Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - The Life We Receive Without Asking

"Our plans are nothing compared to what the world so willingly gives us." ~ Margaret Wheatley

"Never tell everything at once." ~ Ken Venturi, American former professional golfer

On Saturday evening, I headed across Central Park toward the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I crossed the park, I passed between the southern border of the Great Lawn and Belvedere Castle. It's one of my favorite little pieces of New York City. There's some sort of happy air that exists in that little triangle; it's impossible to resist smiling there. I always feel romance and unending possibility as I traverse that ground. It was late afternoon so the sun was just streaming over Belvedere, the clover and honeysuckle filled the air with a perfume that I wish could be bottled, and there was a soft breeze. For those few moments, everything felt perfect.

On Friday and Saturday nights the Met is open until 9:00pm so I wanted to take advantage of the extended hours. I checked in on my friends Vermeer and Rodin, stopped by to visit the empires of Northern Mesopotamia, and spent some time among the folk artists of Oceania. It's almost inconceivable how lucky we are to be able to walk among so many priceless pieces of art at a moment's notice.

At the Met I was on a little bit of a mission. I've been working on some children's fiction over the last few weeks. Every day that I sit with my characters, they tell me something new about themselves. In a way, creating characters is like getting to know a new friend. I uncover little pieces about them over time, just by sitting with them and letting them tell me their story.
Every day I'm reminded of Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way, when she says "Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite -- getting something down."
While I have a general map for the story, the characters themselves are just letting me tag along on their journey. The characters themselves will provide a far richer, more intriguing story than I could ever plan. That's the great joy and magic of writing.

As I was wondering through the Greek and Roman Galleries, the art of Cyprus, and the rooms full of knights in shining armor, a lot of ideas were drifting in and out of my mind. I dutifully wrote them all down - bits of dialogue and thoughts and twists and turns in the plot. After recording them all, I stopped to wonder if they made sense. And then I realized the characters I'm writing about can actually do anything they want. Writing fiction is a little daunting for this very reason - all of a sudden the possibilities are wide-open. When you're just getting something down, there are no more limitations. Writing fiction may present our one and only opportunity for complete and total freedom.

While I went through Central Park and to the Met to accomplish something specific, I found something far greater in both places than I had intended. These experiences reminded me that the world has great plans for us, far greater plans that we have for ourselves. And while not having control may at first seem frightening, in many ways it's as freeing as writing fiction. Unexpected, incredible circumstances, people, places, and opportunities are going to appear in our lives through no effort of our own. All we need to do to receive them is to show up with an open heart, an accepting mind, and the willingness to listen. If we can do this, the magic that is all around us becomes an unlimited and constant presence in our lives.

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