Writing and Doom

That day’s Sinking Feeling Epiphany:

Every day is September.

(Can I still do this?)

The day after Labour Day — in Canada, it’s the first Monday of September — always loomed anxiously. For most of my adult life, it meant being back in a high school classroom, the Return of the Creature. From about the last week of August, the Creature Dreams would begin their annual limited engagement. (It’s an auspicious day, great things to teach or coach, but I can’t find my classroom/the gym, materials are a bizarro mess, and wait didn’t I have clothes on before? and this place looks vaguely familiar but why’s the ceiling getting so low and holy-cow-my-feet-are-stuck-in-what.) Teaching and coaching were performance arts, and so there was performance anxiety, more than 20 years of it, but mainly confined to the first Tuesday morning of the school year. I always got an adrenalizing dose of can I still do this? but I was unfailingly reassured about five minutes into period one: yeah, ‘course you can. You’re built for this. I am Creature. Hear me creach!

Maybe I’m just tired and lonely in this writing thing. In June, we were not only packing, finishing our teaching jobs, and preparing to leave China and our Chinese friends after five years, but I’d accepted a writing deadline: June 30.¹

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Meditations on Livelihood

“What is the supreme virtue for a warrior?” Leonidas, the King of Sparta, was asked.

“Contempt for death,” he replied.

(A writer asked himself the same question about his own artistic struggle. His answer, in the manner of Leonidas, was this: “Contempt for failure.” Is this not the heart of all noble work?)

In the Hindu scripture known as the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God), Lord Krishna speaks to a companion about his work.

“You have a right to your labour,” he says, “but not to the fruits of your labour.” Holy detachment! And how can one work actively and yet remain at peace?

Krishna sings:
Give the act to me.
Purged of hope and ego,
Fix your attention on the soul.
Act and do for me

(And I am reminded of what Bahá’u’lláh, also from the Divine point of view, wrote over 4000 years later: “Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits….It is incumbent on every one of you to engage in…arts, trades and the like. We have made this – your occupation – identical with the worship of God, the True One.” Work as worship. Spirit first, even on the assembly line.)