Voice

I’m searching for my voice, listen…is it here?

Mine is a voice of prosody, though sometimes of verse

It has rhythm that often falters, skipping, out of time

It meanders like a cat, its tail waving

I have seen my voice in print, I hope it sounds like me

I am looking for it here, it might be lying in a notebook

or a scrap of paper, a random scribble on a page

Observation – October 4th, 2019, Friday

Observation
It is 6:00 and I am at the airport in Minneapolis.

The concourse is teeming with people, travelers.

I am flying to New York to see my friend and watch the Twins battle the Yankees.

There is reggae playing at a bar I am sitting at.

The bar is closed.

I was the first to take a seat here, and now the number of people has multiplied.

A cooked poked his head out from the kitchen, he looked like he is wondering what we are all doing sitting here.

He looked a little nervous, like he is wondering how the day will begin, starting with a full house.

I wonder if it is normal, or if my precipitous seating brought about the wave.

Observation – September 3rd, 2018, Monday

Observation
I listen to a car roll by outside my open window
The sound of traffic is low, I have not noticed any busses
There is a beeping like an alarm going off at the nursing home across the street
Or of a van backing up, but it has been going off for hours
It is Labor Day today and the city is still sleeping

Summer is coming to an end

It promises to be warm today, not hot, the breeze is cool and dry
Kitty is running from window to window, chortling in her brisk meow
There is something happening outside
A born squirrel, or a chip monk in the tree
They vanish, and she grows quiet

Cycles

Have no anxiety about the future, it will always be there.

Seize the moment, and you will have it in your hand.

Reflect on your experience at every turn.

Put your feelings before the analysis.

Analyze, and adapt.

Listen.

Look.

Breath.

Prepare for change.

Change is inevitable, the only constant.

Foresight is a mirage, a vision of potentials.

Portents of probability churning in the trough.

Look into the crest, tension becomes meaningless.

The rolling foam and the spray, fly free from the main.

Loosed from the curling body of the rolling wave.

Launched into weightlessness, and empty space.

Born like the Atman, of the Universal Spirit.

Each ascending in its natural arch.

Each falling just the same.

Patience

Patience is a virtue, a strength…you have heard it said.

Indeed it is, and while virtue connotes a masculine strength, from the Latin: vir, meaning: man, women are the paramount exemplars of this trait.

Of all the qualities that a human may possess, of all the ways in which a person may engage the world, the way of patience is the most beneficial, blessing both the individual and the whole, by the ability to wait, to watch, to see things develop.

Women throughout the world are patiently waiting: waiting for justice, for recognition, for equal treatment under the law, and while they wait they spend their energy holding up the structure of society, by being as exemplars of civility to us all.

Patience is emblematic of self-control, courage, and respect.

 

Pray for calm, daily.
Be patient, always.
Seek understanding…this is the way of the wise.

 

Patience is not indifference, the patient disposition is one of expectation.

When we are patient, we are patient for something; the patient one it is not disinterested. They are engaged beneath the surface, viewing time on a scale that extends beyond the immediacy of the moment, seeing resolution in the movement of each part, like following a wave in its progress to the shore.

Where there is patience, there is hope.

 

A patient disposition, when manifest, yields to the individual the opportunity to find the meaning in the life they experience, to understand it, know themselves and to comprehend our relationships to each other.

 

Discernment requires patience.

As the unexamined life is not worth living (or so the one man said), the greatest value in living comes to the patient examiner, to she who is slow and steady, methodical and caring.

 

The patient-one is un-perturbed, or if upset, returns to the place of clarity, like water seeking its level.

 

The patient archer strikes the target.
The patient doer achieves her goal.

 

Patience engenders accuracy and surety, communicates confidence, enables trust.

Patience is like a spring of clear water, in that it blesses everything and harms nothing.

 

Patience heals, wash yourself in it.
Your patience will sustain you, like mana in the wilderness.

 

Where patience is absent, a storm is advancing, where present it is a cooling breeze, divine and tranquil.

 

Patience is the way of salvation.

Patience is the love a mother has for her child; kind and enduring.

 

Develop patience, like a reflex, make it first, not second nature.

Practice patience, and be led by it.

Contra Dissonata

There is one reality, its nature is singular.

 

 

We are one creation, the living universe.

 

The uni-verse is.

 

It is, we are, one word, one story, one saga, one song, one epic poem; all of time and space is one.

 

It is a story filled with tragedies, but it has a comic end.

 

 

We are a singularity.

 

 

The rhythm of the universe encompasses all things, all beings.

 

Its music fills every space.

 

There is no place where it cannot be heard, felt, calling us to the event horizon, to awareness and transcendence.

 

 

The collected voice of humanity, the choir Earth, our movement, is merely a tiny part in the great work that is the opera of creation.

 

 

Planet Earth bright and blue, soaring through the Milky Way, is but a dust-mote in the eye of the infinite.

 

We are small players in the cosmic symphony, and yet, and yet, it would not be the same without us.

 

 

If we do not understand who we are, do not understand what role we play, our part in the greater whole, when we raise our voices in song, the music we contribute will be dissonant, arrhythmic, it will be fatal; like a heart attack.

 

If our perspective is askew, if we cannot hear the true note, if we are self-absorbed and tone deaf, we will not hear the celestial music playing in our heart, we will not raise the harmonious cord.

 

We will not be able to live in peace, with ourselves or with any other.

 

 

Small as we are, our voices have power, we speak with the power of creation. Each and every moment of our lives contributes to the reality of the whole, imbued with the power to re-shape it.

 

 

There is no conflict between good and evil, not from the perspective of the good, the infinite and the eternal. There is only movement, from ignorance to understanding, from sorrow to joy, from alienation to acceptance, from fear to faith.

 

Dissonance, discord and dysrhythmia, these will always be with us. They are in the human heart, written there, in scripts that are both small and large.

 

 

How do we stand against it?

 

How do we resist? The answer is this…we do not.

 

 

We do not crush dissonance, we resolve it.

 

We cannot drown-out a noisome discord by generating a greater noise, like armies clashing on the battlefield.

 

That is cacophonic.

 

We must score another movement all around it, incorporating its rhythm into the greater whole.

 

 

We are called to forgive and move on.

 

As the Rabbi said:

 

Do not resist the evil doer

Pray for those who persecute you

Turn the other cheek

Walk the extra mile

 

Walk in the way of the wise, beating the drum, and strumming the harp, dancing as you go.

 

Contra Dissonata.

Observation, December 2nd, 2017, Saturday

It is noisy at the airport at 6:00 am

The plane to New York promises to be full

The smell of perfume is think in the waiting area

I am sitting next to a Buddhist, wearing the saffron and ochre robes

Of Gottama, of the philosopher, of St. Katherine

The crowd in the terminal are speaking in tongues

In the tongues of humankind, though undoubtedly

There are angels among us, a one-armed man walks past me

There is a ball of fire climbing over the horizon

Casting light on the moon in its fullness

There is a buzz of activity beyond the window

Flickering orange and red, and green

I am waiting patiently to take flight

On Writing – Collected Parts

On Writing

 

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir, he engages in an activity.”

 

– William Stafford

 

Part I.

 

I was twelve years old, and I was sitting in the sunroom in the apartment that my family rented, at 3305 Harriet Avenue, in South Minneapolis.

 

The sun room was in the front of the house, just off the living room, on the other side of a set of French glass doors, and adjacent to a three-season porch.

 

I was sitting in the sunroom, on a wooden chair, a library chair with my hands at a typewriter that I had set up on a folding table, a T.V.  stand, that had once belonged to my grandmother Audry, my mother’s mother.

