Even if you’ve read Part One, you should go back and take a look, since D gave me permission to post some pictures from his early work and work that I have worked on with him.
He was me, I said.
D went from being my teacher, to my mentor and then collaborator and friend, and it was as the last that he told me the story of his friend. He urged me not to let that happen to me, to focus on my own work, my own creations. Regardless of whether they gained critical acclaim as his did or not, it was important that my work be done.
The Long Strange Road
So I started. It led to a lot of writing, and some false starts and strange directions and quite surreal situations. I’ve lugged large bags through Hell’s Kitchen in the middle of the night prior to teaching in NYC, and I’ve perilously perched on the back of a bicycle perambulating through the streets of Amsterdam on my way to facilitate workshops. I’ve taught on subjects I never would have dreamed (“How to smoke a cigar in a masculine manner“, for example, in a hotel that was non-smoking, no less) and some that I’ve been immensely privileged to share.
My art is part movement, part public speaking, and part helping people discover their own passion, so that the actions they take whether for performance or just while playing around are coming from within them. This isn’t to say that I’m always able to do it; it’s a dirty little secret of all these kinds of personal development courses that often we are only able to teach because we know so well how to fail.
But I have the stack of emails, cards, letters, and more that tell me that what I’ve done has made a positive impact on peoples’ lives. I even get the occasional monetary remuneration (thanks, Tara!) to buy coffee and pay the server rental. But none of that is the real reward, not the travel, not the neat people, not the souvenirs or the attaboys.
No, the reward is that I am doing my work. That these are my words, these are my classes, and I am making my own mark and doing my own work.
Which is why it was so troubling when my friend Poetic started reading them out loud for the world.
My Words. Her Voice.
It was my own fault, really. Poetic is a friend I’d met in Baltimore, and we shared a few different interests including Japanese performance art, good cigars, science fiction, and good music. She’d been a reader of this blog for years (you can find a few different comments by her if you go back) and once, during a teaching trip to her neck of the woods, she mentioned that she enjoyed reading the entries aloud into her iPhone’s voice recorder.
“Huh,” I said, trying not to be too flattered. “You’ve got all the makings for a podcast there.”
And it was true, she did. All you need for a podcast are three things: content, the time to make the recordings, and a distribution platform. She had the first two already, and what I found out a few days before my birthday was that she’d figured out how to work out the third.
That’s my version of the story, anyway. You can hear her version on the podcast blog itself: Poetic Reads Gray. If you’re looking for the RSS feed to actually subscribe with something like iTunes, it’s http://audioboo.fm/users/171048/boos.rss .
The problem I had, as I read the email where she told me about it, was that while it was somewhat flattering and more than a little validating, it was, too a large extent, horrifying. You see, I know how much time it can take to do a podcast, having done a few in my past and consulted for others doing theirs. Even with the content (my words) done for her, she was going to be making a significant investment of time in this project.
And that, to me, felt like a waste. Because Poetic is one of the more gifted writers I know, both in essay-style prose and in short fiction. I got to read a novella she made that was a kind of sci-fi thriller that had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what her kick-ass heroine would do next.
More than that, she also severely underutilizes her capacity in terms of problem-solving and the generous desire to help others. Without belaboring a point that I’ve belabored with her in the past, she’s found herself a comfortable job that doesn’t challenge her, while at the same time nursing (sic) a desire to work in the medical profession. I won’t go into the reason that she never went into medical school, but I will say that when I found out what it was I just about blew a gasket. The world is in need of good healers, and in my opinion Poetic has the unrealized potential to be a great one.
Note: if she were happy in her job, I’d be supporting her 100% in her choice to do what she does. But she’s not happy, and as is stated in this blog, my purpose is to try and find ways to make hard times happier. Sometimes, that comes through giving people I care about a hard time.
How could I stand that?
The Story Paid Forward
In a carefully worded email I finally expressed my concern to her. I told her about D, and his old classmate, and my own time when it looked like I might busy myself doing other people’s work instead of my own. I told her that I feared that she would deny the world her own works because it was easier to fake herself out by reading mine.
Silly me. The fact is, people get smarter. Poetic confidently told me not to worry, that she was, in fact, taking some firm steps towards getting her own writing published. Not only that, she was also starting training as an EMT, in no small part due to my harassing her to find out if her call to the healing arts still remained.
Her reading of my posts? A sideline, nothing more. As she mentions in the “Backstory” recording linked above, reading aloud is a comfort to her. She just decided to start putting it online, for whoever wants to listen.
I shouldn’t have worried. Her work is being done, as is mine, as is D’s. All of us creating, making something more for the world, creating our own practice and practicing the act of creation.
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others” – Martha Graham