It must be so wonderful to play in a band. When I listen to musicians, I feel how connected they are to the raw power, and the moment, of creation. It is very different with writing.
When I was living in Watsonville, I used to feel crushed by the It at my work. Everyone around me complained, and I found myself complaining by week’s end along with the rest of them. Then I would have a lovely weekend, and feel literal pain on Sunday night, thinking that I was about to return to work, to have my soul crushed all over again. And one day when I talked to a friend, seeing how excited he was about starting a company and cutting his own path into the future, I realized how unhappy I had become at Borland, how much I was losing my battle against the It.
What changed it enough to be survivable was moving to Tucson, where I could create my own emotional environment. This still wasn’t a solution to the original problem, but at least it allowed enough flexibility into my environment that I could let off steam during the week too, instead of just on weekends. But at the same time, over the course of years, I found myself drifting away from Borland itself, feeling less and less honorable about the degree of my output.
This is the only way I can relate to what you might feel as a Martian returning to Earth. How sad it was, being at a conference or a trip, and thinking that, “Oh no, I will have to return to the world again.” Isn’t that something to ponder, that we could feel two different parts of one world as if they were two.
I think we are always in confrontation with life. Or rather, our morality confronts life as it presents itself, and we act to change it according to what we think is right. For example, you sit down in front of a blank slate, wanting to create music. It is your sense of what is right and beautiful, musically, that shines out like a path in your mind, and follow it toward the creation of something new and beautiful. This is a kind of confrontation: Confronting the pre-existent, and bringing it into existence.
We are constantly, at all times, being faced with a world we are responsibility for, due to our capacity to choose and act. We judge the world according to what we think is moral, and we respond to it. If our wife is doing something immoral, we call her on it – where the form of our challenge must also be moral.
In some of my earlier messages my tone was harsh. I was realizing that the opinions of others have really nothing to do with making a right decision. What I missed was that not offending people is part of a true morality. But the difference is that I seek not to offend people for my own reason – because I love the good, and the good is not to offend others unnecessarily – and not because I do not want them to be offended. Everything comes back to you, not to them.
So we challenge the wrong for the sake of the good – for the sake of our love for the good – and we challenge it in a way that is good. When we do this, the divine hosts themselves assist us, for theirs is the light illumining the hero’s sword.
Because of all this, when I interact with life, I have only one question to ask, and one answer to look for: Was it good? I have found that when I imagine voices in my head, arguing with me, it is not that I am taking their thoughts into account. Rather, I am having a dialog with myself, in which I have anthropomorphized some of my attitudes into the form of people I know.
For example, if I insult someone, I may then have a shadow argument in my head, trying to justify why it was necessary. In fact, what is happening is that I am arguing with myself. I know that it was wrong, but it very hard to judge one’s self. Instead, I am judging myself indirectly – through the imagined agency of a third party – and since I see them as a third party, I am arguing to lessen the sentence.
I do the exact same thing on the flip side, too. If I write something, I imagine other people regarding it as beautiful. What I am doing? I am afraid that my own admiration will not be enough? Or is it that my culture has taught me not to admire myself, and so I seek admiration by creating shadow puppets, and through them bestow upon myself the admiration I think the work deserves.
The elimination of this shadow gallery has been starting to happen, as I recognize that I face life only with my morality, and that only I can judge whether I am acting well or poorly. If I insult someone, I ask my own mind if it was wrong to do so. If so, I consult my moral code to see what the punishment is. If it calls for apology, I must apologize.
Knowing that one has done wrong, and having no judge other than one’s own self, is proving to be much more painful than I had imagined. When there is no third party to argue with, there is only the cold, hard truth. Then again, it is also much easier, and far more honest. And then is no need for arguments. My path is clear, and I just have to decide if I am willing to follow it.
And on the flip side, knowing that one has done good, and seek admiration for none except one’s own self, is proving to be far more lonely than I had thought. Why? The joy is life is in the creating, not other people’s admiration for the creation. Haven’t you often experienced that when people thank you, it feels a bit hollow? Because you can’t really know why they are thanking you, most of the time.
Being one’s own judge is simpler, more accurate, but also biting and immediate. You cannot hide. Life is not as glamorous, perhaps, but also a ton of energy is no longer wasted in appeasing the shadow gallery.
I have found, so far, that by working toward this recognition of my right to assess my own moral performance, it comes down to just Life and Me. Other People are instantly taken out of the picture. Of course, I still interact with them, but I interact with them by interacting with my moral code and finding the right action. I no longer reference them in deciding what I will do or create.
