Mondays with Martin: I Write; therefore, I Am

This David Martin essay dates back to 1993.  The advice is as sound as ever.

* * *

By David Martin
By David Martin

A person with a good education is able to use the past to prepare visions of beauty for the future. When Picasso sat in front of a blank canvas, he did what all writers must do when they face the blank page. They must make something from nothing.
Writers must see the world with the eyes of a child, the newness, the freshness, the miraculous, to improve the way we see life and ourselves, to make a poem out of each day, carpe diem.

“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old” (Franz Kafka).

“Cogito, Ergo Sum” (Descartes).

“I feel; therefore, I exist” (Thomas Jefferson).

“I rebel; therefore, I am” (Albert Camus).

“I ought; therefore, I can” (Kant).

“I want; therefore, I am” (Tolstoy).

“Sometimes I think, and sometimes I am” (Valery).

“I doubt; therefore, I believe” (Fishwick).

“I labor; therefore, I am a man” (Stimer).

“It was woman who taught me to say I am; therefore, I think” (Shaw).

“I party; therefore, I am” (Greg Gruber).

With my apologies to Descartes and others, we probably identify our personal search for beauty in life more closely with one of the above thoughts, but we come together as fellow Dragon Slayers to affirm the validity of the interpretation of these attempts to find the meaning of our earthly existence. We, as a group, acknowledge in one another our own struggles with questions about what it means to be alive.

A profound teacher of mine liked to say we all seek one person in life who we trust and one who will say, “I see you as you are. I hear you clearly, and I want to help you.” When we find that mentor, confidant, or lover, only then we will learn who we really are. Only when we change our life perspective from “I” to “We” will we put into action what it means to be who we really are.

Sometimes, one must travel far to discover what is near. This lesson is taught in the wonderful children’s book The Treasure by Uri Schulevitz. In this old folktale, the main character, Isaac, has three dreams (prayers) where he goes from his little village to the capital city to see the King in search of his personal fortune. Finally, he begins his journey on foot because he is so poor. When he gets to the palace, the King is on vacation and won’t return for many days.

The Captain of the King’s Guards watches Isaac deal with his frustration and despair. When the old man proves he is not a troublemaker, the Captain mentions something very suprising. The Captain tells of a dream he had the previous night about an old man who had an unknown treasure under the floor behind his stove at home. Isaac goes home to find the treasure he saught in his own home.

This story illustrates a basic truth few of us realize about our lives. The beauty in life, our treasure, is not in great places, in great adventures, or in great things. Our wealth is found in our ordinary lives, where we live each day. How we spend that treasure is the next question.

Education is putting reason to work. Using our intellect to make the choices we are called upon to make is the “stuff” of life. We must make these choices flower. To not make them produce is to ignore our creativity. We must go with our best intentions and not look back.

“All the problems of the world could be settled easily if (people) were only willing to think. The trouble is that (people) very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think, because thinking is such hard work” (Nicholas Murray Butler, American educator, 1862-1947).

“There are few earthly things more beautiful than a University. It is a place where those who have ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see; where seekers and learners alike, band together in the search for knowledge, will honor thought in all its finer ways, will welcome thinkers in distress or in exile, will up hold every the dignity of thought and learning and will exact standards in these things: (escerpt from a speech delivered By John Masefield at the University of Sheffield, England, 6/25/1946).

A well functioning university or any good school is beautiful because a true education emancipates the student. Barriers collapse around the educated. Writing and the crafting of words liberate the heart and soul of the knowing. Education answers the question: Why should I care? Why should I be concerned? Enlightened people feel compassion, suffering, and engagement for those areas they understand.

Mankind craved drink long before he wanted to read books. Gutenberg’s first printing press was a converted winepress. Our basic, more primitive needs must be satisfied first, but the miraculous in education is to take the common, the primitive, and rise to a higher ground. Our use of words will accomplish this as much as a Picasso panting or pressed grapes.

Educated people must say what they mean and do what they say. Words are important and demolish existential barriers. Uneducated people are trapped by mores, become prisoners of their age, and are hobbled by societal norms. Educated people live simply and pride themselves on their self-reliance. They press out excesses in daily life and allow the creative juices to flow without fear of being dammed.

For what do people want an education in the first place: money, fame, security, prestige, power, or because they want to understand? A rich man whose pockets are lined with gold is not my primary example to follow in life. The person who dies with the most toys does not win the race I am running. Money is just another wall. Nothing changes for the rich. They live to themselves, and they believe their lives are better, simply because their bank account is fatter.

In the world of nutrition, we now know fat is the number one cause of physical illness in this country. Writers and artists who do not struggle to find the source of truth in their craft, those who sacrifice their art for an easy way out (more money, a softer position), those who yearn to be comfortable before producing, will live a shorter artistic life just as the person who wallows in doughnuts and fried foods will live a shorter natural life. A prison by any other name is still a prison.

