Receiving an uncommon kindness
or beginning to emotionally depend on someone
is a really frightening thing.
It makes us realize how alone we are in this world.
Just how precious and difficult it is to be regarded as special by anyone –
an unexpected gift, like coming across a spring of clear water in a wasteland.
Just how scary it is to draw near and touch our lips to the liquid,
for fear it might be a mirage that leaves us
crazed with newly recognized thirst.
And so we move on, loneliness parching our throats,
and the question of whether the rejected spring was an oasis or a mirage
always lingering at the back of our minds.
During the past few months, I’ve subsided into silence.
My broken-winged poems have fluttered into their cages.
The pouring out of my novels have threaded back into dust-rimmed corners,
like water threading back into a drained pool.
And after this long hiatus, I’ve come back again,
breathing the dust off my bowl of rose petals,
trying to revive my rose gardens of old.
In those months, I’ve been thinking.
About a lot of things that I’ve taken for granted, actually,
and a lot of things that I’ve held dearer than life.
First comes human wisdom.
And with it, my dreams.
For the longest time, I’ve admired wisdom as the ultimate virtue.
An anthropologist who uncovers the secrets of buried cultures,
a marine biologist who dedicates his life to understanding two species of jellyfish,
a composer who captures every emotion from sadness to fury to gentle joy in the space of a single concerto,
a poet who conjures up heaven and hell in the space of a thin sheet of paper.
I admired them. I admired them.
I almost worshiped them –
did you know, incidentally, that the first museums were temples to the muses?
In a small part of my heart, I think I, too, laid sacrifices at the temple of human wisdom.
Museums and art, making the world better, learning something new –
These were the creeds I carved into my heart.
“Lead me,” I said to God,
but I was thoroughly specific:
lead me to success, to wisdom, to recognition, to acceptance,
comprehensive in my understanding and extensive in my knowledge.
I scorned purity in favor of polish;
I lowered my estimation of kindness and good temper in comparison to cleverness.
My dreams of becoming a writer were also inextricably linked with this:
“Give me my dreams,” I cried, “or give me death.”
A pale, bleak existence with no fire of passion,
no advancement, no way for me to change this world,
was something I dreaded and shrank from with terror –
such a life, I exclaimed, is not worth living!
But in this past year, my temple has been demolished.
Here is a hard-wrung confession,
the result of many months of bitter tears, close questioning, and heart-searching.
Writing. Wisdom. Changing the world for the better.
Yes, these are beautiful.
Yes, these are things I love.
they are not the reason to live.
They should never be the reason to live.
How quickly these can be tainted.
How many writers and poets have tread the path of words,
only to crumble into the chasm of suicide and self-pity?
How many people have risen with hearts bright as gold,
eager to make the world more beautiful,
and ended up falling apart with arrogance, playing at god,
thinking of others as inferior or ignoble?
I still love wisdom, and I still believe in striving to the utmost excellence of one’s being,
in pouring oneself out in raw honest words, in changing the world with our own blood and sweat.
But I’ve learned to accept the gnawing, gaping uncertainty of “even if”.
Even if I can never quite be the writer I dream of becoming,
I will find happiness in You.
Even if I can never become as clever as those I admire, or as the person I wish to be,
I will love myself because You love me.
Even if I throw myself into the world to try to change it,
and find my efforts disintegrating into squeaks and gibberish instead of noble trumpet calls,
I’ll still keep trying, and still find meaning in this bitter and complicated life inside You.
Thank You for being my happiness;
thank You for being my meaning of life.
There was a day when I was at church, feeling absolutely – terribly miserable.
There was something hard and closed shut in my heart, and I could scarcely breathe, for the unhappiness that pooled inside me and hardened into a crust of anger.
But I felt, strangely enough, that God wanted desperately to speak to me.
So, unable to pray, I walked over to the piano and sat down and began to sing.
The first song that I opened to was the hardest confession I ever made to God, because –
there was a time when I couldn’t live without dreams.
And there was a time when I thought I couldn’t live without many things.
But now, I was ready to give them up.
And as I sang, the tears flooded down my face, and something inside me shattered.
I was free again. And I felt as if I had just crawled out of a long, narrow tunnel, and into the sunlight.
I was able to breathe.
I could live without dreams
And never know the thrill of what could be
With every star so far and out of reach
I could live without many things
And I could carry on
But I couldn’t face my life tomorrow
Without Your hope in my heart
I can’t live a day without You
Lord, there’s no night and there’s no morning
Without Your loving arms to hold me
You’re the heartbeat of all I do
I can’t live a day without You.
—Can’t Live A Day