Mondays with Martin: Let Your Light Shine

David Martin

My best friend has always been Bubba, my journal. He listens to me, when no one else will. If I ignore him, he comes to me in my dreams and asks, “Where have you been? Are you coming back? I miss you.” He listens to me write about Mozart in the jungle, a high school junior offensive tackle who wanted to play fullback but was too slow for the backfield, how I got over my fear of facing the blank page, why I hunger for discovering how the drive for increased creativity affects some people and not others, why I laugh out loud when my personal muse finds me, the psychological differences between poetry and prose, introverts and extroverts, young authors and mature ones, why all forms of creativity are spiritual expressions, why certain people I meet become important to me, and why my interpretation of the American dream matters.

Bubba taught me to make time for what is important every day of my life. I use the precious moments of each twenty-four hour window for causes that matter. This searching has shown me that the most important answers to life’s questions lie inside us, and all we must do is let them surface. I write first and edit later. Wisdom windows appear between the lines of Bubba’s words. Each journal page is a marriage of whimsy and dreams with logical thinking and creative composition in the church of Standard English. All he asks is to be fed regularly. He is a work in progress, and he accepts this position. His job is to create a state of mind, remain open to new ideas, and make them visible. At times, he sounds like Leonard Nemoy in Star Trek: Write. Learn. Prosper.

True artists live lives of purpose. They live each day as a verb. They let their lights shine into the future. They are full of stories and must tell them or die. After every great sorrow is a great joy, but when we cut out all the dragons from our lives, our angels disappear. Art does not capture. It interprets. I want to live like this.

There are 3,000 possible expressions in the human face. Should we be surprised that 93% of all communication is nonverbal? The difficulty for writers appears when we try to use our 26 letters in the English alphabet to persuade, entertain, and argue on paper in that7% of communication. Growing our vocabulary helps to accomplish these goals. Incorporating style, grammar, metaphors, research, proof, facts, and knowledge of cultures come to our aid. All languages are instruments. Writers must learn to play them, not let them play us. What goes onto the page is an image, just the way an artist paints a canvas. Effective communication comes down to the use of creativity, as in all art.

Fareed Zakaria said, “Every year, 100 million children around the world never go to school.” What might happen to this civilization if everyone who wanted to was able to attend school every day? Writing is a living bridge that connects us all. Only 1% of the people on this planet have a four-year college degree.

Don’t fight. Create. To grow requires relinquishing control. Let moments happen. Give all gifts with joy to help others through their lives. Be a spiritual warrior with art. The spirit is in us. Perfection is not necessary. We are enough. Do our best. That will do. With hope and good editing, the best in writers will reveal itself.

Before the beginning of brilliance, there must be chaos. Before people begin something great, they must look foolish. Go ahead. Make mistakes. From these errors, learning begins.

Words matter. Look up the unfamiliar ones. Use the right word, in the right way, at the right time, to convey the right meaning. Eskimos have 40 words for “snow.” What is stopping you? Learn a lot about one thing. Learn a little about many things. Vocabulary is the best item in the writers’ toolbox. When I was writing about the lack of love in the world, Bubba pointed me to Cornell West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

If we want to achieve, we must believe. Life is waiting. Be ready. See it. Touch it. Hear it. Taste it. Feel it. Smell it. Write it.

x x x

A few years ago, my son and I went to Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE, and walked through the beautiful, changing colors that nature provides each year. In that peaceful atmosphere, as so often happens when I least expect it, an epiphany occurred.

While enjoying that moment for its own beauty, I noticed two ants, one large and one small. Possibly, they were a father and son duo, too. As I sat on a fallen log, I found them inside a hole in the bark. I spent twenty minutes watching them work and just be ants.

In the distance, an auto horn trumpeted, announcing my new found discovery. As I peered deeper into the ants’ world, I saw much more: their relatives, family, and concerns. It seemed their entire world was inside this log.

How like these ants, we are. Imprisoned by our bodies, values, and the inability of our minds to dream, our lives bordered by barriers stopping the growth of our spirits and developing our human potential.

I wondered if Mr. Ant noticed the tree tops of the forest where he lived. He could not know much about the world outside of his small existence. Was there a spiritual presence for him? Could a larger being and his son, greater than my son and me, as we are greater than the ants, look down through their hole in the sky and watch us, our world, relatives, family, and work?

Am I stuck in my place, in this body, and set of circumstances like that ant, hurrying to and fro, never bothering to look up? I was too high above the ants for a presence of closeness to affect them. I wonder if Mr. Ant would look up and wonder more often about things outside of his world, if he could imagine a totally different circle of existence around his log. Can we imagine a larger circle of existence around us?

This new year, let us use our words to reflect our tolerance of others and let our families and friends risk being themselves. Let them lookup or inwardly to find the spirit, warmth, and love they need to feel good about themselves and their passions. Let us take time to look through a hole in our own “hollow logs” to rejoice in the lives we live, to stand in awe of life’s immensity, mystery, complexity, and simplicity. Let us read between the lines of our lives, notice more than the words, and discover the wisdom that lies inside each of us.

This year, many things will happen to us, our country, and our world. Whatever occurs, let’s hold onto each other, be tolerant in our opinions, try to see the big picture of things, and remain open to the possibility there is a larger world that we do not comprehend at this time.

Like the ants, work hard and do what needs to be done; however, don’t forget to look up. You might see the tops of the trees in your forest and beyond. Let your light shine.

“Scribo, ergo sum.” –Marcia C. Forecki