William Faulkner is not immortal. Faulkner--like Shakespeare, like Virginia Woolf, and like so many others--is dead. He is a corpse, buried deep down in the ground in Mississippi. Dead. Not immortal. Dead. Understand this.
Once-upon-a-time, however, Faulkner, like Whitney Houston, like Gilles Deleuze, and like a whole host of other angelic voices who have changed tense, was once living and breathing, and while alive, he created, and experienced, moments of being immortal.
And, now, I, like John Edgar Wideman, Springsteen, Spike Lee, and others, experience similar glittering moments of immortality wrapped inside the ineluctable breath of creating my life. Like Faulkner, I experience immortality in the writing of my writing, in the moment of seeing into a sentence, in each breath of touching those whom I love.
Here lives immortality. The time to flower, as dear Patti says, is now.
And we need, always, to be patient and aware of these flashes of immortality that we create. We need to be awake, to consciously seek out such moments that rupture the narrative of capital, and we need to hold to those moments, and we need to travel, to go deeper. And we must understand it is our responsibility to live in ways that allow us to experience time in new ways. Time as something other than a ticking away of what was, as we move toward death. (The invention of the digital clock changed how we experience time. D. E. Protzmann, the evil engineer who created this insane abomination, damaged our body's realationship to time. Destroy all digital clocks. Seriously. Do it. No one is looking; they are all taking selfies.)
Time is, time was. Time will be again. Photographs disappear before they are developed.
As artists creating our lives, we must steal time from tense, and enter the immortality of the present space that challenges time as time is measured by clocks, especially by digital clocks that disappear time and abandon all hope ye (that's right, ye, not you) that trust in such a way of measuring (erasing) time.
We are going to die. This we know. In the beginning, at our birth, we were given one true gift: the gift of time. The only sin that can never be forgiven is the wasting of time. To waste time is a truly arrogant act. We were also given the freedom to create a life with this gift. We were not, however, given an expiration date. This is the beauty of living each moment, of our devotion to each breath. We must, therefore, live our lives by somehow being true.
People say, “If only so and so had lived longer, imagine what they would have accomplished.” John Keats and Otis Redding died at 26. Jimi Hendrix died at 28. Roberto Clemente at 38. People say, "They died so young." But before they died, they lived the time they were given, as a gift at their birth, without knowing they would die so young, and they did so with passion. Do not go gentle. Some people devote the time they are given to, say, something like, writing “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.” Some people make basket catches in right field and lift a knee and step into a fastball without fear. Some play “Purple Haze” on a guitar turned upside down. Others play Pokemon-Go, or complain about doing things that they do not enjoy doing, things they claim that they “have” to do. We all die.
More important than leaving behind, say, a powerful and evocative song (something like “When Doves Cry”) for those who go on living after our death, we should die having lived experiencing the moments of writing and singing such a song. Prince was immortal in those moments. Not in us playing his songs now, while trying to understand how someone so magical could actually die. We are immortalizing him. He is dead. He was immortal when he was alive and living life, looking for the purple banana.
All of us can experience such moments of immortality, if we trust our soul and ignore the distractions of capital. That is, if we accept the truth that we are responsible for creating our lives, and if we truly experience bliss in the act of creating, not in seeking some external praise (or money). Springsteen did not write songs about those beautiful people in Asbury Park because he wanted to make money and become famous. He wrote the songs because he loved those people, their stories; the money and fame came out of that love. Would he have quit making music and writing songs if he had never “made” it? Hell no. He’s from the east coast.
The work matters.
Do not ever compromise your vision. Do good work. If you don’t believe in me, if you don’t believe in Springsteen, believe in Patti.
(I am not suggesting that financial success is somehow evil. God, and Santa Claus, knows I want everyone reading this sentence to buy my new novel, Here Lies Memory, published by Black Scat Books and coming out September 15, 2016, and I want you to tell at least ten of your friends to buy it, and to have your friends tell their friends to buy it, and so on. I am, however, saying that if a person sets out to do something only for money or fame, or for any reward—mommy’s approval, daddy’s nod, or some teacher’s blessing, and so on—they are dooming themselves to a specific kind of misery. Just ask Dante.)
