A Generation’s Worth: Spirit work while the crisis reigns
A Generation’s Worth: it’s a two-handed kind of ciphering. It’s a way of reckoning what a generation has done to earn its keep. It’s also a currency to track and tally that reckoning. Worthiness is coin of the realm in a troubled time. I’ve been stilled, and I’ve been wondering about the books I’ve written: what do they mean, now that the plague has come? Have they heft anymore? Are they in eclipse? Am I?
“Involuntary stillness isn’t very still. It’s constrained. It’s stymied. The only stillness, perhaps, is the one that is decided upon. I heard a story about a highly esteemed author/ priest in a monastery. The questioner aimed to gain some sense of what enabled the priests’ spiritual adroitness. When he asked the priest about his typical day, the cleric replied: Each day I have to decide to stay here. Each day, and that is work. That’s the work that faces those of us who are, more or less, against our will or otherwise, persuaded of the facts of this plague. The day will come, as it does following all the wars, the disasters and the like, when people not yet born will want to know what it was like, and especially what those of us did when we came to understand something of what was happening.
So: A Generation’s Worth. Taken all together, I am meaning that the sum of these talks can begin some kind of an answer to that question: what did you do? It can begin to wrangle a language that does justice to this present moment, that testifies, that wonders with discipline. I suppose it’s clear, without being easy: live your life in spite of the plague, or live as if what’s happening is happening. Either of these will tell generations to come something of this generation’s worth.”
That bit about stillness, about choosing to stay put when there seem no choices to make: that’s a pretty good write up. It has a bit of staying power. That was the job description I gave myself, in the form of a quartet of quandaries I meant to live stream, pressing in on the four books I’d written. When I wrote that description down, maybe four months ago, I knew that it was a lot to live up to. So, I studied and I practiced, and I did my scales, until those books I’d written and those themes I’d spoken of for a good while started to settle in. I wrote a lot of that readiness down. As I did, I had that old feeling come on, the feeling that tells me that something wants to be born. It’s not what I wanted. I had my hands full. I was thinking about a new record, about the Nights of Grief and Mystery, about my school of waywards, about the apprenticeships and the farm work. I had a pile of allegations that wanted to turn into a book about matrimony. But every time I come to this part of the world, something like this happens. Something comes on, and crowds everything else to the wings, doesn’t consult me about my plans. Now it’s happened again.
So, there’s a new book. We’re just in the time of wrangling printing and distribution. I’m working with a graphic artist, and we mean to have a book that has some hand-made beauty. That probably means a trade edition and a limited edition. Early fall: maybe we’ll be done by then.
In case, in an idle moment, you wondered what happened to all that brouhaha about A Generation’s Worth from a few months ago: now you know. It turned into a little book of its own.