Find Your Purpose in Life and Hang On
August 22, 2012
There is a great deal of talk these days about the impact the staggering change in the publishing industry from print to digital will have on the world of writing, for it essentially means anyone can publish a book. We’ve traded the gatekeepers for an open playing field and some are heralding it, while others are concerned about its implications for the future of good literature. Have you noticed how often we do this—look out into the world at some changing trend or some event and banter ceaselessly about its pros and cons? Have you also noticed that we rarely, I would say never, reach a conclusion worthy of all the energy we’ve invested in the debate? Have you ever wondered why?
I have. I don’t know why; just my nature I guess. I suffer from terminal curiosity. But what I’ve seen is that human beings are conditioned to think in a bipolar fashion. We see everything as one thing or the other. In fact, we can’t even conceive of something unless we can compare it to something else. That is why original ideas do not come from our thought process. We always have to use what is there already. Since we also use this way of seeing the world to analyze it and attempt to solve the problems that arise, you may begin to see why we are so unsuccessful. Have you ever heard yourself say, “Lordy, that’s the same thing they said last time this situation arose.”
Ours is one choice for how to envision the world. There are others. Ours, unfortunately, is the most limited and the least fluid. To bring about change we have to bang back and forth between the two poles we established, being thrilled when we’re on the “good” end of the arc and depressed or even terrified when we swing the other way. Each swing in one direction or the other pushes the envelope of our awareness a tad more, but what a primitive way to extend our knowledge of the universe. What I’m pointing at is that to banter about the implications of where we writers find ourselves is time wasted. We would be better served by going back to our computers and writing.
I don’t say that glibly. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, participation in the arts is the one endeavor we know that lets us operate from a different frame of reference – our intuitive nature. It is our connection to a creative source, one not bound by subject – object, good – bad, useful – wasteful… And maybe, just maybe the rush of people to “write a book” since they can publish it now as well, could be a way for more people to encounter the intuitive within them, an evolutionary pressure to move the human species toward a new interaction with the world around them that exceeds the description we have now of classifying everything as either this or that.
Isaac Burns Murphy, born son of a slave in April 16, 1861, near Frankfort, Kentucky was an amazing man. Murphy was a jockey, the first African-American jockey elected to horse racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was considered the greatest jockey in American thoroughbred horse racing. Frank X. Walker, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, brought Isaac Walker into my life, and what a gift it was when my husband heard Prof. Walker on The Bob Edwards Show and bought his book, I Dedicate This Ride, a book of poetry that creates a biography employing poems about this awesome individual. “Murphy’s Secret” is the first poem in the book where he recounts how he reacted to all those who asked him his secret of success. He had one answer for the white people (buy this great book and read the poem to find out what), but another for his fellow blacks:
If they be black I tell ’em the truth.
I tell ’em how I cup my hand to a horse’s ear
how I let it catch some wind so they remember
what it sound like to run full out,
to know you not just a field horse or a work horse
but beautiful and strong and smart.
Could it be that this influx of people into the only art form that is readily accessible – no ten years learning an instrument; no fifteen years training your body to move in dance – is a positive force, one bringing more people into touch with the greater part of their being – their intuitive nature? Maybe what we’ve been taught are the most important aspects of life, within this narrow frame in which we think, aren’t so very important. Maybe writing will serve an even grander good than just providing us books, if it also aids our knowing our true nature, that we aren’t just a field hand or a work horse but beautiful and strong and smart. Maybe the most precious piece of Murphy’s secret was perhaps the last line of the poem, for surely we are here to hold a bigger view:
When I’m up there I rub my hand against they neck
lean into they ear, pretend I’m the wind and whisper
Find yo purpose. Find yo purpose. And hang on.
Christina Carson is author of Suffer the Little Children.