 

There were other people home. The oldest of my three older sisters, Ann was visiting. She was in the room with me, and she was talking to me about what I was doing. I was beginning to write a book, the first of many books that I began to write but never finished.

 

It was the Spring of 1981, I was finishing the sixth grade at Lyndale elementary. I was an avid reader. I was beginning work on my own novel, something in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings, or The Chronicles of Narnia, both of which I had read multiple time already.

 

I was typing.

 

For the next fifteen years my writing drifted back and forth from typewriter, to notepad to keyboard to note pad.

 

I do most of writing at the key board now.

 

When I write with pens or pencils, or a stylus of any kind, I use a backward grip, like a lefty.

 

It is possible that I was left handed once, because there are other things that I do with that part of my brain; shoot pool, throw darts etc…I might have been one of those lefty kids that was forcibly corrected to the mainstream.

 

With a note pad at my desk, and a pen in my hand, the writing flows vertically, as if I am pushing the words out, and away from me.

 

I get some pleasure from writing by hand.

 

As I have said, I mostly write at the keyboard.

 

The percussive feeling of typing, of striking the keys, of pushing the buttons is more comforting than pleasing.

 

It is comforting and familiar to brush my finger tips across the board, to press the desired character, to see it in the corner of my eye, appear on the screen.

 

On those rare moments that I am writing with pen and paper, sitting at a café, composing my thoughts and musings, that pleasurable sense is akin to nostalgia, a reminiscence that flows over me when I draw out the letters, to illustrate the words, to form sentences in a large flowing script.

 

It is like the airing out of a dusty room. The cobwebs in my mind are gathered and removed with the point of the instrument.

 

I write on a computer.

 

I keep my files in the cloud.

 

I have a lap-top, but I use a full size keyboard and mouse.

 

On a shelf by the side of desk are three containers full of pencils and pens, and a notepad on my desk just sitting there like a security blanket.

 

I have push pins at hand, Scotch tape, 3 x 5 cards, yellow post it notes, paper clips, and other clips, tacks, staples, a stapler and other scraps of paper.

 

I have all the tools I need for note taking or composition.

 

I have visual aids to remind me of what processes I will employ, what structures I want to adhere to. They are taped at eye level right in front of my face, and on either side of my monitor.

 

This place I have constructed for my imagination has changed much since I was a child, and was first learning to read and write, first learning the nature and use of symbols for the mind.

 

Part II

 

I remember the summer of 1974.

 

I was five years old and I was about to start kindergarten.

 

I knew that alphabet song, of course. I liked to sing it backwards.

 

A few weeks before school started I was very concerned that I did not know how to write my name, and I wanted to learn it, to practice it.

 

I have three older sisters. The oldest of them, Ann, she helped me. My other two sisters; Darcy, and Raney told me that I did not need to learn to write my name before school started; that is what they would teach me in school, they said.

 

I remember sitting down with Ann on the dining room floor, with a blue crayon in my hand, and a piece of lined paper. I practiced and practiced.

 

I wanted Ann to stay there with me and watch me do it, but after she saw me write my name onto the paper three or four times, she saw that I had it down. I knew the letters of my name, she felt that her job was done.

 

Without an audience, I grew bored as well. It was anti-climactic.

 

I am not sure exactly how I knew how to spell.

 

We had a puzzle set with wooden cut outs of the alphabet, I remember placing the cut out pieces into the tray where they belonged, each piece fit into its own spot, the alphabet (all uppercase) and the number line too.

 

We had alphabet blocks. Each block, a cube with a scored surface on its top and bottom; making it easy to stack them. There was an uppercase and lowercase image of every letter, and a couple of pictures of things whose names started with those letters.

 

A was for alligator, B for bumble bee.

 

Playing with those puzzles and blocks, touching them day after day, that must have been how I learned to put in order the letters for my name.

 

I was not a particularly accomplished hand-writer. I resisted learning cursive in elementary school. Those lessons began in the third grade.

 

I “printed” most of the homework and classwork that I turned in.

 

I sped through my cursive lessons as quickly as possible, knowing that when I was done I could move on to reading.

 

Reading was the most joyful part of my day.

 

Today my handwriting looks like a mixture of printing and cursive, with printing being the dominant form.

 

I could never write a whole paragraph in cursive form, though it is possible that I would write a long piece with only printed characters.

 

The norm for me is for some letters to loop together, and other letters will stand alone…rather than calling it printing or cursive, you might call it prinsive or cursing… I am not sure.

 

My handwriting has and always has been legible.

 

I received passing marks on it when I was in school, but never any stars.

 

 

Part III

 

We had books at home.

 

I loved to read: Mother Goose, the Anderson Brothers and the Brothers Grim fairy tales, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Reader’s Digest Versions of Greek and Roman myths, Time Life collections of modern classics; Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson and others.

 

I was neither encouraged nor discouraged from reading those books, I read them of my own volition.

 

I began playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was seven years old. I was entering the 2nd Grade.

 

The game was brand new to the world, all of the rules were written in a couple of thin pamphlets, and in the back pages of a magazine.

 

I played with my older brother and his friends.

 

I read the rule books that came along with it. They were mostly charts, with statistics and tables detailing the odds and likelihoods, chances of success, and the consequences of failure.

 

In the 2nd grade the librarian at Kenwood Elementary would not let me check out books that were above my grade level, which at that time were all picture books.

 

We had a very nice copy of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I began reading in the third grade.

 

It was hardcover, and dark green, with fine milled pages, and glossy illustrations, and it sat on a shelf in a case for its protection.

 

It took me a long time to finish it, and when I did, started over, and began to read the Lord of the Rings, and other modern fantasies as well; the Chronicles of Narnia et al…

 

I read and re-read the books that enjoyed. I read them over and over. I read them in a round, like I was singing Row Row Row Your Boat.

 

My mom was critical of the fact that I was not reading more broadly, she thought I was stuck on Tolkien and Lewis, or stuck in a science fiction/fantasy genre, she pushed me to read other things

 

She only knew about the things she saw me reading, She did not know the other things grabbed my attention, and I did not always tell her.

 

The librarian at the Walker Library gave me a lot of attention.

 

She talked to me and listened to me tell her about what I was reading and she helped me branch out into unedited/unabridged version of Greek and Roman myths, and especially King Arthur. My relationship with her began in the summer after the 4th grade, when I would stop at the library after the Wednesday afternoon monster matinees at the Uptown Theatre near my house.

 

The guys who ran the comic shop on 32nd and Hennepin encouraged me to read, not only comics (which I read in abundance), but other authors as well; like George Orwell, Dostoyevsky, the books they were reading in college.

 

The comic shop was called Comic City then, it is called the college of comic book knowledge now.

 

I hung out there several days a week usually stopping on my way to and from the library.

 

I had a big brother from the Big Brothers Corporation of America, his name was John.

 

He bought me books, and he tried to get me to branch out fantasy, into science fiction, to read authors like Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury.

 

He gave me a copy of Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, part one of her Merlin Trilogy, which I read in the summer after the fifth grade.

 

Reading that book, exposed to me for the first time, a well formed idea of ancient Celtic culture, to the Druids, and to the Roman mystery cult of Mithraism.

 

This proved to be crucial for my developing interest in religion.

 

He also encouraged me to read magazines like: Discover, Scientific America, and Omni all of which he subscribed to and he would give me his old copies.

 

My friend Cecil gave me his copy of the bible, the margins were full of his notes. He gave this to me when I was in the sixth grade. It was the first bible that I ever read from cover to cover (complete with his notes).

 

My teachers at Lyndale Elementary encouraged me to read, and beginning in about the sixth grade they encouraged me to write.

