The Highest Alchemy
“The process of life should be the birth of a soul. This is the highest alchemy, and this justifies our presence on earth. This is our calling and our virtue.” – Henri Amiel
I’ve managed to finish three books this year, a disappointing total to be sure. But I’m actively reading every day, and balance a stack of virtual books on the Kindle app that I read through often with an actual stack of books that I return to now and then. I’m reading a lot, and yet I’m not finishing a lot of books. Go figure.
I’ll often read a quote like the Henri Amiel quote above and immediately research the author’s work on Wikipedia, scroll through highlights of their publicly available work and if inspired I go on Amazon and add to the stack. I added to the stack with Amiel’s Journal, widely declared his master work (free on Kindle)… and published posthumously. Which brings me back to the quote that inspired the search, and emphasis on the quote that wasn’t there previously. Quotes are funny things, we pull out a set of words that seem especially powerful, tag the author and leave it out there like a neon sign on a dark night. Knowing something of the author brings context and resonance. It’s something that Maria Popova is masterful at with Brain Pickings, and you’ll see my own attempts at it here now and then.
I’ve learned over the years to dig a bit deeper in my own process of life. To linger on something that others might skim over. And most of all to learn, and to hopefully add a bit of value to the rest of the souls walking this earth now, and maybe some future then too. To pursue the highest alchemy, if you will. And I’m seeing some return on investment with my two adult children. Both are deeply empathetic, thoughtful observers with strong leadership traits. If nothing else comes of my time on this earth, the ripples from these two might be enough. But that shorts my own time here, doesn’t it? We’re all a work in progress in our time, from day one to the final day, and there’s still plenty of time to add more. Today anyway.
Alexandersmap started out as a blog about the places I was visiting, digging deeper into the history of the place, occasional insight into the best fish and chips or whatever. And I surely will dabble in these observations again when travel isn’t limited. But the blog evolves as I read more, think more, observe more…. and write more. It turns out I’m digging deeper into myself, and putting it all out there for the world to see (thanks) or not see (yet). That’s writing for you: taking you places you didn’t expect to go. Then again, maybe deep down I did expect to get here, I just needed to write about fish and chips enough to reach this point.
“You get better at the craft of writing the more you do it, and that’s the beauty of non-fiction writing being a craft rather than an art. You can practice it, you can get better, whereas with an art, you’re either a genius or you’re not.” – Alex Perry (via Rolf Potts interview)
Writing, like life itself, is a process. We’re all just birthing our souls here. Some remain soulless (I’m not naming names) while some illuminate the darkness for all to see. Personally, I’m on the journey and marking the trail as I go. I’m not sure I’m illuminating darkness for anyone, but I’m lighting the way for myself one post at a time.