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QUINTESSENCE

Filaments

A NOISELESS PATIENT SPIDER
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the sphere to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

- Walt Whitman

Let's speak of making things happen. That old-fashioned determination to take a flame of inspiration, a theory, and produce a bonfire of invention. A translucent palace engineered of pillars of imagination and arches of intent. In my world, this bonfire is the creation of books, both fiction and nonfiction. And the personal and universal chameleon-like qualities of poetry.

Creative work is frequently viewed skeptically, with genuine puzzlement. Exhibit A: I had a funny, hilariously disconcerting experience at a recent Christmas gathering of successful, affluent physicians. The kind of skilled, hard-working folk with lake homes and annual sojourns to Europe. I was introduced to a wizened, elderly doctor in a stolid tweed jacket gingerly holding between three fingers a wine glass of worthy good red.
"Meet Glenda, she's a fiction author."
The man pursed his lips in reflexive surprise. He then fixed me with one eye under a thrush of white eyebrow. "Fiction?"
"Yes," I said. "And the occasional nonfiction, if reality becomes the more interesting."
"So you make things up?" The question fell flat, his point clarified.
"I do. I make things up."

That was it. There was nothing more to say. Simply put, I was someone whose worth in the world was summed up by the declarative observation You make things up. I laughed, I couldn't help it. The comment was so fulsomely dismissive: I was someone who had nothing better to offer the world than daydreaming. Days later, that comment nudged me to think deeply about the value of creativity - to me. It might not matter to the good doctor, or the heart surgeon who asked me point blank if "Writers made any money" (Yacht money, he implied. Film options, I assured him.), but to me, the creative process is courageous. I admire artists, builders of all kinds, for the inventive genius born of an intersection of inspiration, the guided hand, patience and technique, and the occasional beautiful accident.

Ask yourself this, What creates lust in the eye of the beholder, the need to own, to read, to look and look and look again? Why does the collector collect and the artist faithfully chisel The David from a centuries old block of marble? That intangible original intimate element expressed by the human soul. As Whitman observes, we are the driven patient creature willing to launch filaments of effort "ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing." Building bridges, finding an anchor. Crafting the meaningful. A man or woman forms an object of understanding from the turbulent unknown, spins from imagination a theory of the "vacant vast surrounding." A construction of meaning, of beauty, dream partnered into existence by a restless spirit. We make things up.
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