 

Starting in the 5th grade they would release me from the classroom during the daily reading time, and let to go to the library where I pursued my own program.

 

My teacher, Ms. Wangerin heavily encouraged, she devised reading lists for me.

 

I read everything put in front of me, and I wrote book reports for her.

 

This same year I memorized a poem, and then recited it in front of my class.

 

I was moving at a very rapid pace beginning to read two or three books at a time, always reading or re-reading something by Tolkien or C. S. Lewis, always reading something new.

 

In the 6th grade I began to read Tolkien’s more complicated books, his Silmarillion and his Unfinished Tales.

 

In the 7th grade I was branching out into reference books relating to Middle Earth, and then I read a biography of Tolkien.

 

When I started reading Tolkien’s autobiography I began to get a picture of what a writer’s life was about.

 

I wanted to emulate him.

 

His life story inspired me.

 

I wanted to read more about all of the authors that I liked, and to learn about how they constructed the worlds they described, and the epics they heralded.

 

My mom bought me a book of poetry when I was in the 8th grade, I no longer have that book, but the poets name was Kavanaugh.

 

I began writing poetry that same year, and the following year my sister’s bought me a collection of The Best Loved Poems of the American People, that book is on my shelf still.

 

Part IV

 

I was fairly competent at spelling, but not perfect.

 

I never entered a competition to test myself against others.

 

I cannot recall ever being assigned a writing exercise as punishment.

 

In elementary school I was always willing to stay behind and wash the chalk board.

 

I enjoyed games like hangman, I always enjoyed using the word “zephyr” on a new group of kids, a word which I had learned from Dungeons & Dragons.

 

I stopped paying attention in class when it came time to learn how to diagram sentences.

 

I do not remember doing anything of the sort in elementary or middle school, but it was a part of the 9th grade curriculum, and I was content to never turn in any of that homework, and fail those lessons alltogether.

 

My grammar is fine, though on occasion I write a long sentence, and I might quibble with an editor over the placement of a comma; I occasionally misuse the semicolon.

 

I remember once in the 4th grade getting stuck, experiencing a mental block on how to spell the word “use.” I spelled it, “youse” and the teacher called me to her desk about that.

 

I was embarrassed.

 

I knew that I was spelling the word wrong even as I was printing it, but for some reason I could not think my way around it.

 

As an undergraduate I often chaffed when a teacher in a philosophy class or a theology class would take points off a paper for grammar and spelling.

This did not have a huge impact on me but it did have some.

 

I was especially perturbed when they would do this in areas of grammar where the rules are “gray,” un-fixed, and where the writer has some choice.

 

I dropped out of high school when I was fifteen years old.

 

I did not take another writing class or English class, or a class of any kind  until I was nineteen.

 

I started back up at the Minneapolis Community College.

 

I was enrolled in a remedial writing course.

 

We were asked to write a couple of paragraphs every day. The first paragraphs that I turned in came back to me covered in red ink. All of the professor’s comments were related to punctuation.

 

I was embarrassed.

 

The teacher was very kind, and he explained in very simple terms how to use a comma, period, and a semicolon.

 

No one else has ever explained it so clearly.

 

Even I cannot recreate his simple mode of instruction, but following his guidance, every assignment I turned in thereafter was perfect.

 

  1. A period is used to end a complete clause
  2. A comma may be used in a place of a period at any time, because a comma can be used in two ways; either to join a complete clause to an incomplete clause, or to join two complete clauses.
  3. A semicolon can may be used to join a two complete clauses, in which the subjects or main ideas of each clause are closely related. It may also be used to break up parts of a list.

 

Part V

 

When I was in my early twenties I read my poetry at open mic readings around town.

 

I have been doing that again over the last year, now that I am in my late forties.

 

I read at a little café in town of Twenty-nine Palms, California; when I was in the Navy.

 

I won a third place prize for composition and recitation.

 

I still have the little framed plaque, and have listed that achievement on my curriculum vitae:

 

Third Place, Thornton Desert Poetry Reading and Composition 1993.

 

I earned an A in my English 110 class at The University of St. Thomas.

 

The class was taught by Leslie Miller, a poet.

 

The class had an emphasis on the analysis of poetry and plays. It was a lot of work, and I was very proud of that grade because many of the English majors I spoke to about it were surprised that I had earned an A from Leslie Miller.

 

I was encouraged, and so I enrolled in a poetry writing class with the same professor.

 

Later, I had to withdraw from that course, taking a W because, according to Dr. Miller, whatever I was writing in her class, I was not writing poetry.

 

It was frustrating to hear a professor tell me that what I was writing was not poetry.

 

I did not understand her.

 

I told her that there were many thoughts in my head; ideas, arguments, anecdotes that I felt were best expressed poetically, and I asked her if this did not count as poetry.

She said it did not, because I was not working within an established medium (I was not sure how she knew this), she had us read the essay by T. S. Elliot: On Tradition and Individual Talent, and that encapsulated her view of my work.

 

The following is a piece I presented, and was rejected by her in class.

 

A Temporary Intervention in the Demise of a Drunk

 

His hands flail

Slowly, uncoordinated

In jagged arcs

 

He begs for his Lysol

Thinks it ambrosia

With a carton of cream.

 

Desperate for death? I ask

He chortles,

don’t make me drink kerosene

 

Until that time I had been quite fond of writing out my random thoughts and feelings in verse, it had sustained me through my teen years and into young adulthood.

 

I thought of myself as a writer of poetry but not a poet. I knew that even when I was eighteen years old. My friend Josh asked me then whether I saw myself as a poet, or a philosopher. I did not hesitate to say that I was philosopher.

 

When I finally started college it was philosophy, and theology, and history that I studied.

 

In my first few years as an undergraduate I still wrote poetry on the side, but after that class with Leslie Miller I stopped writing verse altogether.

 

For the next fifteen years, hardly a single line escaped my pen.

 

Part VI

 

I began keeping a journal in 1987. I was eighteen years old.

 

That first journal was essentially a dream journal, though officially it was a journal detailing my experiments with Astral Projection.

 

My friend Jeff, who was living in Maine at the time, he and I were researching the Astral plane, and through the technique of projection, we were endeavoring to meet one another in that dimension.

 

We both practiced the same techniques and agreed on certain, specific, visual and spatial cues, and recorded our experiences.

 

Though I tried, we never synched up.

 

My efforts resulted in my having a series of extremely vivid and controlled dreams.

 

The journals I kept concerned those dreams.

 

I never read someone else’s diary or private writing.

 

Growing up, watching TV, I saw several shows that outlined the privacy rules for diaries. I can recall episodes of The Brady Bunch, and Little House on the Prairie, which suggested it was a violation to look into someone else’s private world.

 

I understood that words were powerful.

 

When I was a teenager, and a political activist I made speeches and rallied people for our causes.

 

I understood the power of persuasion. I understood how to make people feel included our how to isolate them with words, to use my words to build them, or cut them.

 

Words both have the power both to harm and to heal.

 

Words are tricky, they deceive, create illusions.

 

Words foster our dependencies, they are crutches.

 

Words are the foundation of identity.

 

“Words dissemble, words be quick, words resemble walking sticks. Watch them, they will grow, watch them waiver so. I’ll always be a word man, better than a bird man.” Jim Morrison Said.

 

He was a word man, a writer. As I intended to be.

 

 

Part VII

 

I have two Master’s Degrees; I completed the first in the study of Theology, with a concentration in Church History and Systematics, at Saint John’s University in Collegeville; The second in Liberal Studies, in Creative Writing Program at Hamline University in Saint Paul.

 

I am proud of the thesis’ I wrote for those degrees.

