I think I’ve finally adjusted to the fact that I’m never going to be a war correspondent. I’m never going to live out of a backpack, drop everything and travel around the world to be where the action is.
I’ve also finally internalized that I’m also never going to spend a few months floating on a river with my best friend Jim. I’m never going to light out for the territories…at least not the way I’d expected. Huck’s learned to close the door softly.
Men at Forty
Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.
At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.
And deep in mirrors
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret,
And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something
That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.
When I wrote about disappearing into the fire, I spoke about the emotional burden of being an entrepreneur. But David, and others, eventually wrote about the burden of not being an entrepreneur, of not doing what’s been in the hearts for years.
One woman wrote about the sense of time being wasted, of the dream deferred drying up like a raisin in the sun (I’m feeling the poetry today.)
We all feel it, men and women: the poignant pain of closing the doors on the dreams. And yet, some rail, some fight back, some fight on.
“How do you know when to give it up?” one reader asked, plaintively. He’s worked for years on the system, the implicit architecture. He knows—with absolute certainty—that if adopted, his architecture will radically and inalterably change the way we all interact with information. He knows with the same certainty that he knows his name, knows the way his kids smell after a bath, or the way their laughter drifts down the hall after they’ve supposedly gone to bed, gone to sleep. He knows. But no one will fund it.
I tell him that the most difficult obstacle seems to me that there are simply no investors in the idyllic community he lives. And he knows that’s true; knows it better than I do.
I tell her that as much as she believes her vision to be true, it won’t work unless she has the capital to fund it. And she wants to know why lesser ideas get funded when hers languishes.
And I tell them both that I can’t tell them when they should give up. Only they can answer that question.
Pulling back, I think about my own dreams—those realized and those deferred. I think of Jung and his notion of unlived lives…and how each of us faces the realization that there are aspects of us which must, simply must, be realized, be lived if we’re going to rage against the dying of that light.
When we find ourselves in midlife depression, suddenly hate our spouse, our job, our life—we can be sure that the unlived life is seeking our attention. When we feel restless, bored, or empty despite an outer life filled with riches, the unlived life is asking for us to engage. To not do this work will leave us depleted and despondent, with a nagging sense of ennui or failure. As you may already have discovered, doing or acquiring more does not quell your sense of unease or dissatisfaction. Stuffing down these rogue feelings or dutifully serving your life’s routines will not suffice. Neither will “meditating on the light” or attempting to rise above the sufferings of earthly existence. Only awareness of your shadow qualities can help you to find an appropriate place for your unredeemed darkness and thereby create a more satisfying experience. To not do this work is to remain trapped in the tedium, loneliness, agitations, and disappointments of a circumscribed life rather than awakening to your higher calling.” Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M. Rhul, Living Your Unlived Life.
For David, for the woman, for the others…walking into the kiln is living that unlived life; it’s awakening to that other life that’s out there, beyond the ennui. Yes, the emotional burden of being an entrepreneur is high–just as high as the cost of not disappearing into the fire.