Novel by Christina Carson
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Quote from Suffer the Little Children:
"Perhaps what we call misfortune is actually a place where the universe interrupts our habits that keep life so limited and small, forcing us to respond differently. The opportunity it offers depends on how hard we work to close the gap or hold it open, allowing ourselves to glimpse realities we've never glimpsed before."
Novel by Christina Carson
Quote from Dying to Know:
"I knew in that moment, we were never meant to surrender our childlike innocence, to trade a world in which we fit like a glove for one that hung on us like ill-fitting hand-me-downs. However, all about us insisted on our membership. And instead of a handshake or a mystical password as entrance into this spurious society, we agreed instead to share a lie, the one that says we’re safe, secure, and fulfilled living this way."
We Are Not Without Resources: Wisdom from the Past and Present
What follows are some of my favorite thoughts and insights from others, who like us, had dreams within them that they were determined to live out, accompanied by thoughts from me in the black.
James Lane Prior was born in DeLand, Florida and died sixty-two years later as Pama Rab Sel in Kathmandu, Nepal. He graced us with the shortest, yet most revealing description of Reality I've ever read. From "The Divine Moment" comes this extraordinary comment on what we human beings are:
Let me apprise you of something:
You are one of a string of beings;
an ongoing radiation...
What was not engaged,
you inherit as a duty.
What was accomplished,
you have as a strength.
Thus, what you ignore or sidestep,
you pass on as a load to be carried.
And only your secret victories
The more we can become aware of the nature of reality as described in this passage, the more we sense our named self as no more than an expedience, a characterization, a role that we play out and nothing more. The world is not here for us to act upon it, but to let it act upon us, for in each response lies a mother-lode of insight into what is real about us and what is not.
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From the insightful Herman Hesse,
Mind invented contradictions, invented names; it called some things beautiful, some ugly, some good, some bad. One part of life was called love, another murder. How young, foolish, comical this mind was. One of its inventions was time. A subtle invention, a refined instrument for torturing the self even more keenly and making the world multiplex and difficult.
A poem in reply:
We the wordsmiths,
we the lover of language and meanings,
midwives birthing our stories and poems,
sensible enough to know fiction from non-fiction….in our trade,
yet totally bamboozled by our own lives.
Living as if we’d somehow escape
the consequences of made-up names and meanings,
of inventions that exist only in our minds,
while all of Nature chuckles kindly,
its voice, though barely audible,
whispering genre, genre, you’ve mistaken your life’s genre.
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In the words of American poet, Charles Wright:
What lasts is what we start with.
So what is it that we start with? For sure it isn’t words. If we could remember clearly, we might recall it as sensations or feelings; not emotions, that frothy response to the meanings we infuse into words, but the deep electrifying sense of the world around and within us shimmering out its nature as irrefutable, inviolable, and whole. So why then do we spend our lives as writers searching for the right word? That’s the magic of language; that’s the mystery we’ll likely never solve. For words harbor truth much like some sacred ark, not in their definitions as found in a lexicon, but in their capacity to pull out from within us, like a pail rising in a well, the wisdom we started with, so we too might last.
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The Arts are a lifeline for the human spirit. We require awe and wonder akin to our need for food and water. Without the latter we die absolutely. Without the former, we wither away. Today, I send tribute to all those that rekindle awe in our hearts and minds - the musicians, dancers, singers, painters, novelists and most especially the poets. As one very wise individual said: The poets take us to the doorway of the All. So join me in listening to Mary Oliver as she models the very experience on which she waxes poetic. And don't ever think that your efforts to produce a yet grander piece of work are anything but necessary and vital.
Truly we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing
in the mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and
the bond will never be broken.
How people come, from delight
or the scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those
who say, "Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
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Our Western mind-set conditions us to the notion that the word challenge is to be proceeded most often by the word difficult. Perhaps this unexamined belief is responsible for much of the struggle that accompanies the creative arts. Struggle is not what makes something great, just tedious, and ironically, tedium is antithetical to the creative act. Let Robert Crichton's discovery assist you to write more easily, to let you experience the fact that creative is what you are.
I was fretting too much over that opening sentence. I worked on it scrupulously, thinking that if I could only get the first sentence right, the rest of the book would come easy. That was a big mistake. Weeks went by with my staring at blank paper getting no where. One day I decided to just start writing in the style of Dick and Jane first grade readers. Simple little words without bothering about style or polish - just to get the story on the paper. I started writing “There is a little town on a hill called Santa Vittoria. It is in Italy. The people in the town grow grapes and make wine. One day not long ago…” and so on. It worked fine. Soon I was writing like mad all day long. The pages began to pile up and I felt better.
P.S. This novel went on to sell 100,000 copies in the first month.
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The creative process is not a process at all. If you look deeply into the experience of artistic expression, those times when you’ve written something you too are reading for the first time or are startled by its clarity or beautiful, it won’t track back to anything. There is no process anywhere. There is only openness, and life floods in. Gary Snyder explains it poetically.
It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire.
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light.
"How Poetry Comes to Me"
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And to those of you still receiving rejection letters, come join Y.B. Yeats in not only his sentiment, but his style:
I made my song a coat
covered with embroideries
out of old mythologies
from heel to throat,
But the fools caught hold of it,
wore it in the world's eyes
as thought they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
for there's more enterprise
in walking naked.
from "The Coat"
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The beauty of being in the arts, whatever field, is that we have front row seats to the creative process, and if we look carefully, we'd realize we have both everything to do with it and nothing, as science writer, Michael Talbot suggests as well:
We are not born into the world. We are born into something that we make into the world.
from Mysticism and the New Physics
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We all experience those moments when we entertain a possibility for ourselves that puts us at the edge of defeat. From his lyrical tale of childhood in South Africa, author Laurens van der Post offers to set us aright.
When you say it's the end, it only means that you've come to the end of what your experience of tiredness believes to be the end of your strength. Just forget all you've ever known about tiredness....Just try and go on. You'll find that there's no such end inside yourself.
from A Far Off Place
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Dedicated to writers everywhere from the Sufi mystic Hafiz:
The Vintage Man
The difference between a good artist
and a great one is:
The novice will often lay down his tool or brush
then pick up an invisible club on the mind's table
and helplessly smash the easels and jade.
Whereas the vintage man
no longer hurts himself or anyone
and keeps sculpting
from The Gift
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What makes us candidates for greatness, from the pen of the renown American 20th century poet and essayist, Adrienne Rich:
No one ever told us we had to study our lives, make of our lives a study as if learning natural history or music, that we should begin with simple exercises first and slowly go on trying the hard ones, practicing till the strength and accuracy became one with the daring leap into transcendence, take the chance of breaking down in the wild arpeggio or faulting the full sentence of a fugue.... And in fact we can't live like that: we take on everything at once before we've even begun to read or mark time; we're forced to begin in the midst of the hardest movement, the one already sounding as we are born.
from The Dream of a Common Language