Friday, November 26, 2010
Thinking of "identity" - a hot word these days - as a rite of passage, a gate. You arrive at it - suddenly, or over a long, hard-won period of time. You may spend some time there - years, decades. But if you don't ever move through, if you don't ever move on, or if you don't ever transform the gate, that identity ends up a blockade.
This is Thomas Merton writing advice to Jim Forest, a friend, writer and fellow worker in the peace movement in the 60's. It's advice for artists too, seems to me, and artists who are re-evaluating identity:
"Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything."
Thank god: I can be - not for myself, not for an idea, not for a set of possessions, not for a body of work - but for the strings by which I'm tuned; in the end I'm working on those chords.