Editor’s note: This David Martin essay dates back to 1993. The points made here are still as important ever. Take a look and think about your own writing. And there are dragons out there waiting to be slayed.
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It is now 3 a.m. Lightning and thunder pound my head. I am tired and can not sleep.
An awful dragon chased me for 5 ½ hours tonight. Our battle sounded like the thunder and looked like the lightning of my dreams. I heard my sword crash against the fire breathing monster’s neck, and I awoke to hear real monsters clash with Zeus’ bolts of fire in the sky.
The monster of my dreams aroused the emotional “donder and blitzen” that took place yesterday at our monthly Dragon Slayer’s meeting. Those flashes of insight and the sound of truth now stir in me to write once again.
Outside, Mother Nature’s rain falls softly. The natural thunder and lightning keep calling my attention to life’s rebirth, baptismal cleansing, and regeneration. It’s never too late to start over.
Our discussion went from patience to parking lots, nuclear holocaust to Nikki Giovanni, a search for passion to paternalism, native desires to Nietzsche, individual courage to Camus, a creative swim to Schopenhauer, and a quest for real education to erudition. My mind became tired and excited as a result of our four-hour sharing. I feel there is much electricity in this group of writers. It is no wonder that Donder and Blitzen are now more to me than just two of Santa’s reindeer.
If Giovanni said there are no conversations, just intersecting monologues, what would she say about Sunday afternoon? Our sharing and discussion prove that good exposition and feedback occur when writers commit to their tasks.
No one really knows the mind and soul of another. Friend, husband, wife, child, do we really know who other people are? Probably not, but yesterday’s attempt was a huge beginning. Let the flow of written words never stop, as we follow our quest to write ourselves into our destiny.
“I can feel again . . . there but for the grace . . . it is the moments I like . . . memories last longer than experiences . . . suffer in order to create . . . passion and pride. . . courage to be . . . over the edge . . . eye of the tiger . . . it is a question of vision . . . a search for truth . . . be the rebel . . . personal battlegrounds . . . celebrate our 26 letters . . . a struggle to be authentic . . . .”
These glimpses of everyone’s participation are sparks for much contemplation and great composition. Don’t be satisfied to talk about them. Write them down. Develop them before they vanish. We must challenge our dragons before they disappear.
I try not to worry about the past. What is done is done. Just let me learn from my mistakes and move on. I pray I don’t repeat the same errors. I hope to move to a higher ground. Then, if I make more mistakes, at least, they will be new ones.
I use to spend so much time worrying about the “boo-boos” I made, people I hurt, and opportunities I lost, that I only made myself depressed. When I learned that my unhappiness was only sublimated anger at myself, I decided I was not progressing by hurting myself, so I stopped it. I am only human. Yes, I made mistakes. I will make more, I am sure, but I don’t want to dwell on them. I choose to think of the future, to emphasize that aspect of my life, to accentuate the positive things I can influence. The little things I know will be affected by my attention.
Living is endless “being,” a continuous growth. There is no finish line; just life in a marathon and small victories tacked onto each other. An ending is a new beginning. I try to keep my eyes on the road and relax behind the wheel. Instead of going around and around in circles repeating the same mistakes of the past, if I can slowly, continuously, move to a higher level, my circles will become spirals. That is enough for me.
The only responsibility a river has is to flow to the sea. I don’t have to be anything else but the river I was created to be. My mission is to simply live what I am. If I am the Missouri, I don’t have to be the Amazon. If I don’t do what the Missouri is supposed to do, that is my only mistake.
Rivers don’t go upstream. I don’t have to push the current. The current will flow by itself. The river’s job is simply to be patient, take the curves and bends as they come, and ride, ride, ride to the sea.
The Greeks said happiness was attaining perfect balance and moderation in all things. When I am not happy, I find that parts of my life are more emphasized than others. Often, I notice my unhappiness comes about when I am thinking only of myself. When I want something so badly that I crave nothing else, when I am obsessed by possessing something, when I am greedy, then my displeasure with life is at its highest point.
When I quit worrying about the getting, when I begin thinking about the giving, my happiness returns. When I am aware of serving others or something larger than myself, when I volunteer my time, when I let good things pass through me to someone else, my happiness returns. It is not the taking that is important; it is the touching. It is not the getting that counts; it is the giving.
If someone asked me, “What are the Dragon Slayers all about?” I would say they are about all of the above and more. Individuals have their own personal dragons to overcome, and according to Joseph Campbell, we may have more than one. The dragons can be many things: possessions, fears, ideas, jobs, school, teachers, wives, husbands, children, and egos. The monsters are concerns in life that prevent us from being ourselves and pursuing those things that let us become happy.
Campbell used the idea of following one’s bliss to find rapture and defeat one’s dragons. The barriers in our lives block our pathways and prevent us from going down the yellow-brick-road to Oz where we will surely be able to find ourselves a brain, a heart, and the courage we need to be successful.
Dragon Slayers travel the road of life searching for its truth through writing. Once the truth, as we see it, is found, the next step requires action. Knowledge is the knowing, but wisdom is knowledge in motion. We want to do more than just find the dragons. Going past those monsters to a better emotional and physical world creates the thunder and lightning that I hear. Let’s confront those dragons. Let’s keep our faith! Let’s write on!