I just hit send, submitting my first opinion article to a local magazine. And I’m only sweating a tiny little bit. Who knows if it will ever see print, but I am pretty excited to have even tried, so I’ll take that as a win.
Thanks to you, dear blog readers, for your likes and follows, for it was one of my blog entries that grew and morphed into the article I submitted. You may recognize it:
On Finding Your Meaningful Work
Into every life a little quest must come. A quest to search out something more meaningful than that which we can touch or taste. An acknowledgment that there is more than we can see lurking behind the matter and murk. Life is bursting with mystery, and until we find ourselves plumbing the depths for some enlightenment, we will never really be living.
As we set out upon our quest, we often turn towards the divine, seeking the spiritual that lies beyond the material fluff. We have a dangerous tendency, however, to discount the fluff as some unnecessary façade, and impediment even, holding us back from the truth. But I submit that possibly we are missing the forest for the trees. This fluff, this world swirling about us, may just be the very medium with which we can find the meaning we search for. The divine spark. If only we can pay attention long enough to catch a glimpse.
Paying attention, however, is not always an easy task. We are a distracted lot. There is so much to take in. Often we settle for quantity, rather than slowing down for quality; unbridled consumption with no time to ingest, process, or integrate. The true search for purpose is deepened immeasurably when we slow down enough to find our own meaningful work. When we enter into a venture that helps us to interpret and reconcile the endless onslaught. And so much more so when that meaningful work can be expressed with some sort of artistic outlet, allowing our experiences to flow through us rather than stagnating and dying within. It is one of the mysteries of the human condition that participating in creation can somehow enrich our own experience of the Creation. And I daresay of the Creator.
The question becomes, once we develop the first inklings of awareness of the wonder stirring all around us, of the beauty that lies beneath the surface, what do we do with it? We are compelled, obligated even, to communicate that reality to others, to share the light. Communication forges communion, and communion heightens the intimacy for all involved. It’s the feedback loop that makes the world turn. But how do we share? How can we possibly convey that which is beyond sensory experience? What is the medium for communication and communion?
Again, this material fluff is the sea in which we swim. I believe that art, used here in the broadest sense of the word, is our most effective mouthpiece. It has been said that art imitates life, but it seems more appropriate to say that art interprets life. When we paint, when we compose, when we sculpt, write, or sketch, when we dance, perform, mould or create in any other way, we give a gift that bears the heavy responsibility of deciphering life, for ourselves as well as for those around us.
Larry Brooks, in his book on writing structure, Story Engineering, has powerful words for writers: “Writers are scribes of the human experience. To write about life we must see it and feel it, and in a way that eludes most. We are not better people in any way – read the biographies of great writers and this becomes crystal clear – but we are alive in a way that others are not. We are all about meaning. About subtext. We notice what others don’t. If the purpose of the human experience is to immerse ourselves in growth and enlightenment, moving closer and closer to whatever spiritual truth you seek – hopefully have a few laughs and a few tears along the way – wearing the nametag of a writer makes that experience more vivid. We’re hands-on with life, and in the process of committing our observations to the page we add value to it for others.”
True, if a bit narrow. We writers are an observant lot. The art of writing itself is quite the filter of the human experience. But we are not alone. Writing is but one of the arts; one method in a million by which life is explored and investigated, plumbed and wrung out for meaning. Writing is only one of the endless modes of artistic expression that bring us together as a people, sharing the wealth and poverty of our existence. So while I take a certain amount of pride in Larry’s words, I also find them a few cents short of the golden dollar. I won’t hold it against him though. He’s only a writer.
The road to enlightenment is a rocky path, no matter the route, and I would encourage all of us to seek out those meaningful works that might serve as helpers along the way. There are countless artistic endeavors that can direct us further up and further in. What’s yours?