Category Archives: Poet and Priest

Un Success Full


Thomas Merton was asked once to contribute to a book on success — specifically a statement of how he’d achieved it in his own life.

I replied indignantly that I was not able to consider myself a success in any terms that had meaning to me. If it happened that I had once written a best-seller this was a pure accident, due to inattention and naiveté and I would take very good care never to do the same thing again. If I had a message for my contemporaries it was surely this: be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success.

Merton “heard no more” from his interlocutor and was “not aware that my reply was published.”

 

 

Photo: Jonathan Williams
Portrait of Thomas Merton
Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, N.C.

 

The Professional

 

  1. shows up every day
  2. stays on the job all day
  3. commits to the long haul
  4. sets the stakes high, sees they’re real
  5. is patient
  6. seeks order
  7. demystifies
  8. acts in the face of fear
  9. accepts no excuses
  10. plays it as it lays
  11. is prepared
  12. doesn’t show off
  13. masters technique
  14. asks for help
  15. doesn’t take failure — or success — personally
  16. doesn’t identify with his or her instrument
  17. endures adversity
  18. self-validates
  19. reinvents herself
  20. is known by other professionals
  21. is courageous in sacrifice — enduring criticism, blame, envy
  22. works while others tweet
  23. is ruthless with himself, and compassionate; no perfectionism
  24. lives in the present
  25. defers gratification
  26. doesn’t wait for inspiration
  27. doesn’t give his power away
  28. helps others
  29. is neither groupie nor icon
  30. doesn’t seek the praise of the praised or proximity to the powerful or famous

— Steven Pressfield, from Turning Pro, page 90

Business Card

charliebrown_writing

 

Live lean.

Altar ends.

Mercy burns.

Pleasantly surprising.

Love to the point of folly.

Afflictions eclipsed by glory.

Write until your fingers break.

Everything worth doing hurts like hell.

The individual will be thoroughly misunderstood.

Write as if you were dying … — that is, after all, the case.

Completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.

Every action you take and every signal you send must be in support of the story.

You have to realize, ‘If I don’t write this — no one will. If I die — this idea dies with me.’

 

 

Sources
Bruton
Chekov
Chesterton
Crowder
Day
Dillard
Godin
Howden
Kierkegaard
McMillan
Me
Miranda
Morning
O’Connor

 

Whispers and Words

god-answers-job-wm-blake

 

My dad died in my sleep.

2:35 AM in an upstate New York hospice; 11:35 PM in a Southern California house.

A text saying to call and two voice mails I still haven’t listened to and speaking was as a sunrise.

New but not unexpected.

*

Who’s the dust in this scenario?

Remember, O Man, that thou art but
dust and to dust thou shalt return.

We’re the dust and frequently in a maelstrom.

The Latin for dust helped birth the English pulverize.

*

We’re in the whirlwind but God is not always there.

Elijah one moment had witnessed some innovative earth-wind-fire-water interactions and the next he’s on the run from a tinpot loser, Jezebel. He bemoans his lot and God puts the Man in the door of his cave and God shows the Man where God is not — which includes, “a great and strong wind [that] tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks.”

Elijah stands in the entrance again and bemoans his lot again and seems altogether unmoved.

But he is not unmoved. He is uncertain but he is ready for action.

God is in the whispers and the words.

*

We’re in the whirlwind and God is sometimes there.

Near the end of Job’s ordeal — that to his family and that from his friends — God “answered [him] out of the whirlwind” and commanded, “dress for action like a Man.”

1,900 words later he has suggested the Man rethink his thinking, which Job begins to do half-way through but God isn’t done. He has more words.

To an idea earlier in the tale — “Though he slay me yet will I trust him” there are added words as well — “yet I will plead my case with him.” ESV says, “yet I will argue my ways to his face” — and Job  vindicated before his friends (and of course humbled before God) in walking this path.

*

Job also worships after calamity (as does King David, even when he catalyzed the calamity by adultery). These are difficult ideas if we haven’t already wrestled a bit with the Angel, so no I can’t explain them to another. I can say them and I can live them — work ’em out, Christians say, in fear and trembling — but I can’t explain them.

*

He’s in the whispers and the whirlwinds and the words that are God-to-Man and vice-versa.

*

To be with my dad and speak.

To be without my dad and speak.

To be with others and Other and speak.

*

As far as I’ve gotten so far in whirlwind and whisper and word.

 

Steps

Adore and obey, don’t fulminate and flee
Be a man not a guy
A producer not a consumer
Solution not problem
(or be quiet)
(which doesn’t mean don’t talk ever)
Measured not random
Good not bad
Lean not fat
Walking not sitting
Writing not watching
Reading not watching
Watching not sleeping
Pay attention!
People not things
Paper not screens
Trees not screens
Clean not dirty
Neat not cluttered
(mostly)
Typing not keyboard
Pen not typing
Letter not email
Call not letter
Think, think, think
Feel, feel, feel, feel
Don’t confuse them!
Movies over TV
(except for Katy’s)
Active not passive
Love God and others, especially M