So I write a story, and I like it. Then I start thinking about how others will like it. But I ask myself, why is my own admiration not good enough? And I find that it is – if I allow myself to honestly admire it. Sometimes it’s not as good as thought. That’s the reality. And once I find that I like it, I discover the most important thing of all: That the joy of creating came from doing it, not the result.
The result is a done thing, now lifeless, fading into the past. Sure others will enjoy it also, but I can’t DO it anymore, I can’t interact with it. It’s so different to be on stage, than listening to a recording of the performance.
And so what do I want next? I used to want to revel in it, reap in the fruits of the labor. Now I just want more. That is what comes when we “own” our life, and the buck stops at our own front door. That is nothing to demand from others, nor anything to expect.
This is a profound loneliness in one sense. All the many voices fade away, and you are left standing alone to face Life. But then you realize: you have a constant, wonderful companion with you at every moment: Life! A wife can share that joy, but she cannot substitute for it. She is part of Life!, but not the whole.
So no, I am not lonely. I would like a friend here, man or woman, as a foil to create with, so that together we might reach greater heights than either one of us alone. But I am content. I look forward to returning to Tucson, not because of my friends there, but because being in America will give me more opportunities to further some of my creative ideas.
Here is one last story, to emphasize the difference: You know that I love scifi. Well, there are not many American book stores here. One night, I was pining for a good scifi story. That was a form of loneliness: wanting the world to provide a companion; for someone else to create the Beauty and present it to me, that my soul is always hungering for.
But then I thought, if it Life!, Beauty!, Joy! that I want, why not create it myself? Why expect someone else to do what I could just as well? So I started writing the story, not to write it, but to read it! I wanted the experience of good scifi, which is being immersed in another world, seeing strange things, encountering creative thoughts. Well, that is what I’m doing. And you know what? It is just an entertaining, it has all the same elements that I enjoy from good scifi. It takes more work, but this is offset by how much more satisfying it is to create beauty than just feed off another’s creation. That ended my loneliness, since I am everywhere that I am, and if I can give life to Life!, I become my own true companion. The benefit of friends is the scale of greatness we can accomplish together; but the essential joy of being human – to bring beauty and good into the world – is something available any time, any where, whether other people are present or not. What then would loneliness mean?
If this is all true, loneliness is simply wanting to rest. The soul desires beauty; we are lonely when we wish someone else to bring us that beauty, rather than doing the work to make it. And this would be because we value the experience of it, more than the experience of being the one to bring to life. When that is the case, creating takes a lot of work, and wouldn’t it be nicer if a great artist created just what I’m looking for, so I could listen instead of spending so much time composing.
That is, I think, in a subtle way, how the It starts to slip in. In fact, while it is a joy for humans to encounter beauty, the true station of man is to create it. And when a person gets a taste for THAT – and they can only really taste it if there is no intermediary between their mind and their standard of beauty, no shadow gallery – then seeing the beauty of others will prompt you to want to outdo it, not relax at the sight of it. To see Van Gogh and say, Yes! I know what you mean. And then be inspired by your own thoughts to go outdo Van Gogh. He was just a man like you and me. With a good eye, sure, but his spirit is the same spirit as ours.
In that light, I cannot be content with drawing beauty from my environment. I only feel really alive if I am putting it out. And if loneliness is the desire for a environment where one can rest and yet still feel beauty, then the feeling of loneliness disappears when that is no longer what we’re looking for.
I do miss people to talk to. But then I write about my thoughts on justice and I feel so high at the beauty of their logic that I forget about people again. Do you see what I mean? As long as my spirit is alive, communing with Life!, there is such concept as being lonely.
O Son of Light! Forget all save me and commune with My spirit. This is the essence of my command, therefore turn unto it.
Perhaps the real trick is not remaining in a situation where your outlets are being closed. Is this the nature of your confrontation? If a job doesn’t let you excel, it really is worth the pain to change it. If a wife demands that you be at her side, not creating, she has to recognize that she has no right to such a demand. Maybe the best approach in that case is not to say, “Leave me alone, I must create”, but realize that she is facing the identical spiritual quandary as yourself, and that perhaps together you can champion the cause of Life! If she doesn’t feel the electricity of creation, maybe it’s just for want of experiencing it lately. After all, the It does make people feel awfully comfortable, and it gets easier and easier to think that there is nothing more to life worth all the trouble. Isn’t that the It’s slogan? :)