Go with the Flow; Navigate by the Stars

“What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.” Salman Rushie Satanic Verses

Sorry, Bumblepuppies, but I can’t accept that whole romantic myth that only the “…cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze” idea changes the world. In fact, I think Rushdie presents a false dichotomy.

Over the years, I discovered the virtue in surviving. This past Saturday, when I received very good news about my novel, Martin of Gfenn,  I was, at first, very happy. Then, as it sank in, I thought about where I stand in relation to the time of my own life. Then I felt very lonely. The people I would like to share that moment with? Well…”smashed to bits.”

At the beginning, there were others with me — three in particular. Kirk, my brother; Peter, my lover; Wes, my friend. All of us were artists and we were united in a fine and blazing mission across future’s infinite sky.

One by one, demons found us and pulled at our feet, hands, hearts and minds. Peter fell first, then Wes, then my brother. I fought and extricated myself from my demons, only to be trapped by the same demons time and again. My “idea” held me aloft. It always beckoned from that empty sky, blazing bright and waiting. Because there is a bit of the “…cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool…” in me, I never turned away.

Unlike my allies, I supported myself. In that I learned the usefulness of the other “idea” “…the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive…”  What good are my dreams and aspirations, how can I “change the world” if I am not here?

So, Saturday night, I thought about how long it had taken me to write Martin of Gfenn. I started in 1999. I wrote it completely three times. It’s had a life of its own. In 2009, I almost gave up, let go completely of the whole thing. Then I thought I owed the experience of writing it, and the protagonist, more than that. Was that “cussedness,” stubbornness, some romantic notion of “unwavering faith” or was it love? I rewrote it.

And I am here. My friends are dead, their books unwritten, their paintings unpainted. I miss them. I wish I could share the good things that have happened with them, but…

A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed
A brave and calm man will always preserve life.
Of these two, which is good and which is harmful?
Some things are not favored by heaven. Who knows why?
Even the sage is unsure of this.

The Tao of heaven does not strive, and yet is overcomes.
It does not speak, and yet is answered.
It does not ask, yet is supplied with all its needs.
It seems at ease, and yet it follows a plan.

Heaven’s net casts wide.
Though its meshes are coarse, nothing slips through.

Tao Te-Ching, 73

I wrote about this topic in detail in another post — a talk I gave last spring at a conference. The title is “Old Heroes: the Heroism of ‘Mere’ Survival”.



6 thoughts on “Go with the Flow; Navigate by the Stars

  1. The connections we make in the cyber world become increasingly important when we lose so many of the people who were near and dear to us. Some I lost pretty young. Many more since. I have no romanticized belief that they are “out there watching over me” or smiling down at me because they see I’ve somehow hung in there and survived. I know they are simply gone. You are important, though. More than you know. Because you are real, even if you aren’t next door. And we connect. Not all the time and not on every single thing, but enough to make a difference.

    • Thank you, Marilyn. I view the cyber connection as a kind of miraculous thing and precious. It truly enlarges the world and the possibilities for connections, and you are right. That importance is intensified when we lose friends and loved ones to time and destiny.

      • The idea that rigidly adhering to beliefs is superior to compromise so offends me I feel like sputtering. If rigid beliefs are not the cause of what ails us, I’ll eat my blog, post by post!

      • I’m offended by the idea that ONLY rigidly adhering to beliefs changes the world. That’s just plain stupid. Still, I think many of us have a lodestar and when we turn away from it we’re damned. It is our soul, our teacher, our master, our savior. For me life has been a process of learning how to rech it and what it is. It’s like Roethke’s poem “The Waking” “I learn by going where I have to go.”

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