 

My work in theology was the fulfillment of an argument that I had been working on for many years.

 

When I was young, early in my teens I stumbled on this argument:

 

If God has the desire to save all people,

And if God has the power to save all people,

Then all people will be saved.

 

If A and B, then C

A and B, therefore C

 

The argument struck me as simple and beautiful, and in its simplicity it had great power.

 

I had tested its power in hundreds of conversations, and found it to be unassailable,

 

It was the 1980’s, and I was fifteen, hanging out on the street, encountering born-again Christians.

 

The first time I used this argument, my interlocutor became visibly confused, he could not respond to it, and he left in distress.

 

I experienced a sense of victory, and I was pleased.

It was not that I had won an argument with this one person, though I had.

 

I knew at that moment that I had won the argument against the most common understanding of Christianity, and its most harmful dogma.

 

I had won a historical argument.

 

I had won a cosmic argument.

 

I had used my faith that God, the creator of the universe, is a loving being, and destroyed the notion that God condemns anyone to hell.

 

That simple syllogism did the trick.

 

I was not satisfied to make this argument on street corners and in cafes. I pursued it into higher education.

 

I tackled various counterarguments in numerous papers as an undergraduate, while pursuing a double major in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul.

 

I took that work with me to Collegeville, and reconstructed for my first Master’s thesis, and the argument in its simplest form remained unchanged, and continued to deliver me victories.

 

Between 2001 when I finished at Saint John’s, and 2009 when I started at Hamline, I worked intermittently, on a variety of writing projects.

 

I brought nothing to fruition.

 

I began work on a couple of novels, I eventually quit them.

 

They were in the science fiction genre, I worked on them for months before I set them aside.

 

At that time, I lacked the will to continue, I lacked clarity and purpose, and the daily discipline to sit down and write.

 

The greatest obstacle in my writing life is me, I lacked sustained commitment. I had a reticence to submit my work for publication.

Poor habits, substance abuse, smoking and drinking, they ate into my time and my creative energy,

 

I had a fear of being accepted, a fear of not being good enough, of not being recognized.

 

I kept writing anyway, and eventually enrolled myself in a program to help me take my writing to a new level.

 

I endeavored to earn another degree, this time not because I had an argument that I wanted to win, an argument that had been driving me.

 

This time I was in pursuit of writing for the sake of writing, because I felt as if  I had something to say, which we all do, a contribution to make.

 

Part VIII

 

It was 1974 and I was five years old.

 

I had walked the one and half blocks to my school, Calhoun Elementary, from the apartment where I lived with my family (my mother, my sisters Ann, Darcy and Raney, and my older Eric).

 

We lived at 1401 West 32nd Street, In Minneapolis (on the corner of 32nd and Girard).

 

There were many kids playing on the playground before the start of school.

 

At the North end of the playground between the school building and some storefronts that faced Lake Street, there was a small area that we called the “Tot Lot.”

 

On the Tot-Lot there were platforms raised off the ground, on the ends of telephone poles.

 

The whole Tot-Lot was made from wood, with long ramps leading up to the area where children would play, running around and climbing over them.

 

On one particular morning there were a couple of older boys playing at the Tot-Lot.

 

I was in kindergarten, but they knew my sisters, and I joined them for a little while before school started, and then I stayed with them after the bell rang.

 

We were all still in elementary school. I was just starting and they were ready to move on, but they were smoking.

 

The Tot-Lot was out of the view of the playground.

 

When the bell rang and the other kids went into the school building for the start of the day, the boys I was playing with told me to hang out a little while longer, they told me I did not need to go to class.

 

I stayed for a time. I do not remember how long.

 

When I finally decided I had to get to class I went inside.

 

My teacher, Mrs. Crandle, asked me why I was late.

 

I lied.

 

I told her that I had been at the dentist.

 

It was a private act of prevarication.

 

I was alone with it and my guilty feelings, though I expect that my teacher knew I was not telling the truth.

 

It was my first piece of fiction.

 

Part IX

 

Given my ambition, given my desire to be a writer and a thinker, and to be received by the world as such. Given these dreams, which I have had since before I was a teenager, the dumbest thing I ever did was to drop out of school.

 

I was a model student in grade school, but then after failing the seventh and ninth grades, I quit going to school altogether, just a few months before my sixteenth birthday.

 

I did not like high school.

 

I was busy being a punk rocker and a political activist. I was deeply anti-establishment.

 

I hung around with college kids and college age people. I felt that I was both smarter and more-well read than most of them, and so it was easy to see myself in their place.

 

My heroes from T.V. land were also anti-establishment types like; Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek), who was always figuring out ways around the system, and breaking the rules; or Arthur Fonzarelli (Happy Days), who never graduated from high school, but who ended-up being a high school teacher; or Charles Engles (Little House on the Prairie) who never went past the sixth grade, but who could do just about anything, and was a leader in his community.

 

As funny as it may sound, those TV narratives actually influenced my decision to quit school.

 

Perhaps more significantly, I was bored.

 

I never doubted that I would go to college, and I turned out to be correct in that, but the road to higher education, and through it, was more challenging and circuitous than I imagined it would be.

 

I was shortsighted, uninformed, and full of hubris.

 

I had no idea about how the world really worked.

 

With the simplicity of a child, I merely believed that everything would be okay. I believed that I would achieve my ambitions, regardless of how I undermined the ground beneath my feet.

 

At that time in my life I also believed that I might discover the deepest secrets of the universe and find with me the power to be a Jedi Knight.

 

I was fifteen years old, and I still possessed the child’s mind; wonderful and imaginative, and prone to magical distortions.

 

What I came to discover was this…

 

My future success, the success of anyone, is not determined by individual talent, or intelligence, but by the relationships they develop with teachers and mentors.

By dropping out of high school I cut myself off from access to that support.

 

Learning to trust in the support of teachers and mentors becomes the ability to find and trust the support of agents, and editors and publishers. Access to one, becomes access to the other, over time.

 

Without that rust and support, I was on my own, and there is no doubt that it delayed me on the path toward my goals.

 

I did go to college. I was not wrong about that.

 

I went to graduate school, and then more graduate school, earning two Master’s degrees, which is good, but my childhood ambition was not just to go to college, but to go to a college like Oxford, or the University of Chicago.

 

I thought I would earn more than a couple of Master’s degrees, I wanted a couple of Doctorates. I wanted to teach in those places, and publish books from those places, which is still not out of the question, but looks increasingly unlikely.

 

The risks I took were great. The road I walked, was long and winding, more difficult than I imagined it would be, and not conducive to my goals.

 

The sojourn was not unlike a poem I wrote in that time:

 

Light

 

A ray of light

Narrowly escapes

A closing door

Enlightens an object

Casts a shadow

Creates a question

Mystery

 

The writer must have ambition, there must be an end, a goal, a future they are directed toward.

 

It does not matter if the ambition is ever realized, the end ever achieved, the goal ever arrived at. The future always remains the future, and the writer’s narrative must always be reaching for it.

 

After that, the writer must write.

 

I have multiple ambitions for my writing, my ambition are in the fields of: Philosophy and Theology, History and Social Commentary, Fiction and Poetry.

 

I have always intended to write in these fields, blending them together.

 

I have a treatise in the history and philosophy of religion that I hope to fully develop before I die; a Summa Soteriologica. It began as an argument I made against the preaching of born again Christians, on the street corners in my teens. I worked on it as an undergraduate at the University of Saint Thomas. It became my Master’s thesis at Saint John’s University, titled The Reasonableness and Authenticity of the Doctrine of Universal Salvation in the Christian Tradition (RHADUS). That version of it is for sale on Amazon Books, titled: Salvation, The Story of US (buy it for your kindle).

