“My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms.”
We all have them, dark times of struggle. Whether they last an intense day or long years, whether they’re about money, health, or relationships, they settle on us like night. They create tunnel vision, and can blind us to what lies beyond their shadows.
William Blake – Europe a Prophecy – Creation of the World (1794, mirrored)
Sports have made me a superstitious person. Whenever Tottenham plays I wear a particular shirt. When I take foul shouts I spin the ball, bounce three times, spin the ball and shoot. Once, during a playoff game between the Red Sox and Cleveland in college, I refused to exit the dorm during a fire drill because I didn’t want to disturb the thin fabric between me and the late-inning rally occurring a thousand miles away. (Also: the guy who organized the fire drill and physically removed me was from Cleveland, so…) Because it seems to alway work, this entrenches the superstition.
I worked a number of positions in television news, and the only aspect of it I really enjoyed was the news writing. The experience taught me a great deal about the kind of writer I wanted to be. And until recently, I’d forgotten I’d wanted to be the kind of writer whose stories are read aloud. There’s a power in telling stories for all to hear.
The Transfiguration by Raphael
Raphael‘s last painting may very well be his greatest. It was completed in 1520 just before his death at the age of 37. In it we see Jesus hovering just above the surface of the earth. He is flanked by Moses and Elijah who join Him in His resplendent glory as Peter, James, and John look on. The setting is transcendent and beautiful and amazing and glorious. But it is only part of the painting. The lower half of this same painting depicts a scene of utter chaos. Toward the right is a demon-possessed boy. His eyes are rolled back and he is convulsing. He, too, is flanked by two figures, but they are not Moses and Elijah. Instead, they are the personifications of the oppressing spirits who defiantly stare down the other disciples. The followers of Jesus are flustered and unsure. They’re looking at each other, and pointing at each other, and throwing up their hands in complete frustration.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
— Bob Dylan
You know what it’s like to be a literary voyeur. You see a photo of someone in front of a bookcase, and what’s the first thing you do? Tilt your head and read the titles on the shelf. And if you’re a serious voyeur, you make a list of books to add to your collection. In addition to being a literary voyeur, I’m a musical voyeur. I have always listened, over the shoulder, to other people’s music. Growing up as the youngest of five, there was no way I was going to get to the record player first. This set the pattern for being a passive music collector. Music is like a dandelion that sends its seeds on the breeze; even though I didn’t search it out, music always found me. Because it’s the heartbeat of varied people, my music over time has become a colorful and eclectic collection.