Six Years in the Life
I was thinking about Marco Rubio.
I’m writing this a few days before the election, so I don’t know if he won his Senate race or not, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he did.
I’ll bet Marco and his family are breathing a major sigh of relief. A Senate term runs six years. The Rubios are now set up till 2023.
No worries about fading from the public scene. No shiling for work in the private sector. Marco now, and for the next six years, possesses a position of high status and influence, a guaranteed income, an externally imposed structure of order and significance. He’s got a place to go to every morning. The position even comes with a hopeful future. It confers a six-year tenure on its holder and provides him with a platform from which to work toward his next incarnation—another Presidential run, whatever.
Marco Rubio is locked in, safe and solid, for the next six years.
What about you and me?
What about us as artists and entrepreneurs?
What do our next six years look like, lacking any and all of the perks and advantages that Marco’s got.
You and I possess no guaranteed income. We own no position of power and influence, no staff, no office, no free government car or expense account. We have no workplace to go to in the morning, no schedule of meetings and hearings and fact-finding excursions, no built-in structure to shape our days.
We’re on our own. We can drop dead in the middle of Main Street and passers-by will be stepping over our bodies.
Whatever meaning and significance our lives may bring forth, we have to create all by ourselves.
On the other hand, consider these six years:
Ladies of the Canyon
For the Roses
Court and Spark
The Hissing of Summer Lawns
(Specifically: Chelsea Morning, Both Sides Now, Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock, Circle Game, My Old Man, Blue, A Case of You, Barangrill, You Turn Me On I’m a Radio, Blonde in the Bleachers, Help Me, Free Man in Paris, People’s Parties, Car on a Hill, Down to You, Just Like This Train, Trouble Child, Twisted, Sweet Bird, Shadows and Light.
Or how about this artist/entrepreneur:
All Marketers Are Liars
I’m fudging a little on dates here, but you get the idea. Seth Godin had a pretty decent Senate term, didn’t he?
Or how about this dude, in just one year?
Theory of Special Relativity
The Muse is an amazing gal, isn’t she? She can reach down to you and me (or reach up from our Unconscious, our Self, our neshama) and supply all the structure, power, creativity, significance, meaning, and fun that any of our fellows might get from a job, a post, an externally imposed structure of daily life.
Can anybody look at the bodies of work of [fill in the blank: any artist, entrepreneur, writer, filmmaker, photographer, software designer, you name it] and say there is no meaning in the universe, no order, no evolution, no progress?
Our job, yours and mine, is 1) to make ourselves open to whatever portion of that invisible force has been set aside for us alone (and believe me, that portion is there, with our name on it). And 2) to make ourselves ready in terms of skills, knowledge of craft, professionalism, and capacity to manage our internal impulses—positive as well as negative—so that we can convert the Muse’s gifts into works that are accessible to our brothers and sisters.
We asked at the start of this Why I Write series, “What if an artist produced over her lifetime an original and authentic body of work, but that work had never been recognized widely among her contemporaries? Would we say that her work had been in vain?”
Again I say no.
That body of work has been her artist’s journey, her destiny as a soul. The realization of that inspiration of the Muse (in other words, its transformation from the invisible state of pure potential to its realized state as material works of art) is as valid a life’s work as raising a family, selflessly serving one’s people or nation or planet, or achieving any kind of conventional recognition or fame.
By producing that work, by following her star, our hypothetical artist has lived as realized a life as an oak that has grown to its full height and breadth, a sperm whale that has circled the globe as a matriarch of her ocean-depths clan, or a comet that has lapped the solar system and is banking around to do it again.
And she knows it, our artist. She may not have had a Capitol Hill office to go to every morning, or been greeted as “Madame Senator” as she went about her day. But she has been true to her deepest internal calling, like Joni and Seth and Albert Einstein.
And I’ll tell you something else. Someday, and maybe much sooner than she or we imagine, that body of work will be recognized beyond her small inner circle.
Soul has power.
Its light cannot remain unseen forever.
Next week we’ll talk about the idea of “having a practice.” (Another answer to that same question above.)