 

https://www.amazon.com/Salvation-Story-U-S-English-Edition-ebook/dp/B00K4BFGY0

 

The early versions of this work were written in a specifically Christian and Catholic context. The field of study is called sotieriology, which is the theology of salvation.

 

I have always intended, to develop this thesis into a treatment of the salvation motif in a total global and historical context, the Summa Soteriologica I mentioned earlier.

 

That is my ambition, it continues to drive me.

I have a science fiction piece in development. For the past four hundred and sixty three days I have been posting a segment of this work to Twitter https://twitter.com/JayBotten , and or two my writing page on FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/CollectedWriting/ , with a weekly synopsis of the work I have posted going to my WordPress page https://jaybotten.wordpress.com/ , and my page on Blogger http://www.jaybotten.com/ . This project is scheduled to continue for with daily postings for the remainder of this year, and every day for the 2018 as well.

 

My ambition drives me.

 

I wrote a collection of essays, essays in the lyric mode, for my Master’s theses at Hamline University.

 

The project has changed me as a writer.

 

City of Water, Essays and Reflections on Life and the City, was initially inspired by a piece of writing I did in 2009, when I first began my program at Hamline University.

 

I was in my first Semester, we were asked to write a poem based on a website and a piece of work by the poet George Lyon, titled: Where I am From.

 

I wrote a poem about Minneapolis, titled City of Water, and I was very happy with it. That poem was first I had written since I was an undergraduate at the University of St.

 

Over the next year I thought about the poem, City of Water, quite a bit. I shared it with friends. I received positive feedback. I knew that I wanted to write more on the subject of Minneapolis, about the lakes and streams that give it it’s character.

 

Then it sprang into my head, as an idea almost completely formed.

 

Like Athena springing from the head of Zeus.

 

I should write a series of poetry about Minneapolis, about growing up here, and about the waters I have lived by my whole life. I would write a series of four poems about each lake in the Chain of Lakes, and I would organize them like an impressionist painting series around the themes of; winter, spring, summer, and fall.

 

I had my vision, a crystallization of intention that would lead me.

 

That was the first iteration of my goal.

 

That idea of a collection titled City of Water, sat with me for another year or so until I took a course in poetry, titled; Landscape and Memory. During that semester I devoted as much of my class work as I could to writing on this subject, and during that semester, the scope of the project changed, The number of subjects changed. I moved beyond themes of water to include features of Minneapolis.

 

Then I took another class, titled; The Lyric Essay, and the scope of the project changed again. I now intended to introduce each set of four poems with an essay, an essay in which I would related more personal, familial, and historiographical context to the subjects than I could provide in a poem by itself, and that would also deepen the meaning of the poetry I wrote.

 

My goal became a broad collection, titled; City of Water, and Wild Places.

 

Working on this became a daily devotion.

 

I continued to add to the number of subjects and sections that I would include in the whole work.

 

I created a document that listed each section, each subject, and the parts of each subject I wanted to write.

 

This served as an outline, and I plugged into that document all of the writing that I had already done through my class work.

 

Working this way was groundbreaking. My eyes were opening to new possibilities. I was doing something new, but I was doing it within the scope of my known strengths.

 

I had outlined several new sections for the project. I knew then that I was onto to something very ambitious, almost certainly too large for a single book. Nevertheless, I wanted to approach the work as a whole.

 

I determined that each section would begin with a haiku, and that every essay would begin with an epigram, a fragment of writing from a local writer, artist or significant person, who either wrote something about the subject, or were themselves directly related to that subject.

 

Essays followed the epigrams, and the subject was completed by the series of poetry in the winter, spring, summer, fall impression.

 

 

While I was plotting out this grand scheme, and it was evolving. I was at the same time devoted to working on it every day.

 

I began by locking in the haiku.

 

I found the epigrams.

 

I collected research on my family and the city.

 

I wrote and revised.

 

I combed through all of the poetry, and other writing I had done throughout my life, anything pertaining to my subjects and integrated with the work I had already begun.

 

I took this body of material to the beginning of my Theses.

 

Together with my advisor we selected a small number of subjects to concentrate on; the working title for this became; City of Water, Essays and Reflections on Life in the City.

 

My vision for my worked was evolving. Guided by it I thought up and committed myself to a process in which the outcome was entirely uncertain. Nevertheless, I believed in it.

 

I believed that a coherent, unified collection would emerge from the writing that I had already done, and that I would give a full exposition of my subjects by revising them according to a set of themes.

 

I determined to apply a thematic structure to each piece in the collection. I organized was as follows: thesis, transformation, loss, the city, self, family, friends, lovers, the dead, outsiders, historical perspective, contemporary perspective, mythology, synthesis.

 

I took the writing that I had already done, and broke it up. I cut and pasted the material into these thematic sections. Not everything fit neatly, and at the end of this process each subject had many sections in which there was no writing in it at all.

 

I wrote to fill these blank fields. I viewed them as empty buckets, at least one paragraph per day until I filled them all.

 

When I was done, I had a cumbersome collection of disjointed parts.

 

I was still uncertain of the outcome, but I had faith that a mature piece of writing was emerge from the process I was employing.

 

All of those disconnected pieces needed to be harmonized.

 

I began another major revision, synchronizing a timeline for each piece, eliminating redundancies, “wordsmithing.”

 

I think of this process as filtering,

 

The filtering brought me to the end of my thesis, but not to the end of this project,

 

There are more essay to be completed, and the there is the poetry.

 

I have other filters I want to employ before the work is concluded.

 

My vision demands that I pursue them.

 

I intend to filter the narratives through James Fowlers “Seven Stages of Faith Development,” and through Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” before everything is said and done I will filter them through the Aristotelian catharsis of “deduction-crisis-resolution.”

 

There are no obstacles standing in the way of these ambitions.

 

There is only desire, determination, and discipline.

 

Developing the right relationships with peers and teachers, agents, editors and publishers, these are factors relating to the development of an audience, but they are not obstacles.

 

Opportunity and timing are factors relating to publication and distribution of my work, but they are not obstacles.

 

These factors are malleable, you may influence them, but nothing is given that is not worked for. Everything you want for your future must be seized, and to seize it, you must see it, have it in your field vision, run toward it and never stop.

 

Tell yourself this…

 

Write everyday.

 

Your goals will shift, keep them goals organized.

 

Read in public spaces.

 

Submit work for publication.

 

Listen to feedback.

 

Develop relationships.

 

Part XI

My day typically begins at about 2:30 in the morning.

I get out of bed, put on my glasses, turn on a lamp, make the bed. I walk through the house turning on lights in the areas where I will soon be doing work, the living room, the dining room, the bathroom, and the kitchen.

I start some coffee. I feed the cat.

I turn on the television, and I power up my computer.

I wash face.

I pour a cup of coffee.

I sit down at my desk. I read the news page, check the weather, look at my bank account, check my inbox.

I write in my journal.

I work on a research project. For this, I read a passage from Scripture, I write a paragraph or two of commentary.

I post to my FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/CollectedWriting/ the daily segment for my 55 word a day science fiction novel: Emergence 2.0, I submit a copy of it to the 55 word “super short fiction” contest.

I work at editing future segments of Emergence 2.0, my editing is about a month ahead of the release. The full release runs for 365 days. Version 1.0 was released on Twitter,  https://twitter.com/JayBotten over the course of 2016, and simultaneously on FaceBook. Each segment was a perfect 140 character grammatically correct tweet.

I work on Emergence 3.0, to be released in 2018. I draft a full page of writing from each 55 word segment of version 2.0, and so the progression will be; from 140 characters, to 55 words, to one full page.