Mondays with Martin: Dragon Slayers

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.

* * *

By David Martin
By David Martin

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!

Mondays with Martin: My Child, My Journal

By David Martin
By David Martin

A person’s writing may develop into many things. My attempts at creative writing take the form of a journal, a personal warehouse of ideas and feelings. These bits and pieces expand into larger ideas or are used to support other thoughts that come later. My journal began as a skinny, empty, three-ring notebook and evolved into a robust creation with a personality of its own.

My first attempts to originate something from a non-artistic life, bound in the past to mediocrity, surprised me. Without a conscious effort on my part, this unassuming notebook began eating pages scribbled with pathetic sentences, mostly unconnected, didactic, and plain. A few pages held feeble attempts at poetry, stilted, forced rhyming patterns on the most boring topics and secretly hid some scattered, embarrassing attempts at describing the passions of a mid-life crisis or two.

Without knowing what I was seeing, the birth of a journal took place before my eyes. The thing increased its appetite. From a page a week, it soon demanded a page every couple of days. As it got bigger, it enjoyed eating more. It wanted to be fed daily, then ten or twelve times a week. What began as a weak, scrawny creature developed muscles and a healthy attitude towards survival. Each time its covers opened to consume more pages, I sensed the bellows of lungs expanding as though it aggressively inhaled new life.

With increased bulk between the covers, its lips pushed wider apart. It began to smile at me, as it sat on the shelf across the room. I imagined it standing up and strutting in front of those other notebooks that kicked sand in its face when it was just a little child. Now that it became aware of its own mortality, it insists on the four basic health groups for good writing; literature, spelling, grammar, and composition.

Like a parent, I am learning a lot about myself by watching my new child at play, and I think I see the time coming shortly when I will have to find it a name. What would other people think if I did not have a name for my new baby? When it begins to talk, will it develop a psychological problem stemming from a lack of self-confidence without an identity of its own?

Nicholas Notebook? Julia Journal? Danny Diary? Bradley Biography? Ashley Album? Pilar Page? Elizabeth Exposition? Imogene Imagination? Karma Klassic? Big Bubba Book?

At times, I think my journal is a gold fish in a bowl swimming around in circles without much room to explore or opportunity to develop, while others watch me from a position outside my vision and feel a sort of pity at my writing inadequacy. Often, I feel clumsy like Godzilla smashing Tokyo. Of course, some pages show me to be nothing but a large mouth bass looking for sucker’s hook. Other pages convince me that I am a lazy dog waiting in the sun for that creative idea to come by, as I continue to slumber in ignorance.

In rare moments, my little friend also convinces me I am a rose bush with the softest petals, and I celebrate my uniqueness. My back arches proudly when the pages open to something worth reading a second time. It is a second backbone, which supports me when times are tough. My journal, the teacher, explains to me inner ideas that are hard to discuss with others. It acts as a prism reflecting the light of shadowy, mental images. It sings the blues to me in a rhythm I can understand. It is the older brother and sister I never had. It is both masculine and feminine, whose inspirations make me a whole person. It is a growing tidal wave. It shows me doorways between the pages that appear unexpectedly. It carries me to places new and old. The binders reach out and hug me when I need it the most. It is portable and reinforcing. It is a friendship, a crutch, a magic carpet, and a time machine. Alternating between a snail and a 747, its speed constantly fluctuates between short scribbles and long flashes of light.

I read to understand the thought of others. I write in my journal to understand myself. I help shape my destiny by learning to shape the sentences I use. Life speaks for itself, but I listen with my journal. Each written page is a brush stroke added to my life’s painting. Page after page, I view myself in greater depth. One day, I am a bird trapped in a small cage. The next, I am an Eagle soaring close to the face of The Mysterious One.

Keep the Faith

David
By David Martin

The more I write in my journal, the more I learn about the world and myself. The more I share my writing with my classes, the more open I become to my students, the more open they become to me, and the better all of our writing becomes. 

Often, I hear students refer to their feelings of isolation from family, friends, and other students. I sense they are stranded on a metaphorical, desert island waiting for a passing steamer to rescue them. Sitting alone under a palm tree, sunburned, and tired of eating coconuts, their lives are blocked. Writing in a journal – one that takes on a personality of its own, one that becomes an extension of the author, one that holds the truth like notes placed in a bottle thrown into the Gulf Stream as a means of salvation – will help create that puff of smoke on the distant horizon indicating help is on the way. 

Many times, students need to see themselves unique individuals. Being different is the price we pay for being better. Following the herd creates a boring sameness, a death-like monotony, and keeps us from achieving our potential. Writing in a journal reflects back to us how truly original we are.

John Hancock Field said, “All worthwhile people have good thoughts, good ideas, and good inventions, but precious few of them ever translate those into actions.”

