A couple days ago I sat down to write my regular column, “Benthics,” for the EcoTheo Review web magazine. I had it in my head to share a story about backpacking into the wilderness, and how solitude is not necessarily a solitary experience, and how in certain places and times a kind of clarity takes hold that transcends the collective components of everything that’s a part of it.
I thought I had a pretty good idea to work with and had about five or six hundred words on the page, but somehow I couldn’t figure out how to tie it all together. It was ironic that in a piece ostensibly about perspective, I almost literally couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
If you’ve read my contributions to EcoTheo you know they’re a little different than what I usually write here for the Awesomeness Conspiracy blog. I tend to be a little more whimsical, a little more literary and metaphorical in my attempts to relate my experiences of encountering something of the divine in nature.
It’s a chance for me to flex my creative muscles a bit, to work out some parts of my writer’s brain that don’t get used quite as often.
And so as I was trying to conjure images and memories and emotions and sensations in words and prose, I kept having this feeling that I was missing something, some hook or element that would unify it all and make it less rambling and more focused. I edited sentences, re-arranged paragraphs, deleted things here, added things there, and generally ran the gamut of writing strategies to make the whole thing work.
Frustrated and flustered, I decided to take a lunch break, get out of the house for a bit, and just let it sit for awhile. Sometimes you just need to put some space between yourself and what you’re trying to write so you can see it with fresh eyes a little bit later.
It didn’t work.
I read it, re-read it, edited some more, and eventually just ended up starting at my computer screen, pissed off, about ready to scrap the whole thing.
And then it hit me.
The thing I was writing didn’t want to be a story.
It wanted to be a poem.
I realize that may sound a bit strange or esoteric at best and downright nutty at worst. What do you mean it wanted to be a poem? How can an idea want to be anything?
I have to admit, it’s hard to explain. But there’s something about the creative process that has a mind of its own, so to speak. It’s as if, even though it’s a part of you, it’s somehow mysteriously apart from you. And so you have to honor what the idea or the image or the sculpture or the song or whatever it is, is.
Because if you try to make it something else, if you try to manipulate it into something it’s not, to suit some preconceived notion you have or to make it more palatable or comfortable or easy or just to fit into some kind of box, you dishonor its nature.
And so I wrote a poem. Using many of the same words and imagery I had started from in the narrative form, I rearranged it and reformatted it in a way that had rhythm and cadence and pace.
And it just flowed. I mean it came pouring out of me effortlessly like my brain and fingers and keyboard and laptop were just a vessel from which this idea could find life and breath.
It’s a powerful thing to let something be what it wants to be, what it was made to be. There’s a freedom in surrendering to a thing’s true nature. In submitting to that power that’s a part of you yet somehow apart from you.
And I think, if we’re open to it, that’s how we experience God. Not through static and sterile doctrines or constructing belief systems or moral imperatives.
But just through letting him tell us what we are. Who we are. By letting that something that’s a part of us but mysteriously apart from us have its say. By releasing the categories and boxes and limitations, by jettisoning the prejudices and preconceptions and comfort and predictability we often so desperately want but somehow can’t quite find ourselves in.
It is what it is. We are what we are.
My prayer for you today is that you will find a way to experience that kind of freedom.