When I saw Linda’s Magnificence Challenge it gave me a moment of pause to think about how I might answer it, but it did not take long for me to recall a favorite quotation of mine I thought might get the ball rolling: “You are the work of God, and His work is wholly lovable and wholly loving. This is how a man must think of himself in his heart, because this is what he is.”
The truth of the matter is that when we doubt our given nature, we suffer, and I think it is particularly important given the pace and scale of changes in the world these days, to learn that each of us is indeed the seat of magnificence—of holiness and peace. There is something alive within all of us that we can count on, draw upon, and rest within. Something we can share, and grow, and discover. But even as this is true for each of us, we each remain unique, and part of Linda’s challenge is to express in some way what is uniquely “me” I think.
One expression I’m excited about is my second poetry book. After receipt of the proof copy later this week, it should be available in pretty short order from Lulu, and then from other on-line venues in time. Writing this sort of poetry has been a venue for me to rediscover a form of self-expression I had set aside for quite some time, and also where I took a little bit of a gamble—at least so it felt—in writing about this character Hafiz. It just kind of happened. I don’t attribute any real special meaning to it, other than it was one way of giving expression to things that I felt, and somehow it really helped having that fun-loving, deep as a river companion alongside me with whom to explore my heart. It was quite simply fun, and led to discovering relationships with many of you here, which has been deeply rewarding. I don’t know what I would have written about the last couple years without such a muse and companion!
This has now given way to a rekindled desire to write in other forms, and this year I’ve been focusing on writing short stories. So I’ve been just as busily writing as years’ past, and have (mostly) completed six stories since I began in April—mostly, because editing is never truly over–but because I’ve been submitting work for publication in literary journals I cannot publish them here. (If anyone would like to read one of the drafts I’ve written I’d be happy to send you one off-line, just drop me a note or let me know in the comments.) I think what I’m doing is working on a collection of stories that approach the subject of grace, and how it illumines our lives, but we’ll see if I can keep the theme going for an entire collection!
An exciting moment occurred for me this fall when I found out the first story I wrote this year, which I began while seated in an aiport back in April, was awarded Honorable Mention in the New Letters Magazine Prize for Fiction. The Honorable Mention isn’t automatically published so it is not in print yet, but it was a wonderful validation of the direction in which I’d set off. I chose to work on short stories because I felt intuitively it would help me to develop my skills as a writer and I think that is proving true. It is intensely challenging to write. As evidence I also have to my credit over fifteen rejections this year and counting, so pursuit of the craft has been exquisitely humbling and rewarding all at once. The more I engage with the sheer difficulty of it the more impressed I become with every single thing I read. I can no longer read reviews on Goodreads because the ease with which people are able to comment with such casual criticism on work that takes months and months and even years to produce is astonishing. It’s amazing!
Writing has been a great teacher this year because I have been up and down and all over the map about it, without any real recourse to getting a grip at times, but also have experienced directly through its practice a few of those moments of grace. In fact it has required that I keep going despite the usual arsenal of thoughts about whether it is or isn’t going well, and at the end of the day through any committed practice I think we realize: what we do can never provide us with the magnificence we are. It can only reveal it. It’s already in there. Often it is ourselves who are most in need of this discovery, and somehow we must engage with something to act as a catalyst for this cracking open. We have to find our way to the sweet spot of not trying too hard or denying what we have been given, while simultaneously making the honest effort all the same. It’s called surrender I think. Creative endeavors are forays into the unknown and we just can’t control them. It is only when the control is relinquished that what is truly magnificent within us can step forward.
When we discover this sensation of surrender, then the magnificence in each of us is revealed, and the whole world is transformed, as one by one our hearts activate. I’m grateful Linda offered this challenge and grateful to have given it a go. I do hope you will consider checking out the new poetry book when it is released as I think it has its moments—moments I could never have anticipated that somehow matter. In one’s magnificence we see everyone’s, and this is why it is so important that we make the effort to reveal the truth of who we are. Thank you for being part of this journey with me.
Peace to each you…