Monday, September 7, 2009

Vocation Destinations

I had a long talk with an old friend of mine, Leslie, the other night via Facebook. To boil it all down and summarize, the topic itself was something about what i wanted to "do" now, i.e., a job. Now, in the past 10 or so years of my life, my job was only something to do to support me while i continued to work out what i saw as my vocation, calling, craft . . . poetry. As Taalam Acey pointed out, "Poems don't buy big homes, and poems don't light up wrists . . . " Or, as my old mentor Dan Leidig once said, "Poetry bakes no bread." Of all the creative arts, poets are on the rock bottom of the hit list . . . maybe because a lot of poets understand that part of their duty is to say things that a lot of people would rather not hear (and, in particular, people who have money would rather not hear). Blah, blah, blah . . . I'll leave that for another rant. Anyway, Leslie asked me about what inspired my poems, what made me write. I responded back, "Everything. My life." She said, "Too general. I'm looking for specifics." That kind of rocked me back on my heels, and i had to actually think about it.

Most of my poems deal with one or more of the following topics: my Faith (and reflections on the Christian walk), Nature, what would loosely be called "Political" poetry (i'd call it more philosophical than anything, because unlike most politicians i don't pretend to come up with any easy answers or recoil with a predictable knee-jerk when i have to wrangle with something that doesn't fit neatly into a political pigeonhole), Poetic Portraits (depictions of people i've come across), and Self-Examination. Then there are those weird little outbursts like "I'll Get You, Squid McGhee!" or "Sandy Duncan is Trying to Kill Me!" I don't know exactly WHAT is going on there, unless they're like a sub-category of what i used to call "Myth Sticks," which were really more conceptual Rorschach blots . . . other people would tell me what they got from the poem, and i'd nod and look wise, but they were actually revealing more about themselves than anything (that was the point). Now, let me tell you, i haven't written ANYTHING poetic since i came back from NYC. NOT ONE THING. This scares me, because in dry times like these i feel like i've "lost the muse," or whatever. And, i'll tell you something ELSE . . . i am also afraid that i'm not where i need to be with God. I know God's been giving me a lot of lee-way since i came back, but now He's pulling in the reins, and i need to be paying attention. My creative energy is always a difficult thing to deal with, because it has a tendency to go running off on its own if i'm not careful . . . and, as always, i find that the process of getting it under control often means that there's gonna be collateral damage. Mostly because whenever my creative impulses run on their own, they always come dragging stuff back like burdocks in their hide.

I'm not sure what this all means as regards Leslie's question . . . but i simply can't think of any other way to frame a response other than to kind of sit here and type it out. I can't climb a corporate ladder . . . that's not IN me, and i honestly don't think that's what God built me for . . . and a lot of what i'm hearing from my family lately seems to deal with "success" in the World's terms, which makes me sick to my stomach. ESPECIALLY as regards my grandmother, who--God bless her--will at one point insist that i could "dress like i was successful" (which, to her, means "like i have money"), and in the next breath say that she believes we're living in the Last Times (and, on that point, i can see some indications of that pretty plainly) . . . but it's the conflict between those two points that's giving me so much grief! YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON. And who or what is Mammon? An appropriate modern translation would be Money, the Bank, Profit . . . and, it's true, people tend to go in one direction or the other. Whatever else i can see myself doing, it won't involve building a fortune for myself. My legacy will end up being a bunch of poems which will probably go unread until AFTER i die (and poets are usually only recognized for their vision AFTER they're dead, anyway), and in the actions and deeds that i've done. If anything, i want to pursue a goal that has to do with the ministry, in whatever function God has designed me to perform. I don't know exactly WHAT that is . . . but i understand He knows, and will reveal that to me when i'm ready to receive it. That means focusing a lot more on the skills and gifts He gave me, and being prayerful and watchful. Lewis has been a great help in this time . . . he's one of the few people i know who shares the Christian faith, a lot of similar tastes in music, a powerful creative gift, and a general distrust of the political system as a whole. He and i both agree that we'll end up partnering on something here in the valley while i'm here . . . and now i'm in doubt as to whether or not i'm supposed to go back to NYC long-term.

What do i want to do? I want to stop this state of free-fall and land somewhere for a while. I want to stop wasting my time and my talent. I want--at some point--to get back onstage and rock the Slam mic like i used to, and know i still COULD if i had the ambition and the focus. And most of all, i want to find out what it is God has prepared for me, and grab hold with both hands, and NEVER LET GO.

If i have to have some low-end job just to feed myself and manage my life while i'm doing this, well, so be it. Even Paul, when he was working on seedling churches that couldn't (or wouldn't) pay his upkeep, wasn't too proud to make a few tents.

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