Compliments make me blush, especially when it comes to being recognized for any sort of achievement. Though, recently my alma mater came out with the most fair-handed press release about my progression as a writer. I don't think I could've asked for a more honest look at where my passion and motivation are derived. To have some of my early insecurities revealed to an audience was truly the best part of me I could offer the public. To have my peers and strangers understand that for me it isn't about recognition paired with opportunity, but it's about the every day inspiration and connection, the things I wrestle with daily (because I am human, first and foremost). And it's also about, what I choose to do with the life experiences I’ve been given—the ones I attempt to draw from for my art, and the ones I wish to share.
Donald Hall, in his eighties, published an essay titled, “A Yeti in the District”. Which speaks volumes of his humble nature, and how out-of-place and uncomfortable he becomes when thrown into the circus of creative expectation. I would not dare to compare my achievement or experiences with such an ingenious man, or his poetic fortitude. But there’s a feeling of solidarity that comes from knowing there are others, like me, for whom the spotlight is as unnatural a position one can be put in and that sometimes words like “industry”, “published” and “awards” can come off sounding quite callous and insensitive to the person living quietly behind the artist.
After sharing his story about being awarded the National Medal of Arts, Hall writes, simply: “The next day I got back to writing. What else was there?”. While at the time, the piercing eye of the press had a field day over his disheveled appearance at the monumental event. What papers missed in their account was that the composure and composition of a man like Hall is made up entirely of character and the historic significance of his life and work. Who the hell cares if his tie was crooked! He had the kahunas and gumption to put himself out there, to trust an audience cut away from the critics and who were ready to embrace what he had to say.
How do we really measure the sum of a person’s worth? I will withhold the James Allen quotes for the time being. There is, however, a story about Chao-Chou in Zen philosophy that I keep coming across in various texts and different forms: In which, a monk draws a portrait of the master. When the portrait is finished and presented to the master, the master studies it and says, “If it’s really the true image of me, then you can kill me. But if it is not, you should burn it.”
I suspect that at the end of the day, Hall felt similarly.
You can read the press release put out by Southern New Hampshire University, here: http://markets.financialcontent.com/mi.idahostatesman/news/read/28983764/Pacing