek to hide in the “familiar” darkness.

Would we?

We rage against evil, darkness, resignation, and despair, yet we are frightened by the light, rescue, hope, and change. We would rather swim in the mire because of its familiarity than bask in goodness just because it’s uncertain. No doubt our inner resistance to positive change may be our biggest obstacle.

Gwendolyn Brooks did not give an answer in the poem. It’s not a poet’s job to do so; their task is only to raise the questions. We determine our own answers to the conundrums poets uncover. With this poem, I would like to think that change is possible, that humans have the power to choose to fight for what’s good and right, and that ultimately it is worth it to resist the temptation to hide in the comfortable darkness.

What do you think? Find a copy of Brooks’ poem ‘truth’ and tell me your answer to the puzzle she raises.

The Unloving Dead

Dylan Thomas by Jessica Dismorr

Dylan Thomas by Jessica Dismorr

I’m on an indefinite break from love in all of its forms…if such a thing is possible. After such a humiliating and rejecting experience called the pursuit of love, I decided with the last shred of operable brain power I had left that I needed to take off, recharge, really consider who I was and what I wanted. Of course, the problem is in the details.

Some days ago, I was sitting, all wrapped up in shawl against the damp November coolness in my apartment, with my old cat sitting on my feet. Like a true modern woman, I split my attention between watching Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in “The Misfits” and reading a tough philosophical book on the nature of human relationships (The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm). As I read, a thought occurred to me that had haunted me for the last few months of my emotional retreat, “Why can’t I just stay like this? I’m comfortable. I really don’t need anyone in my life. I don’t need love from anyone. I’m just fine loving myself.”

I could not find a powerful refutation to my claim. I knew—I know, theoretically, that human beings need love from others, like they need to breathe, to eat, to drink, yet, I could not feel it. No amount of reasoning could talk me out of it. The answer, then, lied not in the brain, but in the hidden, dark, suppressed subconscious where emotions lie and cry. I had to dig down and discover what I really felt, what I really wanted. And then try to determine why an isolated life appealed to me so strongly just then.

Back in my Dylan Thomas days (yes, I tried to muddle through his collected poems; then, I had to take a break…speaking of indefinite breaks…), I read a wonderful poem by him called “They Are the Only Dead Who Did Not Love.” I advise you to find it and read it, because it validates the happily loved/loving and gently reproves those who choose to live their lives without love. The poem struck me because I was struggling even then with the pull between caving into myself and taking the risk to reach out to people and connect.

This Dylan Thomas poem is not as murky and enigmatic as most of them. He begins the poem by noting the dead who did not love during their lifetimes, using blunt, visually visceral language to explain what we all should think of them. They are “lipless and tongueless,” utterly ineffective in relationships, maybe even life. Yet, one can get the idea that we shouldn’t despise or hate them. They are “staring at others,” indicating a passive, uninvolved attitude, though they are deeply interested in what they don’t participate in. He calls them “poor unlovers.” He pities them.

Does it make you sort of pity an ex who claimed they were uninterested in being close and loving, and you could just tell that it was all they thought about all the time and they were just so frightened of intimacy that it couldn’t even come up into conscious thought without killing them? Well, it makes me…

Who am I to judge, though? Remember my isolation pact? Sometimes I remind myself that I have never had a close, intimate relationship with anyone (not even my parents), so I have no idea of what it looks like. It’s so easy to give up because I have no idea of the value of real, everyday love.

As if answering my ignorance, Dylan Thomas compares the attitude of those who try to be ‘complete’ by shunning love against the strength and ease of those who do love. He claims it is impossible to live without human warmth. He’s right, you know, but there are some that will fight to the last to refute that.

Not me, anymore, because, well, the poem continues that even the unloving dead have had people who tried to love them (out of the kindness of their hearts), but these unloving ones were unresponsive or they didn’t see it (he calls it love “unreturned” and “unreturnable”), so they missed out on “a certain godliness” that did encompass some “woe” but also “divinity”. And there’s the point…

An unloving person may think that he’s protecting himself from pain, hurt, loss, rejection, abandonment, “woe”, but he’s actually missing out on something that transcends himself, leaps over the negativity of human existence, and makes life worth living. When looked at like that, an unloving person is pitiable indeed. He dies without having ever lived.

Remembering and rereading this poem relit something in me, a positive spirit that had hope of human love between people. Not saying that this holy quest, this divine adventure will be easy. Images come into my mind of many stories where heroes embarked on their destined journeys which were fraught with frights from without, doubts from within, and a plethora of heroic qualities gained. They had to fight, but somehow they attained the rewards of their quest.

May that happen to us all.

What about you? Has a certain stressful event in your life conjured up a long lost poem that helped you find yourself again?

A Life of Beauty

National Poet Gallery, London

National Portrait Gallery, London

After another failed round of attempts in life and love, the paramount question must be asked, “What do I want?”

Just a tip: “I don’t know,” is not the right answer. Even when you can’t readily perceive your deepest desires, they are in there somewhere.

Still, I’ve always admired people who know intuitively what they want. Even if they go about it unscrupulously, their possession of strong desires and the courage to pursue them appears somewhat attractive to my somewhat muddled state.

The truth dawned on one such as me, anyway. I don’t remember the specifics, but I was reading my favorite poet, John Keats,’ “Endymion” prelude. There is something about the poem’s power to life my mood in sad or anxious situations. Even better, I discovered just what I wanted out of life.

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” The poem begins. It continue by explaining what these things of beauty are (primarily nature) and the healthful effect they has on us, especially to counteract the negative aspects of life. I realized that this was what I wanted. I wanted a life of beauty, a life filled with the beauty of nature, the beauty of love, the beauty of poetry, and the beauty of meaningful work. I wanted a meaningful life, filled with appreciation for all that the wonderful Earth had to offer me.

I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds like a bunch of fluff. But if you know anything about John Keats you would know that he was no sentimentalist. Don’t let the slightly archaic Romantic language fool you; he was ‘bound to the Earth.’ His eyes were open to the darkness that accompanies the journey of each human individual. He speaks of “despondence, of the human dearth/Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,/Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darken’d ways/made for our searching.” It is against these common distresses of mankind that Beauty fights, whether its poetry, nature, love, or some other personal meaningful object.

Poetry is not escapism. It’s probably the biggest accusation thrust against poets, but it isn’t true. We actually have to live in this world; we have to understand suffering and pain in the deepest sense before we can appreciate all of the good things in life.

That is the life I want. The knowledge that great, beautiful things lies behind the pain and suffering of everyday existence. This is my natural inheritance as a human being.

So, how do I translate this to a concrete desire? I make time for the important things in my life. If I’m a writer, I write. If I am out driving, I take the time to listen to the birds, watch the sky, feel the humidity in the air or the cool breeze, see the trees wave and twinkle at me. I’m there for my friends. I laugh at the silly things my students do. If I have a dream, I work hard to achieve it. I make a difference. And if I fall into despair, I let myself feel it and remind myself that I will get through it.

Beauty lives with us or we die, Keats says. His words has always lifted my spirits. Then, it gave me a life purpose. What about you? Has a poem, novel, or work of art ever influenced your view of life?