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Filtering by Tag: work

Bright and Shining

Bryan Bliss

MICHIGAN BAND I finished revising my debut novel and graduated from an MFA program in the same month. I am tired. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to write. Of course, one of the first apocryphal rules you learn when you start writing is do it every day. Put that butt in the chair and fashion yourself after the Postal Service. Snow? Sleet? Debilitating fatigue? Doesn’t matter. Put those words down, son.

So when my friend Sara asked me what I was doing for Lent, I laughed. This was the first year in over ten where I wouldn’t be a church worker and I was sleeping in on Sundays like it was my job. While I appreciate the discipline of Lent – I’d taught it how many times? – I was on sabbatical from anything that wasn’t Mad Men or Game of Thrones. And that included God.

Thomas Merton went to Gethsemane to remove himself from the world, to seek God with integrity. As everyone knows, the world came knocking on the doors of his monastery in the way of literary fame. Merton was stuck between his desires for solitude and – this is my assumption – a calling to write. But then, on a routine trip to the doctor in Louisville, he had a vision. Him, being held up by (and inextricably connected to) the world he once hoped to spurn. He described the experience as inevitable, saying, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I eventually texted Sara back and said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll say the Lord’s Prayer every night.” It was something I’d never done. And if I’m being honest – it was a discipline I had no real interest in keeping. But much like the pull I feel every time I walk past my laptop – like there is something I should be doing – once I was lying in bed I couldn’t escape words. Our Father… I don’t claim a Merton-like moment of transformation. Everything I learned was a lesson I already knew. Yet, sometimes it is good to be reminded that the work will always be there when you’re ready. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we are bright and shining.

(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt)

The Forced Pause, the Gift of Rest

Bryan Bliss

Winter Weather

I walked to the grocery store in hopes of finding a power outlet to charge my laptop. Or better: a rogue bit of Wi-Fi that might allow me to e-mail my editor and assure her that, despite the 18 inches of snow being dumped onto our small town, I would be making my deadline. It was not a peaceful walk, the sort you’d expect as snow slowly pillowed on the ground and the entire world went quiet.

No. I went to the store looking for time – looking to work. But all that awaited me was a couple of college kids wearing Adventure Time pajama bottoms and a cashier who kept checking the windows and reminding everybody who came through her line that she – emphatically – “did not need this.”

Rabbi Abraham Heschel said time was the first thing God made holy. A day. The Sabbath. And yet, most of us are extraordinarily bad at accepting the gift of rest. Artists, it seems, have this affliction in spades. There is always one more sentence to be fine-tuned. One more stroke to apply. The reasons to work – to tinker – are countless.  The world applauds busyness. We are encouraged to reject, as Barbara Brown Taylor calls it, the grace of simply “sitting on the porch” because “a field full of weeds will not earn anyone's respect.”

As I walked home, I noticed the light. It was inverted, turning the night into a strange, off-color day. I was alone and frustrated to be going back to a house that had no power, that forced rest upon me like a sickness. But as I walked – as the mounting snow forced my pace slower – I couldn’t help but notice the silence of the empty streets. The sound of my breathing, heavy in the cold.

(Photo by Charles Arbogast)