Wait no more. Writing in a journal encourages me to translate my ideas into actions. If I can write about my ideas, I can see them as real possibilities. If I can capture them in a journal, I refer to them later when I act on them. 

Many students dwell on their negative life experiences, and most of us go through periods like this, sometimes. When I have no one to listen to me, my journal becomes my best friend, my voice in the night, the big brother or sister I never had, my guiding light. Often, simply writing my feeling onto a blank page helps me get through the darkness.

The seventh century Chinese Philosopher, Hui-neng said, “The meaning of life is to see.”

Looking at something is not the same as seeing it. In our complicated world, we have so much to look at, but we see so little. Looking at things demeans life. Seeing things, clearly, gives life meaning.

Writing in a journal forces me to see things, not look at them. I can’t count how many students have told me that by simply writing devotedly in their journals they found a meaning in their life they didn’t know existed.

One of the wisest men I know told me that everyone searches for the meaning to life. He said the answer is not to be found but created. If there is no particular purpose, we must develop one. Following our own unique destiny is challenging for all and frightening for many. We can’t hide in the herd any longer, when following our individual path. Keep the faith. Write on.

Writing a Window

I love windows.

window3

I love their beauty, their simplicity, and their view. They provide protection from the cold. Their light pierces the dark. They give hope to the confined. Windows symbolize so many things to me, and they help make me whole. How I remember these windows is how I remember my past. How I feel about these windows is how I feel about my future.

 

For many, life is a bleak, passionless existence. I see lives of boredom all around me. Barriers of all kinds, real and imagined, keep people from participating in active, productive lives. Blank stares, uncreative minds, and empty hearts reflect this lack of direction and purpose.

 

Windows are miracles of glass, silica and heat.

They protect us and provide decoration in our world. They allow us to dream in safety. A window is frames what we see and limits our vision. They outline our view of the world.

 

Windows show character and variety as an individual’s personality does. Windows come in many shapes and sizes. Their diversity reflects their uniqueness. A simple, four-pained window symbolizes a simple life. Beveled glass window allow the sun to reflect through prisms creating rainbows on the floor and walls. Elements from nature produce visual kaleidoscopes.

Stained Glass Windows 

Stained-glass windows do not allow people inside a room to look outside, but they let the sunlight teach stories by reflecting images from the glass. These beautiful spectacles of art, nature, and philosophy provide inspiration hundreds of years after their construction.

 

A room with windows is a room that breathes. Windows become metaphors for transmitting images of hope, vision, and energy. They allow us to examine all aspects of our lives by focusing our attention on specific developments.

 

When windows are cloudy, dirty, or clear, they imitate confused people, unpolished individuals, or those with nothing to hide. Shaded windows prevent others from viewing inside, and people in the same way shade themselves by remaining closed to others, inhibited, and not seeing the light.

 

Where windows are placed in a building affects their appearance. Windows placed on the north side of a home receive less punishment from Mother Nature in this region. Southern windows are tortured by the sun’s rays and the strong winds from the southwest. While the north windows remain smooth and clear, the sun’s radiation on the south side forces the glass to expand and damages them.

 

Mirrors are windows coated on one side. They reflect backward what they see. Certain people are like mirrors. They reflect backward and use none of their energy to perceive the visions in front of them.

Metaphors 

If windows are metaphors for our lives, they come in all shapes and sizes: tall ones, skinny ones, short ones, some stronger than others, ones easily broken, old ones, and new ones with many different levels of tolerance.

 

Like the masks we wear during the day to conceal our feelings, window shades allow different amounts of sunlight to enter our rooms. When we are depressed, we pull down our shades. When we feel happy, our shades let in more sun.

 

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, a person’s view can be influenced by the thoughts and feelings allowed to penetrate those windows. A glass of waster may be either half full or half empty depending on a person’s point of view. Positive windows may simply be clean ones. Negative windows reflect life’s dirty smudges.

 

Windows hold anything a person’s mind imagines. “If dreams were for sale, what would you buy today?” Unlimited possibilities present themselves to some; others whose creativity is poverty-stricken limit themselves to the common. Windows for some only hold items of the past; some see only the present; a selected few reach into the future. Seeing from inside one’s heart and outward into the world is how some use their windows.

 

write worldWriting is a window for many. It allows people to see what they feel after writing words on paper that best illustrate their specific emotions.

 

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion” (Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher, 1770-1831). A wonderful quotation like this one becomes a window of wisdom that travels the ages. What a wonderful window we look through when we learn to read.

 

In an Eskimo language, the word “to make poetry” is the word “breathe.” Poetry is one of the windows important to me, and poetry allows me to breathe fresh air and see farther into my world.

