Plough through it,
Turning it on either side
Of your path". --from a poem by H.D.
Lightning tendrils overhead--its quick, witty slashes of repartee, irregular illuminations of asynchronous things, as if the sky had opened and revealed
not angelic trumpets but half-forgotten house-roofs and passing non-descript trucks.
People must be more directed than lightning, as anyone can see that merely being of high voltage is not enough without a path.
I drove home tonight in my reasnoably non-descript car, upon which no high-voltage natural flashlights glared. I thought about how if I could give one particular friend a gift, I would give the gift of the freedom to spend two years achieving that's friend's own goals, as opposed to other things at hand.
Lately I wish I were more of a facilitator. On Sunday, row of graduation celebrants stood before the people congregated there. Each child recited his or her next detination--one to study journalism at the University of Missouri; another to study pre-medicine at the University of Texas. I was intrigued that, like my own graduation class in high school, most were bound not for academic glory but to solid little regional universities all around us. One boy recited that he was bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina, to become a bull fighter, and the people laughed.
I'm always a bit suspicious of improvements imposed from above. I admire, for instance, that group Teach for America, in which the "best and the brightest" take a year or two off after college in "top schools" to go and share their zeal in schools It's a noble cause, but I wondered to myself how much more good might be done by support for the local teacher-training universities to generate more certified teachers, as the one constant in inner-city schools appears to be a shortage of people who will graduate with a teaching certificate and stay. It's easier to imagine that the problem is unmotivated people "from the masses", of lesser minds, and of flawed methodology. It's easier to imagine that than to imagine that we live in a country of dramatic disparities, in which what we need the most are ordinary, conscientious people who can help bring the tools to ease them a bit. It's easier to imagine saving the world with one's zeal, rather than saving each community with support for that community.
I suppose that I believe in community support because I believe in self-improvement and self-motivation as the ultimate solution to many problems. I find that people have a lot of innate potential, and just need the determination to harness and use it.
When someone has a talent or special "calling", then I always cheer for them to use it, as it is a rare and wonderful thing to be a notch out of the ordinary. I don't mean
to devise some "all-or-nothing", American Idol notion of exploiting one's skills. I mean instead the steady, sometimes slow slog to aciheve what one can--great or small--with what one has. I mean the conquest of personal despair, and the acceptance of step-by-step progress. I applaud people who try really hard--they're the people I admire most.
I believe that everyone has a reason. I've found, as I go through life, that everyone can explain everything. There's a reason for every failure or neglect. There's an explanation for every reason why one did not pursue a goal. global conspiracy, family uncertainty, personal stress. I find that one of the key moments of bliss in life is to find reasons to do what one feels called upon to do.
It's not that every reason is high-flung or noble. I think the reason I worked so hard in law schol is in part that I could not imagine what I would do next if I did not--and also my conviction that I was not as bright as most there.
So often, though, the immediate goal is within one's grasp. It's calculable, and do-able, and achievable. There are worlds of reasons one can self-sabotage or have some credible explanation why not to grab the brass ring. But it's much more delicious to grasp the apple, take a bite, and discover it is the fruit of the tree of child-like innocence. Within each achieved goal, it turns out there is not rest, but merely an illumination of the next goal.
So tonight I think of kids going to college, and how I wish for them a note of realization of the big picture. I think of friends far-flung here and there, on the cusp of goals, that I hope they achieve. I think of people working to make a difference, rather than hoping to earn grants to theorize about differences. I think about those who can and do and therefore teach. I like the sight of a dollar-store ktie in mid-air, better than even a book about the most ornate kites.
There's a rush of heat, all around us, life interpositioning itself between a goal and oneself. But you just have to cut through, because the heat is soluble, and dissolves into an amazing mist of quiet achievement.