A Bell Tolls at Midnight

I am currently charged with the task of reading a great deal of John Donne’s poetry, and I will after I complete this post.

When I have something to do and I have not yet begun, I feel a shock of dread for the unknown, regardless of my measure of research or mental preparation. Before and after the shock I have a calm phase to buffer the existential dreariness of whatever I may find daunting, be it brushing my teeth or digesting four hundred year-old poetry. Responsibilities are responsibilities, no matter how small, and the only way to gauge the magnitude of each one is to run it through my head for a second or two. Sometimes the hardest things are simple tasks like writing a check, and the easier things are surprisingly difficult in comparison, like learning a Bach menuette. This subjectivity comes from my thoughts and relation to how I feel about the time I spend. There are only a few things I can do to trick myself into thinking that I’ve spent my time well, and they all have one thing in common: completion. Until something is completed, regardless of the degree of completion, I abhor the thought that it will take time to finish. This time could be spent contemplating nothing in particular, my favorite pastime.

When I contemplate nothing in particular, I often compare that activity with what most other people must be doing at the time, which is always anything other than contemplating nothing in particular. I then ask myself why it is that I revel in the idea of having no pertinent ideas to pursue, and I usually arrive at the idea of freedom. This, of course, is a paradox when I think of it, because I am not free from thinking about the things other people must be doing, which is definitely something in particular.

I suppose an amount of stress washes over me when I think of this, fearing that my time is not being well spent, because everybody else must be spending their time in a more productive manner. This is often what brews the shock into my psyche. I then assure myself that what I do in the realm of inaction is actually a productive activity in itself.

It is usually at that point that I begin to strive for images to write or concepts to unfold, and I take my consciousness to the forum of the senses. Sight and sound are favorites of mine, but smell, touch and taste are worthy stimuli as well.

I’ll see a tree in the night’s darkness lit by a lamppost, its bunches of rustling leaves ready to fall whenever the proper time comes. I’ll hear the scuffle of earthbound leaves on a hard surface and compare them to creatures with claws skittering along, their destination known only by the wind.

Oh, to sit and think about nothing leads to the contemplation of the reasons of things. Why do things happen the way they do? Why do people insist on doing things in their own frenetic tempi? Is there a reward other than the immediate gratification of completion? They say that altruism does not exist in its purest form, and to complete something means to seek approval of something or somebody.

When I write a poem, I often reach a point where I understand I’ve finished. Perhaps some point down the road I will begin to edit it and pick better words and less clunky punctuation and syntax, but in the moment of synthesis, I understand the completion of the concept of the piece, and that makes me feel accomplished, because I have successfully encapsulated a thought–or perhaps several thoughts, depending on my ambition at the time.

It is at that point that I begin to consider the reader of the piece. I do not have a large audience as some authors do, and I often reel in envy because of that. The idea of being a published author has so many benefits, though I think only of the validation that a piece of writing receives when a complete stranger can read it and pass their own judgment. The money from a publication is a wonderful addition, and I will admit that I relish the idea of paying off loans and perhaps securing a bit of my future with a roof over my head and good food to eat, especially because these things will allow me to pursue my craft with more vigor and confidence in my ability to communicate through the English language.

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