Greetings from Sunny Southern California!
I’ve been flown out here to teach a couple of classes, including one that I’m hoping to bring to LoveLifePractice in workshop form: The Defining Moment. It’s a method for figuring out what you actually want out of a situation, rather than going along with what you’re told you should want. It’s worked wonders for a lot of people (or at least that’s what they tell me, the people who’ve written me after the classes). At this particular conference I’m giving it as a couples’ workshop, which is new, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Plus, they left me chocolate in my hotel room, which is a very welcome thing after a long day of traveling.
But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because of a dream I had.
A Writer’s Subconscious
I can’t tell you the specifics about the dream, and they wouldn’t really matter anyway, because a writer’s mind – or, at least, this writer’s mind – tends to go some odd places. For example, last night I dreamt they were cloning chocolate and peanut butter people and molding them into Disney characters.
I’m not going to write about that dream.
No, in the dream I had a few days ago, I was apparently talking parts of speech with someone, and I had this takeaway:
Be a verb, or die a noun.
I’m sure to some extent I was channeling Stephen Fry, who is quoted as saying:
“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”
Now, at the risk of being presumptuous, I think my summary is both more concise and more intense (monosyllabic and death instead of prison! Plus, first person imperative. This is how writers show off).
However, I also remember, from the dream, why I thought death was the better metaphor. It has to do with change, and it’s inevitability. Change in various forms – time, mood, quality, state – happens constantly. In some cases, like whirlpools and grandsons, it happens in the blink of an eye. In other cases, like glaciers or the DMV, it may be nigh undetectable. But it’s always there.
Any time we try to be a noun – a person, place, or thing – we are setting ourselves up for failure. Well, failure or inaccuracy; yes, I am a man, and you could technically say I became a man on February 15, 1987, thanks to some arbitrary legalities. But was I the same man then that I was less than a year later, on January 23rd, 1988, the night my oldest daughter was born? Not by a long shot.
Nor was that the same man as the one who stood on the parade ground three seven months later getting the eagle-globe-and-anchor of a Marine, or the man who two years later hung up the uniform. And the man I am now is almost unrecognizable from any of those. If I had tried to be any one of those things, to stay that way, not only would it have been disastrous as my life circumstances changed, it would have also just been impossible.
Instead, though, I can treat “man” as a verb – forgive me, Guante – by endeavoring to “man up” no matter what life throws at me. After all, what is a verb but a noun in motion?
A verb is change incarnate. It means that something is doing something, even if the something is just “sitting” there. It acknowledges the reality of change, and at the same time gives things the potential, always, to get better.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Good question. It is Friday, after all. Love is one of those words that is both a verbified noun or a nounified verb. “I love him.” “I am loved.” “She is my love.” “Our love is eternal.” “Love stinks.” Take your pick.
But here’s the takeaway: pick whatever kind of love you like – whether that’s a role you fill, a desire you have, even a dream you may have forsaken. Take that word that fits that, and think about this: how would making it a verb, instead of a noun, change things?
Maybe not at all. But I know, for me, that it’s much easier to be loving than to be a love. I have a lot more fun “fathering” than just being a dad, though that is pretty cool, too.
It’s a weird little lexicological game to play in your head, and I’m sure it doesn’t necessarily work all the time. But hey, that’s what you get when you read about a writer’s dream.