The Violence of Too Much

The incredible poet (and all-around amazing woman) Wendy Willis wrote on her blog today about what she considered “not her best day in parenting.” As an attorney, mother of two teenagers, wife and poet, she’s got her hand’s full. Too much of everything.

I’ve written about this syndrome of too much before on this blog, but it’s a chronic issue. Especially those of us whose hearts are longing to devote more time to our art. For us, it’s not just the drive to swim practice, potty-training the puppy, taking on one more part-time gig because we’re not sure when another will come along. For us, it’s every moment that we’re not writing, or preparing to write, or reading so that we can learn to be better writers. And our lives are important, we don’t want to sit all day at our desk (or maybe just some days…). We realize that our lives fill our art.

But sometimes we wish it filled them a little less. That there was a bit more breathing room. Then I read this excerpt on the On Being blog by Parker Palmer:

Thomas Merton wrote these incisive words in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander more than fifty years ago, but they are no less true today than when he wrote them.

“There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist…most easily succumbs: activism and over-work. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work… It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her)…work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

And then I know, this is what Wendy was feeling. This is what I routinely feel. The swirling chaos of the modern world will fill with dreck the well from which you draw your vision, artistic or otherwise. And we must be willing to choose to save our art (which will in turn, save our children, our environment, and probably our sanity).