As a writer I find myself often pulled back to revisit an earlier theme. This is understandable as whatever it is each of us finds important is a thing we will return to time upon time. In many ways doing so is constructively good. The heartfelt passions I held on love and loyalty at sixteen are not the same I have at sixty. There is a natural review and sorting of one’s values. At sixteen I was much drawn writing what I thought were poems and to visiting a stand of red pines where the wind of any season was the whispered music of my soul. I no longer actively pursue the Muse. She is too fleet. But with the melodies of the trees; with that I’m still quite good.

But no matter how sensible or humanly necessary it is to review there is a bugaboo in every creative spirit urging them to be fresh, original, and new. I used to take that urge more seriously. To be uniquely creative was a shiny goal went for despite the overwhelming evidence that original ideas are largely flops. We beings do best with the routine, like seasons where April becomes May. OK, this April has done rearward jigs lately, but we are confident the month will ultimately right itself to arrive, stumbling or not, at the stage called May. None of us would care for a creativity where June became November and January swapped with July. We’d like it less yet if the scrambled months and seasons came with new names. Who’d know what in Hades to think of the greetings “Happy Fliskas!” or “Isn’t this a delightful Stepifery day?” I think most of us require some order in our universe. Disorder we provide ourselves. More from outside is simply unnecessary.

If we look at what might be called “great” teachings they are often quite simple, such as “Do onto others.” In three words much comes across that is common to our humanity. Great stacks of legal and religious code and the attached picking of nits can be replaced by “Don’t do what you don’t wish done.” I think it is in following of lesser gods that separates spirit from inner voice with walls of words either proscribing or prescribing action until whatever was human is crushed under a mass of fearful rule and regulation. I often wonder why I don’t listen to my own inner voice more. I felt that question is dozens of forms daily when I taught students who seemed so easily distracted from themselves. In so many of their young spirits I saw potential drowned out or glossed over in attempts to be themselves by creating poor copies of supposed ideals. We were told by high educational authority not to crush their self-esteem, but every day I saw girls who needed to be told “If your attempt is to mimic a bowery whore you’ve attained perfection” of stop boys who should hear “You are not mechanical and you lessen yourself by taking so small a part as that of robot.”

I used to direct high school drama, one of the more cost effective programs in terms of wide applicability to student interests. This season’s electrician might two plays later risk going on stage and thereby experience something otherwise out of their reach. It was rarely, almost never, that a student could not perform, but it was almost always the case that they did not believe they could do so and set themselves safely hidden behind a lesser standard. If and when (and trust me, the struggle could be far longer and more arduous than the sweat of an entire football season) the student saw the possibility of their own potential and greatness the inner transformation sent a shock blast from soul to toes. They were lifted.

To be honest, that’s what made it worthwhile. Do you remember how uplifting and life changing it was when you discovered you inner skill or voice? I think it a very human teaching (it is certainly very Catholic) to hold all callings or vocations as sacred. When you heard your calling were you not sure from the inside out that your call to nurse or to fix cars was a true and valid use of your life? But for all the big things our society touts it sadly misses the value and honor due to all vocations. I put it this way. The most talented and well paid surgeon won’t last long if his/her mechanic doesn’t know how to fix brakes. One is not, in fact, more important than the other. Making it seem so is another of those distractions that can keep us from seeing the where and why of our own existence.

I began this north shore musing with comment on writing and of some desire on my part to be original. In that light, early in my experience I discovered two important things. It was safer to be a writer and annoy people on paper. I was less likely to get punched that way as did on occasion occur in sessions of public debate. As an intemperate young man I learned through bruises that a few beers could get me in a lot of trouble. It was best to put my opines minus the beer on paper. The other was a merging of two loves in my life; archaeology and discourse. The certainty, with me to this day, hit that my significant function as a writer wasn’t creation. It was archaeology. Given ten lifetimes I could not create and put inside you a single important feeling or idea that didn’t already exist there. Writing, well mine anyway, creates nothing. If it does anything at all it uncovers, it dusts off; it reveals whatever beauty and worth are in the reader. Always in the uncovering there is opportunity to expose the foul and cruel. It is a writer’s task to choose between that which is true and that which isn’t as it is the reader’s challenge to recognize the one from the other. For that: the heart is the first teacher.