Let’s say you’re a teacher of some kind. Maybe a writer, a preacher, a manager, or some kind of leader. Somewhere in your life, you have a place where you express yourself, your ideas, and your perspective on a regular basis.
One morning, before you start your work, you peek at your email just to see what’s facing you later in the day, maybe you accidentally open Facebook and see that article from Huffington Post. You click just real quick and end up reading all three pages, even clicking on the links the author recommended.
The article is good and makes you think, as were the links the article led you to and the references those links mentioned.
By now it’s thirty minutes into your work day and you realize you’re exhausted a little bit. Usually you are able to keep your head about these things, but with the lack of sleep last night and the discouraging week you just had, you don’t have much in the way of defense. And you realize this article you read “real quick” represents the fact that everyone else has already said All The Things.
In fact, the entire world-wide web is filled with smart people saying things. Even this piece you’re working on now, the one about the people who have said all the things? Yeah, they’ve said that, too.
People had it so much easier before the internet! I think to myself (Notice I’m using I now. I’ll own this one).
And I sweep the gray cloud of blame for all of my creative woes onto the robotic back of the internet. I decide to take a walk because that seems like the opposite of computers.
The road to the path is quiet this morning, the lamb’s ear in the neighbor’s yard is starting to spill right over the curb. I remember it from last year, growing out of the lawn that way. I always want to touch it but resist. I don’t know why.
I reach the path, the trees surrounding it in their full-leaf glory by this time of year. A green canopy lets only dappled light fall on the dirt at my feet, dirt that only months ago was covered dead leaves. Not today.
Green, the color of summertime. Blue, the sky on a clear morning of a late spring day. These are what we’ve come to expect. If it’s gray, we dress accordingly. Black, we take cover. Orange, well I don’t know. I’ve never seen an orange sky in the middle of the day.
The earth moves through time in a pattern we predict, of light or dark, rainy or dry, warm or cold or mild. We can’t say exactly what will turn up today, but we have an idea depending on where we are in time – the hour, the day, the month, the year.
Still, we marvel when we notice her beauty, wonder at her vastness, grieve over her brokenness, hush when she reveals the mystery of God.
As I walk beneath the green-tinted shadows of the trees with their massive branches and twisted trunks, I take note of how unapologetic they are in their tree-ness. Trees have always been this way – a maple, a pine, an oak. They are not the same as one another, but they are the same as themselves. They repeat in their patterns, have their own kinds of bark, always, ever growing up and away from the ground because that’s what trees do.
I look around, curious over how all of this is the same as yesterday but somehow also always new.
With each step, I realize I’m doing that thing I do when I am afraid. I’m telling myself it’s all been said and done and read and seen before and so somehow I think this gives me a pass to give up because I can’t help it, you know. It’s the internet’s fault.
Maybe instead of coming up with something new, I’m here to honor the truth of old, to hold the timeless realities close and live like they’re true for me. While we will always change, make progress and move forward, that will come more naturally as we hold on to what we know for sure. Maybe my desire to dazzle in my work is actually hindering my ability to do move forward in my life.
When you hold on to the wrong things, the wrong things hold on to you.
For as long as we’re here, we won’t stop repeating ourselves. We’ll watch a re-make of that movie we’ve already seen, read the book, and watch it again. We’ll listen to music by the artist and then we’ll pay green money to go hear them play that same music again, in person this time.
We’ll say I love you in the morning, and then again at night.
We’ll eat everyday, several times a day, then sleep tonight, tomorrow, and the day after that. Every other moment we’ll take a breath and never once roll our eyes to complain because we just did that three seconds ago.
Repetition is woven into the earth and every living thing. These repeating rhythms keep us alive in our bodies, our minds, and our spirits, too. I don’t have to be afraid to join the chorus of truth ringing out from the mouths of others. I can say what they’re saying, but I can do it as me. So can you.
Today, if you’re feeling the weight of creativity, refuse to manhandle your art like it’s some kind of ticket to someplace bigger, like if you could just get it right you might finally get what you want.
Instead, hold it lightly in your hand. Agree it’s probably been said. Be willing to say it again.
But first, take some time to stop saying things for a while in order to remember the value of the things in the first place. Maybe when we do that, we’ll repeat the words of Saint Benedict: Always we begin again. And we will.
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