Writing as a summoning
I write because. . .
I write to keep my balance, to preserve my sanity (whatever remains at three score and fifteen plus). I write to explain myself to myself, to give my life some meaning in the face of contrasting views of misery and beauty, disaster and compassion.
I write because I love, and feel, and need to love mightily. I write because I see and want to share. I write to understand this world, and to probe my relationships. I write much that I never share.
Probably the first reason I write--starting some fifty years ago--is to guide this heart of mine through some chaos, through truth and fiction and the summons to love. I know I am a "walking contradiction," a mixed bag. I write because I am climbing a mountain and want to share the views along the way. I write because I am now standing on a mountain top and the landscape is both awesome and scarey. I write because the mountain moves and has become a volcano ready to explode with fire, fury and lava, and some steam must escape.
I write to calm my soul so that when I read what I have written, I can say, "Ah! There! That's not so bad. That's more clear. Now I can see more clearly what before was troubling or crazy, boiling or just simmering. Putting that down and looking at it allows me to put it aside.
I have journaled for many years and have thick notebooks. I have employed the habit of writing to keep my sanity (whatever is left) while I survived (?) or tried to survive listening to people's problems 30 hours per week for forty years. I added it up once to be about 45,000 hours of attending to all their IFs, ANDs and BUTs and often tortured explanations.
The last ten years of that I felt trapped. I had family, wife, house, chores, demands, and a lifestyle to maintain via spending 30 hours per week as a Professional Listener and Problem-Solver -Zorba's "Full Catastrophe!"--while pretending to be sane. I was probably "burned out" ten years before I happened happily to transition fully to organizational consulting in 1997. I wrote much during that time.
Certain places and some persons are gossamer to the writing Muses. Knobs Haven retreat house where our SGN of Kentucky has held quarterly retreats for 15 years is a place of awesome spiritual power. Thousands of young Catholic women for over 140 years vowed their lives to God there, then went all over world to educate children. Present there is that "sound of sheer silence" that the prophet Elijah heard (in the 19th chapter of 1 Kings, NSRV translation preferred) at the mouth of the cave. Writing has probably saved my soul. I write to discover meaning and beauty and grace. More than ever before, I discover beauty and grace everywhere even in the face of evil, denial and blindness. I write to explore my heart and to discover my core values.
What we see is our own reality. What we focus on becomes our world. "Appreciative Inquiry" (The Thin Book of), makes the point that we have two ways to view challenge. We can see ourselves, our company, our marriage, or faith as a problem to be solved. Then we focus on what needs fixing.
Or we see ourselves, our company, our marriage, or faith as a mystery to be embraced. This view has very different outcomes. We focus on what works, and how to make it work better. Two entirely different approaches. I usually approach the end of the year and the beginning of a new year with some inventory. What the year was like, where my energies went. Some self-exam has always been part of that. But often not happily. "Gads, I am still doing THAT. . . After all these years. I can't believe I have made so little progress in . . .whatever."
This year, different. What is that I am good at, where do my strengths lie, where is "my bliss?" Ah! That is what I will do, now I will do it in spades. Yes!
Part of my bliss is in the process of writing. I write because I love life. Life itself is such a precious gift. This one life given me cannot be appreciated enough. Writing claims it, as my own. I cease being a passenger, an observer, a voyeur, a lurker and become an actor discovering a role, a place, a function, even, "God willing and the crick don't rise," a plank across, a pathway among rocks, some kind of lever for someone somewhere.
I become, by writing, more of a straw, a vessel, a glass, a cup. For me, it is an exercise in "Servant Leadership," also another favorite book by Robert Greenleaf (Paulist Press, 1977). By risking to make myself vulnerable, perhaps others can risk and make themselves vulnerable. "Oh, if my enemy would write a book!" said Job somewhere. Our wise and distinguished Moral Theology Professor Eberhardt, O.S.B., (loaned us from St. Meinrad's Seminary) loved that quote. "Don't put it in writing" was his dire warning in major seminary to all of us young aspiring candidates for priesthood. "
In the first days of this new year, I have started seven blogs on topics that intrigue and fascinate me, the interface between spirituality and wellness, psychology and work, love's poetry, stories of God, sex and the sacred, where we find the spirit's gentle breeze, etc. I will offer writing on these topics to others. My webmaster, Alan Dix is preparing a new page to introduce those blogs and a way to coordinate them.
"Bless me, Reverend Father, for I have sinned. . . .I beg to differ from your teaching. I will risk my vulnerability as a gateway to blessing and oneness with others."
After that confession, allow me to close with a few quotes from my favorite writing muse and coach from which I have received much inspiration:
"We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding, and connecting. . . making sense out of chaos and confusion. We should write because writing is good for the soul.
. . .Writing connects us to the invisible world. It gives us a gate or a conduit for the other world to talk to us. . .Writing gives us a place to recognize more than the rational. It opens the door to inspiration. It opens the door to God or, if you would, to 'Good Orderly Direction.'
SOMETIMES I SAY TO A POEMSometimes I say to a poem,
Can't you see I am bathing!"
But the poem usually doesn't care
"Too bad, Hafiz, No getting lazy
You promised God you would help out
And He just came up with this
Sometimes I say to a poem,
"I don't have the strength
To wring out another drop
Of the Sun."
And the poem will often
By climbing onto a barroom table:
Then lifts its skirt, winks,
Causing the whole sky to
Is only possible
While living in the suburbs
Post Note, July, 2005, on the occasion of my 76th birthday anniversary.
"I just read your ‘Why I write’ - and found it exhilarating and challenging and comforting all at the same time. You have such a gift, Paschal. Thank you for sharing it."