On Saturday every week, I issue a synopsis of the previous seven days of writing. I post those to my blogs at WordPress https://jaybotten.wordpress.com/ , and Blogger http://www.jaybotten.com/ ,

I work at editing and revising a piece of poetry for release to my Blogs on Tuesday.

I work at drafting an essay for release to my Blogs on Saturday.

I work at drafting a homily for the Gospel reading on Sunday.

When all of that work is done, I work at my long term writing project City of Water and Wild Places, my autobiographical collection of essays in lyric mode, and poetry that captures the story of my life, and my family and the history of Minneapolis.

I spend between 3 and six hours a day at those writing activities.

I have breakfast.

I exercise.

I go to work.

I typically do not read or write after work.

My daily routine is habitual. I rarely deviate from it.

Part XII

 

I won a third place prize for a poetry composition contest in 1993.

 

It was a local celebration of poetry at the public library in Twenty-nine Palms, CA.

 

The contest included both composition and reading.

 

I received a plaque, a pen, some stationary and five dollars.

 

I received public recognition for my effort and talent.

 

I was twenty-four years old and I had written these poems at some point in the previous year.

 

The title of the poems I were: Burned and Currents

 

I had read in public spaces before. I had received applause, and the accolades of my friends, of people who would be supportive of me no matter I wrote or did.

I had never won a contest or been applauded by a group of total strangers before.

 

It was heart-warming.

 

Seven years later, I successfully defended my Master’s thesis in a public setting.

 

There were about forty people in attendance and there were not quite enough chairs for everyone who came to the small classroom where the event had been scheduled to take place.

 

I was nervous when it began.

 

I opened with a prayer, one that I said everyday, because the prayer was so familiar to me

I did not think to write it down.

 

I called the audience to prayer, I issued the opening lines, and then I stumbled in my words, forgetting where the prayer was going.

 

My pause and hesitancy were perceptible by the audience.

 

A few seconds passed, and then a group of my students showed up, they were late, but seeing them filled me with confidence and gave me the opportunity to recover my bearing.

 

I was able to finish they prayer and continue.

 

The prayer I recited was this, a Prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Patron Saint of Philosophy:

 

Grant O’ Merciful God

That We may Ardently Desire

Prudently Examine

Truthfully Acknowledge

And Perfectly Accomplish

What is Pleasing to You

For the Praise and Glory of Your Name

 

From there I proceeded to answer a battery of questions, first from my advisors and then from assembly.

 

When It was completed, I had satisfied the requirements for my Master’s Degree.

 

It was the culmination of several years of academic work.

 

There are some who do not see research and academic writing as creative endeavors, but they are wrong.

 

They both involve the public expression of creative impulses that originate in the privacy of the writer’s thoughts and feelings.

 

The forms of writing and expression may be different; poetry and academics, but neither of them originate in a vacuum, they emerge in dialog, from observation, after rumination, and a careful articulation of language. Both may include vetting, peer review, research, argument, both attempt to elucidate something, a reality just beyond our senses and common experience.

 

They are challenging.

 

 

 

 

Observation – July 2nd, 2017, Sunday

Observation

 

The light is soft in the morning.

 

The house is quiet…the city is quiet.

 

People have left town for the holiday that is coming.

 

It is Sunday morning, and there is parking available on the street in front of my house.

 

The birds are talking to each other.

 

My lady is still asleep behind the closed door of the bedroom.

 

Kitty is in the big window watching the wind blow through wisteria.

 

The smell of gunpowder still lingers in the air,

The residue of 2:00 am revelry.

Inspiration and Futility, Alternating Between the Poles (Collected Parts)

Part I.

 

This essay examines the role that inspiration has played in my creative life; as a writer, as a thinker, as an academic.

 

Inspiration is a broad and multi-faceted subject, I focus on three aspects: the moment, the content, and the expression of inspiration.

 

So that I may avoid engendering the misperception that my creative life has been an extended moment of awe, mystery and transcendence, I will also present a discussion of my struggles with a deep and pervasive sense of futility regarding my creative mission, a negativism that has dogged me like a cynic over the years.

 

I have a sharp sense for the inspired moment, moments that come in many ways, and not all of them my own.

 

There are not enough hours in the day for me to list the catalysts that have informed my creative drive, but when they come together, those disparate things and beings, those moments when memories interact with consciousness in real-time, when relationships become apparent that had never before been discerned, when, like alchemy, or a flash in the pan…wham!

 

The creative spirit comes.

 

In those moments, when my attention is keen, my attention is singular, a path toward the end of a creative ambition becomes clear, and my will becomes fixed on a specific set of steps, like the choreography of a dance. That is the inspired state, when burgeoning insight is precipitously balanced with a readiness to act.

 

These moments come to all of us, we sense them when they do. The wise will seize them, dwell within them, and linger in their space.

 

True inspiration is more than a feeling.

 

The truly inspired moment comes into consciousness with content, it is the flash that both illuminates and enlightens. It is a flare in the dark whose sudden eruption points the way, either out, or in.

 

When inspired content first springs to mind it is like that brief look you are allowed, of the image you are trying to construct from a jig-saw puzzle. There it is, in your mind, for a moment, and now you have to put it all together with only the memory of that vision to guide you.

 

The inspired moment is more than a feeling, more than awe, more than a sense of mystery, or of transcendence, but feeling is an essential part of it, and that feeling is not a tepid one.

 

Inspiration is light; yes, but not without heat. It is hot with imperative, with the command to do; to write, to stand, to move.

 

Inspiration is like the germination of a seed, a seed that is fully formed in its flower, and expressed completely in its fruit.

 

Inspiration is a force. It is dynamic. In a literal way, inspiration is the movement of the Spirit within us, enlivening, vivifying, it is as much a part of us as the air we breathe. It is a “divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the soul of humankind.”[1]

 

To speak of inspiration in its aspects, or its parts, is somewhat artificial, perhaps impossible, as if when speaking of a wave you can name its peak, and its trough, without acknowledging that the two are essentially one, alternating and changing.

 

The inspired moment must be followed by a genuine enthusiasm for the work that lies ahead, enthusiasm which is itself synonymous for the indwelling of the divine.[2] When the inspired moment comes we must find a way to let it be within us.[3]

 

Inspiration is personal. It occurs in the lives of real people, and though it comes with great power, it is nevertheless subject to the cares and concerns of the individual, but the caring for it comes throughout the course of our daily lives.

 

Part II.

 

Brenda Ueland says this about inspiration:

 

“Inspiration does not (in fact) come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving but it comes to us slowly and quietly all of the time. But we must regularly and every day give it a chance to start flowing, and prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that when writing you should not feel like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.[4]

 

It may appear that Brenda has said something different or contradictory to what I said about inspiration in part I of this essay, but she and I are not necessarily speaking to divergent ends.

 

I have talked about the power of inspiration as a force, about its flash and dynamism. Brenda says that inspiration it is not that. I have been talking about the beginning of inspiration, she is talking about what comes after the inspired moment.

 

Brenda is talking about living with inspiration, about the inspired life that comes after the vision, she is talking about the falling rain, after the thunder claps and the clouds burst.

 

What Brenda is talking about is the more important part of inspiration. The inspired moment may fill us with vision and give us purpose, but nobody (nobody that I know of) can live out their lives in that ecstatic state.

 

Inspiration is like electricity. There is so much power in it. To stay in the inspired moment forever would burn us up.

 

The key to living with inspiration, to carrying out the inspired vision we have received, is to regulate that power. We regulate it through habit, ritual and disciplined work, like stringing beads together in kindergarten, Brenda says we must allow for some downtime, in order to give our circuitry a break.

