In this article, author Avril Somerville reasserts her responsibility as a writer and steward of spiritual gifts that help others in their quest for meaning.
I am confident that this is a most fitting way to return to this blog, Life As An Art Form, after such a lengthy hiatus. I have been quietly rebelling against the need for the constant sharing of online content for the sake of industry standards for an author or artist of any kind. The sum of these standards seems to be a consuming and unattainable moving target, that once you become too focused on, would be intractable. Then I stumbled on this On Being episode below:
I had long been a fan of both Brain Pickings and On Being for their intellectual curiosities and ability to deal with the intersectional work of spirituality, creativity, and identity. This timely conversation between respective founders, Maria Popova and Krista Tippett, spoke so aptly of this rebellion that I was experiencing. It helped me to ease back into the conversation that, until then, I had been having only in my head.
It has always been my deepest hope that the truths that I share, based on personal lived experiences, are not only resonant, but soul-reverberating, thought-provoking, transcendent, and timeless. Whether I am writing about the creative imperative, identity, or about prioritizing relationships and community through a lens of empathy, my goal has always been to write critically and transparently about what really matters. The only way to meet that goal, I believe, is to be still, apart from the noise or pressure to conform or play along.
“It took me a long time, absolutely, before I understood that ‘Beloved Community’ means everybody is sacred. Nobody is excluded from that deliberate embrace.”
– Jordan, June (2009-08-05). Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays (New and and Selected Essays) (p. 44). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
In this stillness, I am convinced that it is more important to become part of that coterie of “bygone thinkers”—I call them my literary ancestors—artists who made such an indelible imprint in my life soundtracks that I can’t help but create also. It is in that spirit that I feel compelled to show up authentically at those same intersections, where our lives are most layered and interwoven through common experiences and emotions. My only obsession then, as a writer, is to stir something deep within the human soul that liberates its fullest possibility when it dares to live a journey of life on purpose. These are the mirrors I must face when I write.
During my time away, I had to look furtively into those mirrors. I had to remind myself on more than one occasion that long before I became a published author, I was first a writer, an artist, a free spirit creating on her own terms, and that alone, was courageous enough. Still, I felt a sense of inadequacy. Perhaps I had raised the bar too high for myself. I felt that my words were insufficient, a little too late for the spit and churn cycle of catchy or sharable online content. Even more frightening, I feared that readers who once preferred the longer form of writing they once found on this blog, no longer hungered for it, but rather, had moved on and were now opting for the reductiveness of quick reads, memes, and more stimulating eye-catching fare.
“The true material of knowledge is meaning and the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. The only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. The road to that is time.”
– Popova, Maria. Cartographer of Meaning in A Digital Age. (On Being.Org)
Perhaps they don’t have time for quiet introspection and contemplation, said one voice. Perhaps the perspective that I wished to write had already been entertained, said yet another. I assigned more credibility to these voices and less to mine. I felt that anything I would write here was being written mostly at the behest of arbitrary standards and guidelines, forced to take shape publicly though I hadn’t yet worked through my own thoughts. This new order felt like part of a larger counter-artist insurgency and culture that thrives on artists creating volumes of material for mass consumption and competition versus creating from the deeply spiritual well that called me to write in the first place.
I will never write when I am not led for the sake of filling the calendar, selling books, or keeping up appearances. I will never be that writer. I write life that others might find their voice and ultimately heal, not that others might get high then crash once they learn that what they’ve been offered was temporary and fleeting, and not at all sustaining. I care deeply about the integrity of what I write because I understand my writing as both gift and responsibility. As such, I’m charged with what my faith (and Popova and Tippett) calls “stewardship”—that careful dispensation of, and care of gift given the knowledge that it might be the healing balm for someone at a precise time when they need it the most. This mindfulness about stewardship is an ever-present one for me when I write; I can never take that responsibility lightly.
It’s for this same reason that I’ve chosen to return to blogging … though still only as I’m led. Also, because I believe that we are more alike than we are different, there has to be others who feel as I do. Blame it on Mercury Retrograde, or on what I’d prefer to call an orchestration by spirit– a timely convergence of kindred hearts and minds and blood and belief and energy that, together, feels purposeful and aligned. Together, we see the effects of the vanishing luster of all that glitters. Left alone, we are left with a deep anxiety. We sometimes feel isolated and misunderstood. Even with all of our connections, we don’t feel connected. For us, meaning comes and goes. Don’t be fooled, however; we are not the exception, but the norm.
I know this because the more I listened to others, the more I sensed a longing and resurgence in the collective human spirit for understanding, connection, touch, and meaning. This need for meaning underscores many of my conversations, even the small ones that happen in the aisles of the supermarket, and briefly at bathroom sinks, and in locker rooms, and in waiting rooms and, while the customer service agent on the phone makes small talk, and even during my conversations with a reader or attendee at an event at which I am speaking. I become increasingly aware of this longing for meaning as one remark effortlessly becomes a conversation about something much more involved and personal.
Meaning. Meaning is what makes a person feel like they belong somewhere, and for some reason that makes sense to him or her. Meaning is what makes a person feel that they more than exist alone. I am now aware, more than ever, of the potential in this space to help others establish meaning as we travel along our collective journeys. In our connectedness, through words that demand more of our attention, we can lead more contemplative and accountable lives without the specter of constantly “being on.” We can build our tolerance and truly feed our soul, which takes time. Yes, time. Aren’t we worth this time? If not, what then, does your soul hunger for?
What does your soul hunger for
as you evolve
as you sojourn
as you live
What does it say
and who you are
about your voice
and why it is
like no one else’s?
What does your soul hunger for
when you have shut down
your phone or computer
do not disturb
cannot tend to one more phone call
or one more request
because you have forgotten
the last time
you were aware
of your own breath
or the sound of silence
without the peering eyes of everyone else?
What does your soul hunger for?
Is it the knowledge of dead poets
who wont talk back
or the unsettlingness
with whom you have not
yet made acquaintance
with you even?
What does your soul hunger for?