What Is

Today I am doing something new, so of course I am grouchy and miserable. You would think I craved a Groundhog Day existence, but in fact I do not. I am always scouring for something new to do, some new envelope to push, and then just such an opportunity arrives and I can’t wait to get back to simpler times when everything was the same. I hardly think I am alone. Our country goes into convulsions every time the people we elect to fix things suggest something be done differently so that those things that need fixing can be fixed. No, we say. That’s not what we had in mind. We want to keep doing exactly what we have been doing, only this time we want it to work.

Eventually I do new things long enough to get used to them and stop complaining about having to do them and then get itchy and start looking for other new things. It reminds me of what Alice Hoffman said about starting a new novel. With each new novel she feels as if she doesn’t know how to write a novel. This from a woman who has written a lot of novels.

We should all take heart in this. The beauty of doing something new is that it requires you to pay attention. If you’ve worked a job long enough you could probably drive to it blindfolded, but if you’re going to an interview at a new job, you must follow directions, and keep your eyes out for street signs and landmarks. Everyone wants to pay attention; everyone wants to be alive and alert. In that moment when we thrust ourselves forward into the brand new, we feel life yet again as it has always been—a thing bristling with possible choices. Because these choices are largely untested, we might fear them. But that experience of looking closely, of examining, and then of selecting is the very experience we have always craved.

Every written sentence is a new sentence, and every writer must choose each word in each new sentence. Do not mistake alertness for fear.  The fearful man does nothing, frozen as he is in his mind by the threat of What Might Be. The alert man is supremely awake, having been brought suddenly to awareness by What Is.

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