 

Having space, being quiet, experiencing emptiness, these are essential for cultivating inspiration.

 

Doris Lessing, says in her Nobel acceptance speech[5]: “Have you found that space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas—inspiration.”

 

Like Brenda Ueland, Doris Lessing is talking more about the care for, and the nurturing of, the creative-will within us, what I would call the expression of inspiration and the cultivation of its content. This is something that should be differentiated from the inspired moment itself.

 

Part III

In Part II of this essay, Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing strikes the most vital point. She addresses the need to listen, to listen to one’s self.

 

It is altogether easy to listen to our inner critic, that insipid, clamoring voice knows exactly how to get our attention, but how much more important, and life giving is it to listen to our creative voice, to hearken to it music, and care for it, like the gardener who cares for the tender shoot as it pokes its stem up from the soil to unfurl its fronds.

 

For art to find its expression we must give our creative voice the attention it deserves, turn to it rather than the noisome din of the inner critic?

 

We must listen to the clear pealing of the bell, whether it is faint or loud.

 

Brenda Ueland said this in reference to the power of listening in her essay Tell Me More:

 

“I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is, and how we forget it. And how we don’t listen…to those we love. And least of all, to those we don’t love. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.

 

“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life…It makes people happy and free when they are listened to.

 

“When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. Now this little creative fountain is in all. It is the spirit, or the intelligence, or the imagination—whatever you want to call it. If you are tired, strained, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain is muddied over and covered with a lot of debris. The result is that you stop living from the center…it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising ways.”[6]

 

Take these words about listening, about how we feel when we are listened to and relate them to our creativity.

 

If we can slow down, be fascinated with our ideas, and attentive to our own needs, then we will have the time to express our creative voice.

 

If we listen to the stirring of the heart, that stirring will grow into a song, and then a chorus, with a symphony to follow. It will expand and unfold within us encompassing both our heights and our depths, extending itself throughout our lives while conjoining our peaks and troughs, making of them a singular unbroken wave.

 

Part IV.

What we have discussed to this point, in parts I – III of this essay, that is the flowering side of the garden. It is the place where we love to be, when everything is growing well and going right, but there are many times in our lives, countless times, when inspiration strikes and is not received. when it is received and not acted on, when it is acted upon and is not fulfilled.

 

There are many forces; both within us, and without, that are opposed to the power of inspiration. They are the menial and the mundane, the day to day duties that obscure our vision, the doubts that disrupt the voice of the muse, the cold fingers of fear clutching at the heart, tearing at the will, and the hand that stills them.

 

The death of inspiration comes through that inner critic, the one who tells us that our work is futile[7], frivolous, and useless, the one who spreads the debris and the clutter that covers the bright and bubbling fountain within us.

 

The Spirit blows where it will, and reaches everyone. The muses[8] sing to us all. Whether we think of the force of inspiration as divine, as a gift that comes from without, or as an innate power that is inherent to our being, as our “true self” speaking to us. When the moment comes we must, each of us, fit it into our busy lives, either that or forget about it and watch it fade away.

 

Brenda Ueland says[9] that “the true self is really the Conscience (or God)” not speaking to us about “morality or convention” but daring us to explore the “truth (in ourselves) toward bravery and the greater life.” When you find that truth, she says, your true self, “and see how gifted you are, you can write as slowly as you want to.” You can let the world be the world, and not let it set you off the course of fulfilling your vision.

 

The weal of our life will turn, our inspiration will rise with it, if we let it. We will lift from it, and jump off it, just as we reach the apex of the curve, or the moment will pass, as we cling to the wheel, as it turns around, and down we go, pushed into the ground of uselessness and futility.

 

Part V.

I have been inspired, felt the spirit of inspiration move within me. I have been overcome by the hot flash of a great idea, felt the deep desire to act, heard the voice within me speaking; slowly, steadily, quietly; and at other times; fast, demanding, and loud. I have not always listened, but then again, I have not always known how.

 

The moment of inspiration can be startling. As awesome as inspiration can be, it is not always brought about by the sublime, the divine and the lovely. Truth, beauty, and goodness are not the only things that catch my attention or make me want to do something.

 

Sometimes I am moved by what is altogether mundane, human, and vicious, by evil, ugliness and lies. Sometimes I am moved not to stand up, but to take a stand, not to move, but to be unmoving.

 

When inspiration comes, the heart and the mind must be open. Inspiration may be triggered from outside of ourselves, from something we witness, such as the splendor of nature, a grand view, or a shocking event.

 

Inspiration may come from something small and simple, from a conversation, or a question. The moment may come, and go in an instant, leaving it up to us to make sense of its significance, to the mediation of our genius, or the daemon within us.[10]

  Part VI.

 

There is an encounter that plays itself out in my consciousness over and over again. The encounter between my inspiration, and futility, by which I mean doubt about the purpose I feel that I am directed toward.

 

This is the dialog between my creative self and my inner critic.

 

For instance, I have been, and I am inspired to share with Christians the gospel as I understand it, which is a gospel centered on the hope of universal salvation.

 

My first encounter with this doctrine came out of my own active imagination, a discourse with my daemon, if you will. It came by thinking logically about some of the most basic claims that Christians make about God: that God is love, and loving; that God is all-powerful (omnipotent), that God has the perfect ability to accomplish God’s will; that God is all-knowing (omniscient), that God knows us, understands us, even as we know ourselves; that God is omnipresent (not, not-present in any space), that God is with us and God wants us with God.

 

These claims led me to the logical conclusion that, when all things are said and done, there are  no barriers to God having God’s way in the matter of our salvation.

If God truly wills the salvation of all people, which Christian doctrine claims that God does, then God will save all people.

 

My grasp of this argument came in a flash. It came as inspiration. It was both intuitive and revelatory, and it came when I was fairly young, at the age of fifteen.

 

In the ten years that followed I did not do much with this idea, except that I would using it in the occasional argument I might have with a fundamentalist Christian.

 

In that period there were moments when I would recapture that feeling of inspiration, but not every argument I pursued produced those feelings. When I would argue the doctrine with people who could grasp the logic, that feeling of inspiration would ignite inside of me, I would want to linger in the conversation and explore all of its implications, both in terms of human destiny, and in terms of the future of Christianity.

 

However, when my interlocutors could not grasp the logic, I often felt like Sisyphus, endlessly pushing that great rock up the hill. The same words and concepts that might delight me on one occasion, would on another occasion come out sounding like a drone in my ears.

 

Or, what was even worse for me were the occasions when I found myself talking and talking all night long, and really enjoying the sound of my voice, exalting in the feelings I got from my partner in dialog, or whoever else might be listening, but walking away at the end of it thinking that I had accomplished nothing more than the self aggrandized-stroking of my ego.

When I was twenty-five years old I was beginning to organize a research paper for my undergraduate major in theology. I deeply wanted to write about this doctrine. It was still inspiring me, and now it was motivating me to do something, to write, to research to demonstrate the validity of my claims in a formal way. I was moving beyond the arm-chair, outside of the coffee house, and though I was merely an undergraduate, I felt that I was doing real work in theology.

 

There was something else happening inside me as well. I was learning a lot. I was encountering more people, specifically, more educated people, people who wanted to argue with me, people who could hold up their end of the argument much better than the street corner variety of born-again-Christian.

 

I was also beginning to get a clear sense of the weight of history, of the philosophy of Christianity, its institutions, in its liturgy, and the power behind the traditional Christian doctrines that were arrayed against my simple logic.

 

It felt like that lil old ant, who thinks he can move that rubber tree plant. I had high hopes, but those hopes, and the inspired purpose that fueled them were frequently being assailed by a deepening sense of futility.

