“Make of yourself a light,” said the Buddha, before he died.” – Mary Oliver, The Buddha’s Last Instruction
Last night I lay quietly in the backyard well past my bedtime watching bits of billion-year-old space dust streak across the sky in brilliant dying gasps of white light. The dust is debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which takes 133 years to orbit the sun. The Earth, orbiting the sun every year, meets this debris field every August. I won’t be alive when the comet Swift-Tuttle visits again, but every year I look for her cosmic wake in the form of the Perseid Meteor Shower.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung
If ever there was a year during my lifetime to bring more light into the world, its 2020. I’m not sure yet how much light I have to offer, but I know the answer is… more. And so I’m going to double down on the writing for the next hundred days to get through the first draft. And then do the work to make it sparkle, for surely it won’t sparkle in 100 days. Ah, but writing kindles a light in me, and I must stoke that kindling until I get a good flame going.
“A good book is [one] you can feel [is] alive. You can feel it vibrating, the character comes alive, you can sense the brain matter of the writer is like flickering on the page. They’re alive. And a dead book the author doesn’t have any energy, the person they’re writing about doesn’t come to life, ideas have no sparkle to them. So you have to bring energy and aliveness to the process. It shows in your writing.” – Rolf Potts, from his Deviate podcast
One thing I’ve often lectured myself about is a tendency to announce what I’m going to do instead of just doing it and talking about it later. Yet here I am talking about the next hundred days like I’ve actually done anything meaningful. A way of forcing my writing hand to fish or cut bait. I’m tired of cutting bait. And holding my own feet to the fire seems to work for me. I rowed a million meters in four months because I said to my world that I would. And now I’m saying this will be done. Sometimes a measure of audacity puts you on the spot just enough to get you over the hump.
I’ve firmly established the habit of writing early in the morning. Demonstrated by the consistency of published posts to the blog. But writing a book requires a different level of focus. I’m just not producing enough focused material towards the book… yet. November 19th is 100 days from yesterday, when I began this journey of 100,000 pages. What’s that?! Day one is already gone. A lot can happen in the next 99 days, but only with sweat equity and commitment. I believe it to be one of those five big things, so why not treat it as such?
The comet Swift-Tuttle last visited in 1992, but was only visible with binoculars at the time (like NEOWISE last month). I was cosmically indifferent to it then, but I’ve never been indifferent to the Perseids. Comets seem more timeless and steady in their travels across the universe. Meteors are only here for a moment of flash and streaking brilliance and then they’re gone forever. We’re a lot more like meteors than comets, aren’t we? Why not kindle a light in the darkness of mere being in this brief time?