I wrote this on 4 August 2020, and posted it to Facebook. It got more response than I imagined it would, and in an odd turn got plagiarized by an acquaintance — who received, apparently unabashedly, accolades for his sensitivity and depth. Mostly I’m archiving it here. But, honestly, the question in the title continues to inhabit my thoughts.
It’s strange to write this, given the state of the world and the pain and grief caused by Covid-19, but I’m enjoying this summer more than I’ve enjoyed a summer in years. Yes, I’m working too much. And yes, life is strangely contained. I’m not seeing people in the way that I usually do, but the quality of my interactions is both more intentional and deeper than it would usually be. I’m enjoying periods of solitude, and unbothered by feelings that I’m missing out (on some ill-defined and probably dreadful experience that I imagine I’m supposed to be doing in order to be ‘fulfilled’ or socially relevant).
Crisis distills values and calls us to take inventory. In the slowness imposed by this crisis, I’m trying to value what I am rather than what I want. That’s not an easy task. The positive facet of desire is how it spurs growth — perhaps especially when we don’t achieve what we want. In the slowness I’m experiencing that, too. And growing from the discomfort.
I routinely flirt with the superficial, sometimes for years, but it’s not where my heart lives. Eventually I find my way home. Maybe that’s the metaphor I’m searching for? What am I content merely visiting, and where do I want to dwell?
What matters? Painting, maybe more the kind of deep aesthetic experience it represents to me, matters. Teaching, and the quality of presence it draws out of me, matters. Meeting people where they are, and not where I want them to be, matters. Calling bullshit matters. Acknowledging rage matters. Taking care matters. Action matters. Love, in both its everyday and extraordinary manifestations, matters. Reciprocity matters.
There’s nothing profound in this. I’m naming things I’ve long known. But you lose track.
On to the day.