 

Like pages of glimpsed clarity, a panoply of window panes, they make me aware of sunshine, the clouds, and the unlimited possibilities available in life. In my home, I built a sunroom and am surrounded by windows. I see the birds in the sky, the stars at night, and a rainbow of colors during each day.

 

Each window fine tunes my day. Each pane of glass adds increased focus to my life. An occasional cracked glass or a little dirt in the corners affects the vision I achieve out of each respective one. Each window becomes a frame of mind, a frame of hope, a window of my dreams.

 

Handshakes, books, connecting the “1,000 points of light,” five fingers turned into a fist, nets made from single strand are all windows of meaning. These images provide different cultural lenses, blazing insights through which we teach ourselves from our own life experiences. These windows of perception show the way to the other side.

 

As dogs are said to resemble their masters in looks and temperament, windows in homes reflect the personalities of the owners. A window’s appearance shows the owner’s concern, attitude, and imagination. Owner’s who take the time to keep their windows clean enhance their ability to see clearly more of the world around them.

 

One of the largest windows of my life is my work. Out of the day’s chaos, this window brings order. In an educational forest, I build a path. Confronted daily with despair, I create purpose. Surrounded by youth, I search for maturity. Enveloped by barriers, I imagine transcendence. Given yarn, I knit a sweater. Given colors, I draw a picture. To escape a death of spirit, I breathe a new beginning. Trapped by four ordinary walls, I build a picture window. As I continue to grow, the view from these windows becomes more focused.

– David Martin

A Writer’s Prayer

Vanishing Point by Oliver Hellowell
Vanishing Point by Oliver Hellowell

Great Spirit!

You give me a reason for being,

a sense of mission in this life.

I see small accomplishments and realize

there is a purpose behind them.

My creativity is a gift from You.

I recognize these blessings

more and more each day.

I know I am on the right path.

Continue to guide me.

Give me more strength,

so I can reach my distant goals.

I search for peace in my writing.

I ask for others to find happiness there.

I know You will guide those who listen.

I look to my writing in hopes of seeing visions,

those windows You open for me.

I ask for wisdom.

Touch my shoulder and guide me.

I pray to hear Your voice in the silence of the night,

in the noise of confusion,

and with the terror of the blank page.

– David Martin

Dragon Slayers

Photography by Timothy Wright of Omaha
Photography by Timothy Wright of Omaha

It is now 3 a.m. Lightning and thunder pound my head. I am tired and can not sleep.

An awful dragon chased me 

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.

Dragon

 

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!

– David Martin

Content in My Bliss

Someone once said they read books to discover the souls of others. I write to discover my own.

I want to discover who I am. Few things in life teach me who I am more than writing in my journal does. This desire for self-knowledge inspires me to write almost every day.

papers andI seldom lack inspiration to write, but I often lose my focus. I spend too much time doing many things other than writing. Earning money, pursuing life’s pleasures, and trying to please others causes me to get lost in the fog of daily existence. I get tired making a living in a stressful environment. I feel waves of people, emotions, and work wash over me and knock me off my feet.

I search for my footing in my journal. I look for meaningful reflections in my sentences and metaphors, and my journal becomes a symbol revealing my true self.

I want to be good at a few things in life. Conveying accurate images through my choice of words is one of them. I want to use my gifts well.

 Simple things in life inspire me to write. My heart lifts when I see a male cardinal in a bare tree above the mounds of white snow. My soul warms when I see a strong, male hand hold a tiny child’s little fingers. Fathers teaching sons and daughters the sacrifices needed to reach maturity turn my pages. Lovers look into each other’s eyes and inspire me to paint the scene with words. Close friends sitting together, silently drinking coffee, as they watch moisture form on a window while the cold, Nebraska wind howls outside makes me warm to the possibilities.

I am urged to write when I feel friendly eyes locate me in a crowded room; when loved ones bare their souls to me; when a student comes to class with the attitude, “I am ready to learn today, and you can teach me.”

write worldI write eating gumbo, listening to Cajun music. I look for pen and paper when I hear the carol, “Silent Night,” pierce the air on Christmas Eve. I sit down under a tree to record my emotions when my daughter chooses on her own to take the training wheels off and ride her bicycle solo for the first time. Ray Charles’ “Georgia,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could” all speak to me in the same way. I can not pass up these opportunities.

When my work captivates me, when I hear, “Daddy, I love you!” when I see outstretched hands reaching for a baby’s face, when I feel soft fingers on my shoulder, when I hear the words, “Everything will be all right, now. I am here with you!” I feel fortunate if I can put half of what I feel onto paper.

 When I remember my writing passions, I stay on the path meant for me. These times inspire me to write. I am content in my bliss.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://finelines.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/David.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]David Martin is the founder of Fine Lines community. Also he is a writing professor, the Fine Lines Camp director, and head editor of the journal.[/author_info] [/author]