What spirit moves within us at those moments of intrepid introspection?
If you do not have faith, or believe not in powers beyond yourself you can quit reading this Chapter. It is not for the sure of foot or the certain of mind (in order words, this will not be read by our current Governor General nor the narcissist in the white house).
If you have been reading between the lines or around the edges of recent chapters, you will no doubt have sensed a growing lethargy towards the book I am writing (and have been working on for perhaps three decades). Earlier this summer, somewhere I made the prediction that by this Christmas I would have ready for sharing, the Penultimate Draft of the book. The title would be settled. The framework would be well-defined. The content would be all but honed to reasonable perfection. Even the sessions with my Editor in early October gave me insights that felt the prediction was easily attainable. That was two long months ago — yet it has turned out to be merely two months ago. And, in spite of airport lounges, ample room at my desk-like seat on several flights, and a wonderfully spacious library-type study progress has become slower than the trickle from an icicle on a +3C degree day in February.
This is not a case of writer’s block. I am not sitting staring aimlessly out my large picture window in the study, gazing at falling leaves and listening to the babbling brook. I am not gnashing my teeth over whether to use the word “however” or “nevertheless”. I am not churning out reams of paper, crumpling them, and tossing them either on the floor or in a waste basket as if I was LeBron James. Rather I am pondering whether the book even makes sense anymore. Are those who have suggested at times that what I have to say may only be important to me actually correct? Do I have an opinion of myself that is outside the bounds of reason, too high to validate the reality that has been my world? Has the exercise of finally writing down a manuscript that editors are finding at least somewhat interesting and potentially coherent simply the end benefit in itself? Should I save everyone’s time, and put it away both figuratively and literally?
Today was a long day — punctuated by a lengthy mid-afternoon nap that was broken by one more fundraiser that I had told to quit calling until 2018 (and part way into his speech he seemed to notice that note on the file and immediately wished my a Merry Christmas — but too late, as I was now awake) — with countless tasks, chores and responses that seemed to validate a definition of my life as “humanitas interruptus”. Even the thoughtful conversations were book-ended by interruptions that took away some of the glow and well-being generated within those conversations. As it neared time to retire for the night, and after a long moment of relaxation in the huge soaker-tub that is just around the corner from my study, I suddenly didn’t feel tired. Something made me wake up. I felt prodded to fire up the gas fireplace and turn on the television. Yet after about 40 minutes I had seen enough, had learned more than I felt I needed to know about the state of the world. But I was not tired. So I began to scroll through the Guide — maybe there would be a late show or old time movie.
I was at Channel 801 and by the time I was to channel 501 I thought there was something wrong with me. Why was I continuing to do this? Why couldn’t I just get up and go to bed finally? But I kept scrolling and suddenly there was Netflix (which, as you know, we now pay more for!!). I rather nonchalantly began to scan through the offerings and again there was a paucity of shows that I even paused sufficiently to read the first review. And then something caused me to back up to a movie that I had only momentarily stopped at; this time I actually took time to read the explanation, and the introduction seemed to suggest that I would enjoy the film. So, using the controller I opened the movie and sat back…
First thing I noticed: it was a Mongrel production. I usually see those bounding dogs at the various local TIFF-variant film clubs. This suggested to me that the film might actually have a story. As the introductory credits began to roll I noticed that two of my favourite actors were in the movie: Alex Baldwin and Demi Moore. Although I don’t recall seeing this movie advertised in the local cinema, the title caught my attention: “BLIND” and quickly I was hooked for the duration.
There are a number of sub-plots within the film and I don’t intend to try to unravel them for you now. Go, dig up the film on Netflix, and watch it for yourself. It is worth the time it will take. Rather I am going to address the underlying theme that I believe the Spirit led me to understand. Central to this story is a blind writer who is also a university prof. He is struggling to deal with the death of his wife, caused by the same auto accident that brought on his blindness. His writing has been very good but he is no longer productive; instead, when he isn’t teaching, he spends his working days at an institution where people come by to read his students’ papers for him. As I began to understand him more, I recognized that I too have a kind of blindness that has impacted my writing. I can’t see the rationality for my book, perhaps even more disabling is my inability to rein in my ADHD and really focus on the important things in my world, including my book. The minutiae that plague many of my days are things that I shouldn’t even be bothered with — by paying attention to them, I cannot see the larger, more relevant challenges that need my energy, my time and my brainpower.
And there was the other side the blind writer’s life — the issue of love. After a prolonged period of “alone-ness” he begins to fall in love with one of the people who is sent to read for him. Again I began to see how actually giving time to the pursuit of love is actually more than freeing oneself from the minutiae, it inspires one to be more creative, to reach for higher goals, to realize one’s selfhood in all its complexity. The chance encounter re-frames his life and eventually he leaves his normal world and goes to where his heart has always aspired to be. But in the midst of this, he completes his second book — the one that had stalled, obviously due to a lack of focus, mis-directed discipline.
I will ponder a while longer the totality of the film’s message. I have never been a widower so I can’t say that part of his struggle parallels my world. But earlier in my life I did experience perhaps a somewhat similar void — and I would keep messages on my old answering machine so I would hear a voice that I knew I had lost. But it was at a time when writing a book was but a thought in a recess of my mind, so it cannot be construed as relevant to my current writing difficulties. The more poignant impact that the Spirit seems to be directing me to is that when one sees the future as one of hope, one of expectation or potential anticipation, then energy comes bursting forth and the ability to accomplish significant things is greatly enhanced. In retrospect that was a state of being for me throughout almost my entire life running the consulting firm, and before that my college days. “Blind” has re-ignited my thinking/feeling interface.
Maybe that is why I am convinced that it wasn’t happenstance or coincidence tonight that led me to turn on the TV. I was directed, I was led. Perhaps it was the moment earlier in the evening when I took half-an-hour to listen to my favourite minister preach his Thanksgiving Sunday sermon. His take on thanks and thanksgiving was refreshing in part because it is so forward-thinking; it is based on hope and acceptance more than expectation or payback. I need to have more hope and acceptance of the moment in my life no matter whether the situation is good, bad or ugly — I should be thankful that I have the capacity to write a book, that there is a story to tell instead of wondering whether anyone else will feel the same. The blind man was not constrained by his blindness, he was outside it, beyond it — and he became thankful for the opportunities afforded to him, rather than those moments that had been taken away. The Spirit knows that I needed to see beyond my blind spots — to be thankful for love in my life, to offer up thanksgiving for the opportunities that still await me no matter which road I travel.
I don’t know whether you will get the same inspiration from “Blind”. But that is not really my concern nor my business. I’m just thankful that I was moved to see it and now can suggest that you do too.