It often feels like you yourself are the last one to be able to say anything wise. A voice tells you, ah, kid, you're just an amateur. Where would you start, even begin, anyway?
Well, you probably have to start out, like everyone else, with getting up out of bed, make your tea or coffee, have a promise of something to eat for breakfast. Take it from there. (Perhaps this is why pieces of literature recount basic things, shaving in the morning, breakfast over a campfire with coffee and hotcakes, an army crossing over a bridge, basic details of the texture of things we find in our own lives, basically shared the world round.)
Speaking of Dante:
What are the dark woods, but a feeling of, or comparable to, all the the ground you have lost in that tug of life between life and talents, between vocation and avocation, between the job that pays the bills and the great calling within of your basic personality and its values. Have you put yourself on the path, of all the inner abilities and onward toward reaching the potentials thereof?
You had it, a clean line of sight, talents for the direction, a compass. And now you're in a dark thicket, no light to shine, strange sounds and voices, inner and outer, of the darkness. You are, as Dante starts, "lost," in a big way, knowing not which direction to turn in. In exile. In need of good thoughts and positive vibrations, light, a path.
There were the things you built up, worked upon, and then, who knows exactly why, feeling low or feeling in need of spiritual purification, purification for a soul guilty of laziness, torpor, indirection--as the great literature of the Bible and other spiritual texts tell of, as is not uncommon, told many times, in enough different ways for you to get the point--you let things go. You fell down, you lost your courage, and this is a hard thing to look at and admit in yourself, I suppose.
Or rather, you didn't, as they say, "get yourself out there." Other people do. They get out there, they work hard. They stand up individually, pursuing something of a dream, to claim the right of their own talents, their values, the conjecture of their thoughts. Bravely, they stood up, were tested, again and again, beat the pavement, showed up, went through stress, and then come out afterward acknowledged as practitioners of their craft, no longer apprentices, celebrated, recognized, writing their own ticket. Or, at least, on a path forward, doing something, getting, as they say, paid to do it.
Whereas you yourself, so the thinking of the dark wood might go, grunt along, a noble workingman, yes, committed, but, not at all sure you're on the right path, or even the right ballpark. Are you hiding your talents under a rock, a rock in the forest, on the dark wet side of rocks and stone where things crawl moistly at the edge of the soil? Are you hiding your light, your lamp, as it is said, under a bushel basket, and perhaps, tired out at the end of the day or not wanting to get up really in the morning, for what are you doing anyway but living under some heavy pressing thing, in need of acceptance and love and family. Too long in hiding, yes, and maybe no longer in good shape as you once were.
Did you miss the boat? Is life like the story Jimi Hendrix tells in Castles Made of Sand in the maturity of his second record album, as art plumbs the spiritual, the mismatched quality of talent and fate, of the young Indian brave on the eve of battle, who is dispatched in his sleep by the enemy before he can "sing his first war song." "And so castles made of sand melts (sic) into the sea, eventually." Yes, art plumbs the spiritual, the matters of the soul generally left out of the main portion of that which is the corporate world, of business and accounting and banking mechanism. Art calls upon the concept of karma. Art calls upon the concept of being, of being alive. Art recognizes the God's grace, mercy, and the indomitable spirit within each of us, whether we present it forwardly as a largely unseen topic behind most conversations, or not, not talking about it, except as it relates to the projects one is up to, like making a canoe or performing music somewhere. Hope, hope, is what we need.
Karma is there to serve, to help you eventually get into that realm of wiseness oft spoken of, though who knows with certainty what being wise is, beyond particular actions, foolishness, mistakes, misspeaking, wrong thinking, wrong employment, etc... Karma helps you avoid wanting material things beyond your means, that one of a certain broad mainstream set of values might well tend to strive for, things like, things we all need even, security, comfort, compensation for our work, good taste, and nothing at all wrong with all of that, to each his own. There is a hurting hard to describe openly, hard to admit, hard to avoid, when the bulk of these things seem tentative. The good taste of the public keeps people employed, people like me who didn't quite fall into all that themselves out of whatever reason and quite possibly stupidity, laziness, foolishness. Perhaps material things help us get out of that feeling of being lost, and that is a good thing if it helps you avoid the negativities and anxieties that are hard on social life and health.
There is within the great lesson, like that told in the tales of Job and Jonah, how we go from the denial of talent and depression, shrugged off the nay-sayers, inward and outward, get through that, and got better, somehow. Perhaps this is what resounds in us instinctively of Lincoln, at least the Sandburg as historian's version, gleaned from talking to the people who knew him, like the story Herndon his law business partner and other people would observe of him, lying low on the couch, lost in some space far enough away.
It is not surprising to me the wealth of genuinely worthy of the literary label, meaningful works that come out of the restaurant trade, the tales of Bourdain, Pépin, flashes of a collective subconscious... Really a great richness in them, and creating a tradition out of something old as the hills, stories of working... drawing creative types like a river draws animal life.
Writing is hard work in its own strange way. It can be exhausting, perhaps for being unnerving, though there is generally a decent feeling that comes from having made the simple effort. At least your working on your basic physical chops, letting the fingers do their thing over the keyboard of an old MacBook Pro. Writing has its rhythms, its hours of sunlight, its Van Gogh sense of toiling in the garden and vineyard of humanity in search of something of color, eloquent to say, when an individual forget his or herself, went with the flows of observations from one tree or stone to the next, became less a self and more a part of nature.
There are times when the pain of morality, a sense of sickness inside, needs to somehow nourished, and writing, as well as the creative element of spiritual works (which often have a fictive ring to them, perhaps to make them more real to us) to be read and pondered over, can serve as a coping mechanism, something sustaining us, as we slowly get better and better, finding the people of the world, our neighbors, the people we respect as creative types, supportive and helpful.
I wrote a long time ago about myself as a kid, more or leads, going back to his first homecoming weekend. Doesn't go well the young dame, and the kid finds himself at a record store, and that's what he takes back with him, Red Roses for Me, the Pogues first album. And ever since then, those old Irish rebel songs redone by MacGowan and company, vital to our own times, have stood, like Shane says, "still there's a light I hold before me..." And the rebels of life have always been important to me, like my old friend, Pani Korbonska, who'd have me over on full moon nights, for light fare and wine and cheese, telling stories about standing up the Nazis in Warsaw, sending radio messages picked up in London for information to broadcast back over Radio Free Europe.
And also for myself, there's something about Huck, on that big old river with Jim, that sort of strikes me, the decency of being on the observant side of life, not pre-judging, no particular agenda to impose, rolling with it, admitting one's own wishes and mistakes.