On the off chance you or someone you know is in Prague tonight, send them to The Globe bookstore! M and C will be doing a reading of their work starting at 19:30 (7:30 PM). You can read more about the event on The Globe’s website: http://www.globebookstore.cz/
We’ve been losing a lot of things lately: weight, earrings, and the lottery, among others. We’ve even been losing track of time, spending hours in a dusty basement sorting through boxes of stuff we’ve been lugging around for years. Last weekend, we took a break from purging to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem. This weekend, we held our first (and only!) yard sale to rid ourselves of extraneous possessions. How are all of these events related?
One of the sessions at the festival featured a reading of a favorite poem we hadn’t heard or read in a while. The poem is “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the opening stanza goes like this:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Bishop goes on to suggest that we should all “practice losing farther, losing faster”…and that seems to be the theme of our April this year. We started the month staring down a houseful of stuff, wondering how we would decide what to keep when we moved into our next place…a much smaller, cooler, easier to handle space, by design. Sometimes those keep-or-ditch decisions were easy, but often they were difficult, getting caught up in memories and emotions and absurd hangups on financial value or sunk costs.
But as the month progressed, we seemed to get better at losing. Every box we touched became easier to go through, every letter we read became easier to recycle, and every possession we evaluated became easier to part with. We sent hundreds of items home with new owners yesterday, with the intent that their useful lives be extended in someone else’s care. We then took most of the remaining items to a local non-profit with the same outcome in mind. A handful of leftovers wait patiently in our garage to meet their fate at our town’s recycling center.
It turns out that the art of losing is difficult to begin, but with a little practice (Write it!) it isn’t hard to master. –J&M
In honor of the festival and national poetry month, we suggest you check out Bishop’s entire poem, available on the Poetry Foundation’s website here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176996
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
– Thomas Paine
Freedom from a mortgage and a job might not be what Paine had in mind, but the spirit of his statement fits! First things first, we are sorry for our silence this week. Who would have thought that being home would be more hectic than being on the road?! We received an offer on our house the day we returned home from our trip, and we’ve spent the past week setting the wheels in motion to move into a much funkier and more economical river-view apartment that better suits our lifestyle. So we spent most of our time this week organizing and resolving the things within our control, and now we wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at a waiting, even after a lifetime of practice. When you’re a kid, it’s waiting for your birthday or waiting for Christmas or waiting for your friend to come over. Then it’s waiting to get your license, waiting to go to college, waiting to graduate. Once you start working, it’s waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for the next job or promotion. Waiting can take over your life. This realization brings to mind the quote most often attributed to John Lennon (though said by others before him): “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
There is some truth in that statement, but is it all just waiting? What about preparation and effort to ready oneself for what’s next? Is preparation the same as waiting? The answer, of course, is no. Preparation involves taking an active role in the future and showing initiative, while waiting implies a being passive while other things occur around you. We’ve arrived at this juncture in our lives through preparation. We’ve done our best—sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding—to control the things we could and to mitigate risk from circumstances outside of our control.
And now, we wait. Better yet, we wait and we live our lives! This is a time to be active. To put worries to the side and run races, write poems, visit friends and family, and enjoy each other’s company (and of course, update our blog!). And as we wait for items outside of our control to be resolved, we can take comfort in the fact that we have prepared the best we could.
We stumbled across the quote below from a great adventurer and wanted to share it as an encouraging piece of wisdom that sums up the impact of preparation and initiative:
“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)
On Saturday morning, we drove to downtown Tampa to meet a friend and mentor of mine, Janet, for coffee at a local place called Sophie’s French Café and Bakery. We were near the University of Tampa, and there was an arts festival in progress on the same street as the café. We sat at a table among the eclectic collection of mismatched chairs and tables and caught up on life, writing, family and travel. We also discussed plans for a visit later this year during which J and I will help Janet move her belongings back to New England to start a new job.
While telling Janet about our plans to travel and write for the upcoming 12 months, I mentioned that since leaving my job I’ve had a hard time remembering what day it is. Janet responded, “You’re on mythic time now. You’re living in the moment on Kairos time, instead of by the clock on Chronos time.” Her statement stayed with me over the past couple of days, as many of Janet’s observations have, and last night I started doing some research into the concept of “mythic time.”
Chronos is the Greek word for chronological or sequential time. This is the time of clocks and calendars, and the time that most of us exist in during our day-to-day lives. Kairos is the Greek word for mythic time, or those periods where time seems to evaporate: creative spells, long runs, meditations, getting lost in a task, etc. Further research into Kairos revealed that the term can be translated as “the supreme or opportune moment,” a moment where one must choose to act in order to take advantage of an opportunity in front of them. A closely related phrase is Carpe Diem, typically translated as “seize the day.”
I also read that the Greeks believed that mythic time was the time during which the gods lived out and recorded their stories. These stories were emblazoned on the wheel of time as lessons for humans, and then the wheel was set into motion, forming Chronos time. The metaphor of living our life on mythic time, completely in the moment and taking advantage of opportunities as they emerge, is beautiful to me. This year will be a time for J and me to live out and emblazon new stories and experiences onto our past, new myths and lessons for how we will live our future together…whatever it will be. -M
I should be reading On the Road or Dharma Bums or The Undiscovered Self to remind myself of all of the reasons I’ve been chasing this life for the past ten years. It’s not that I’m afraid of quitting my job. This nervous/anxious/pensive response to readying our gear for the trip is more of a flinch, since I know that the next five days are going to hurt. I will disappoint some, anger others and likely perplex all. They won’t understand my motivations, they’ll question my motivations, and they will definitely criticize my motivations. On Friday, after thirteen years of working in the insurance industry, I will be free to make my own way. I’ll be free of debt, free of the fears of others, free of contractual obligations and ready to move on.
So, when the haters begin to talk and the questions begin to fly, it will be up to me to call upon the spirit of Kerouac’s “Rucksack Revolution” and to summon Jung’s analytical mind and ability to deconstruct the man-made trappings of what he called “the state” (…which has evolved in our time into “Corporate America”). Their voices remind me that the American Dream is not just a singular dream, rather it’s any dream. It’s my dream of hitting the road in the shadow of the travelers before me, experiencing life and writing in my own voice. Whatever happens from here will be up to me.
In the lyrics of Ben Harper, “the unfinished work of our heroes must truly be our own…” I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I’ll finish the work of those like Kerouac and Jung, but perhaps I will further their causes and leave an unfinished legacy for the next dreamer to pursue. -M