So live like you mean it.
But therein lies the problem. It takes not only courage, but also devotion to live in a way that allows you to even begin to see what you desire. Be curious about your life. Love what you are doing—I mean be truly, deeply passionate about it—enough to protect it, to cherish it, and offer it to your soul. And, trust me, you will need to protect your life, to defend it against those who want you to conform to the life they lived; well, to be honest, the life they actually never did live, but “sacrificed”, because they caved into their fears, and those people (parents, teachers, guidance counselors, boyfriends, girlfriends) who caved into their fears will do all they can to put those same fears inside you.
Don’t let the creeps win.
Passion always begins with fear. And fear is, very simply, conformity trembling. Before there can be true passion, we must break the hold that conformity has on us. Conformity is ripped apart at the seams when we dream.
When we do experience fear, and we will fear this unraveling of the myths we have been told to trust, all we are really experiencing is the shattering of our agreement to conform. We have defamiliarized the familiar (oh, sweet, dear Mikhail), and this frightens us. We’ve come undone in a beautiful way.
We are leaving their path, the one they designed, not to keep us safe, even though they told us again and again that they were doing all this to us for our own good, that they knew what was good for us; no, they lied. They did it to keep us under their thumbs. And they will die, not having lived. And near the end of their lives, they will fear death. And this fear of death will come because, on their deathbed, they will regret not living a life of their own. And they will be punished for stealing our dreams, for making us conform to their sadness, to their safe, color-inside-the-lines obedient ways. They will be punished. (Just ask Dante, not Beatrice; she is too young to answer such questions. This is an allusion. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man.)
So let us go then you and I, and be mad like Bataille and ignore the way others define success, the way others put limits on our living a life that challenges their assumptions of what a “good” life is. Forget those comfortably numb advisors and parents and parents telling us what is in our best interest, forget those “people” etherized upon the table of their “career” and shackled by a mortgage to an over-inflated investment (not home), forget those bourgeois parents hiding on their decks in the back yard, imprisoned by a redwood fence “teaching” us to submit to the “glory” of capital.
Art is a vocation, not a career. Know this as the one truth. Follow your vocation, not your career. Too many people want a career as a writer, or as some other artist. Some people think that vocation and career are synonyms. These people are idiots. Art is not a career. Art is a vocation, a calling. Such a calling is spiritual, a divine calling. A career, on the other hand, is a running (usually at full speed), a course, typically a racecourse. Who would want that? Who wants to run through their lives to death? If we simply slow down, we will see what remains invisible when we run through our lives. Listen to the voices. Listen to the calling. If you are running (i.e. wrapped up in a career), you cannot hear the calling. Be divine. Go ahead. Be the divinity of your own live. Glow, baby, glow.
Find those syllables. Sing. Dance.
Often being busy, always rushing, is mistaken as a sign of being successful. It is actually a sign of stupidity, of arrogance, of pretension. The next time someone says, “I am so busy.” Call that person a failure. Call that person a disappointment to God, or Buddha or Allah or nothing (if you are an atheist and believe in nothing). Call that person a sad, pathetic, believer in capitalistic myths that are designed to keep people exhausted so that people can only consume, not create.
Wear your trousers rolled. Dare to eat a peach. Go on, do it. Do it in public. Who cares if the voyeurs are watching? There are film theories that will save you from their gaze. Dare them, with their insane selfie-sticks, to stop looking at their own image and watch you eat a peach. And if the mermaids do not have the courage to sing to you, then you should sing to them. Sing until the mermaids come to you. They will come. Trust me. Mermaids always come.
Ignoring your passions is the slowest form of suicide. Never ever ignore what gives you goosebumps, because those are angels waking up on your skin. They’re calling you.
Be wild with your listening.
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