 

The question that my inner critic was asking me was this:

 

Is it possible for the most crystal-clear expression of the logic in Christian doctrine that I could change two thousand years of history and practice regarding the belief in hell and the theology of damnation?

 

Possible yes (I guess), but likely, no.

 

The creative spirit within me, my genius, was good at getting the last word, “keep working” it would say. “keep producing, keep on arguing.”

 

Part VII.

 

As an undergraduate I wrote my senior paper for my theology major on the topic of universal salvation, and then I doubled down on it and wrote my senior paper for my philosophy major on the same subject.

 

By the time I was done with that work, my research had uncovered some things for me.

 

The twentieth century had given the world many extremely intelligent, talented, philosophers and theologians who had been writing about this same topic. They were Oxford Dons, and University of Chicago Doctors, the alumni of one storied institution or another.

 

Their work inspired me. I wanted to lend my voice to theirs, carry on the good work, fight the good fight. However, the deeper I delved into the field, the more often I was faced with questions like this:

 

What is the point?

 

Why do I care?

 

If everyone is saved no matter what, why spend time and energy trying to convince people who do not believe it?

 

If in the end, it does not matter what a person believes, what church they belong to, why even bother with Christian Doctrine?

 

 

This is the voice of futility. It is my inner critic undermining me, attempting to convince me to give up, that the question that had inspired me was meaningless.

 

I learned that I was not the first person to be moved by this question, and not the first to resolve it. I learned that I would not be the last person to struggle with it.

 

Most importantly, I learned that there was very little that could be done to change the minds of the billions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others who think and feel differently about our shared spiritual destiny. Most mono-theists, those who believe in some form of hell, they do not believe that God condemns people to hell because logic tells them so, they believe it because they want to believe it, because it makes them feel good.

 

I learned that logic, by itself, will not free them from those beliefs.

 

My education was doing two things, it was arming me with more evidence, more arguments, more history. It was preparing me with expanded powers to synthesize and communicate those ideas. At the same time, it was informing me that no matter how great my dialectical powers might become, I would have little power to persuade the hearts and minds of the unwilling.

 

As for the willing, well, they were already with me, and that is preaching to the choir.

 

This is the nexus where my inspiration and my sense of futility meet, where my genius and my inner critic were hanging out inside my head. What happens in this encounter is very important, not just for me, but for everyone.

 

If you want to be true to the movement of the spirit within you, you may be called to stay with it for a very long time. You must listen to yourself, to the stirring in your heart, the choir that is singing there, like the bubbling of a fountain.

 

Part VIII.

 

I have spoken of inspiration as a flash, a flare, a fire within, but it is more than that.

 

Inspiration is more than a vision that brings a small bit of joy, a quick illumination, or a fragment of understanding. If it were only that, then the vision would be a mirage, the illumination would burn as quickly as lime, and the understanding it imparted would be superficial.

 

Inspiration, when it is true, is a call to action. Sometimes what the inspired moment calls you to do, can be done quickly, and then it is over. Other inspired moments can call you to rearrange your entire life, while you engage with the inspiration throughout. The longer the commitment, the greater the temptation will be to yield to the inner critic and allow the inspired moment fade away under the force of futility.

 

You cannot escape the forces of futility. They work on the will and the imagination like entropy. Futility will assert itself and be an active part of working out your calling. And here is the thing, if you are dealing honestly with that force, if you grapple with it, you will find renewed inspiration in that struggle.

 

When I was working out my master’s thesis, and in the years since, I discovered that, none of my good ideas about universal salvation were new. I figured this out early in my research, many modern philosophers and theologians had written about the things that I was thinking about. I learned that every generation of Christians since the time of Christ had someone in the global community saying these exact same things.

 

The discovery I was making, each new voice I found was met by me with a kind of joy. It was a comfort to read their thoughts, to understand my own thoughts as an echo of theirs moving forward in time. We were sisters and brothers in the struggle to share the most poignant ppiece of the gospel, to tell the really goodnews: believe not so that you may be saved, believe that you are saved already and rejoice.

 

Then slowly, inexorably the weariness would set in. The resignation that came from the understanding that all of these good people, all of us, we were all like exiles in Christianity, just a tiny minority within the bigger movement.

 

The temptation to yield to futility can lead you to a seed bed of new inspiration. This is kind of like a buddy movie, where the two characters do not really get along: your inner critic and your creative self, think of The Odd Couple, of Felix and Oscar, always on each other’s nerves, and yet they are the best of friends.

 

At first blush, futility and inspiration seem like they are diametrically opposed, one voice is calling you to action, the other is asking you to sit down. Each would like to eliminate the other, but they are both a part of what makes us human.

 

Futility, like drag, will slow us down, this is not always bad, it can give us the time and space to rethink our approach, to listen, and even give us insight into how to move ahead better. Just because our inner critic is a critic does not mean that she or he is wrong.

 

Remember the wisdom of Brenda Ueland, when she said:

 

The creative power is in all of you (us) if you just give it a little time, if you believe in it and watch it come quietly into you; if you do not keep it out by always hurrying and feeling guilty during those times when you should be lazy and happy. Or if you do not keep the creative power away by telling yourself the worst of lies—that you don’t have any.[11]

 

Inspiration, if it is true, and we are true to it, will continually assert itself in our imagination, it will demand its place, find its voice, sometimes startling, sometimes quietly. That voice is yours, and mine. It will lead us out of the swamp, transform it into a verdant wetland, doing so in the light of our best expression, coming as fulfillment, and the radiance of joy.

[1] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Inspiration, “1. Stimulation of the mind or the emotions to high level of feeling or activity. 5…Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the soul of humankind.”

[2] Rollo May, The Courage to Create, p. 103 “Apollo spoke in the first person through Pythia…the god was said to enter her at the very moment of her seizure, or enthusiasm, as the root of that term en-theo (‘in-god’), literally suggests.” W. W. Norton Company, New York, 1975.

[3] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: pp. 149-150. “Blake of course thought the imagination and inspiration (which we all have, as I have said) came from God and through God’s messengers; psychologists tell us it is rooted in the unconscious. But one explanation is as good another. I prefer Blake’s better because it is much easier to understand and more plausible…and remember the word enthusiasm means divine inspiration.” BN publishing, 2008

[4] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 47, BN publishing, 2008

[5] Doris Lessing, Acceptance Speech, Nobel Prize for Literature, 2007.

[6] Brenda Ueland, Tell Me More, Strength to Your Sword Arm, pp. 205-210, Holy Cow! Press, Duluth 1984.

[7] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Futile, “1. Having no useful result. 2. Trifling, and frivolous; idle.”

[8] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Muse, “1. Greek Mythology Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom resided over a different art or science. 2. A guiding spirit.”

[9] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 121, BN publishing, 2008

[10] Both the Greeks and the Romans (as well as other ancient civilizations) had a highly developed notion of the duality of human nature. They each believed that our physical selves were accompanied by a spiritual being, coexisting with us on another plane of reality. The Romans called this spiritual counterpart our genius, and the Greeks called it the daemon; from these we get our terms “genius” and “demon.” A preference for Roman culture gave their word a positive connotation, and a pejorative connotation to the Greek cognate. Classical culture not only saw this aspect of ourselves as the point of contact between us and the divine realms, but the Roman word for this also means “begetter.” It is more than the aspect of ourselves that communicates inspiration, it is fundamentally the aspect of ourselves that oversees the production or the carrying our of what we have been inspired to do.

Barry B. Powell, Classical Myth, p. 631, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1995.

[11] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 46, BN publishing, 2008