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Peter Paul Rubens [1577-1640]: Portrait of a Monk, date unknown
"I mumble my vespers to myself …"

I seem to go through periods, like Picasso's Blue Period, where I maintain most of my focus upon a very narrow range of interests. These periods can last from a few weeks to decades, and I find them both enormously satisfying and ultimately a bit suffocating. Nearer the beginning of these phases, I immerse myself in discovery. A novice then, I hunger for ever more information. Later, I might seem a tad compulsive as I erect and defend strict boundaries around my discipline, my concerns. I might seem heartless to others' perspectives, seriously disinterested, even dismissive of what others might find compelling. Later in these chapters, I might grow restless, feeling as though I might have just about sucked all the goody out that that particular popsicle. I might even grow bored and go AWOL, leaving cohorts in a lurch. Obsession has phases, just like anything else. There's no happily forever after anywhere.

Our Grand Refurbishment has been such a period.
I entered into it believing that it could be epic. I clearly became obsessed, for all the usual necessary-seeming excuses. I went through a time of rapid learning, where the learning curve arced so far backwards over itself that I strained my back muscles reaching for it. I pursued stretch goals and probably impossible dreams, but with evident joy and eminent satisfaction. I felt as though I was inhabiting a literal Heaven on Earth for a time, before the ninth or tenth door front I refurbished, before the discipline started feeling rather old-ish. I ached for a little leisure, for my periods typically allow no vacation days or lazy weekends. I eventually burn myself out from flickering from both ends. I typically crash and at least smoulder if not precisely burn near the ending of one of my periods.

In the middle, though, I live an absolutely Monkish existence. I stay in my cell performing my calligraphy from early morning until vespers, suspended in a state of absolute bliss. I fidget not for I remain focused, and with that focus comes a contradictory experience for I sit simultaneously both completely immersed in my effort and absolutely meta to it. In that space, whatever that space might be, I touch eternity. Hell, I inhabit it. My work takes care of itself, inspired by something both internal and completely alien to myself. I work magic that seems beyond my doing, as if I were just a vessel another power, a higher and benevolent one, was using for a while. I'll take credit for what I accomplish but unselfconsciously aw-shucks any compliments, for it never feels like I actually did very much of any of it. Let's say I was just there in a trance.

I enter each period a tad concerned that this time I might lose connection and never return, but the allure of inhabiting that space again always pulls me back in. I know I will very likely appear to people I deeply care about as if I had become merely self-obsessed, though it doesn't seem to me that self has anything to do with it. I know that however deeply I might engage or how creatively I produce, I will exit with at least a mildly wounded heart, if not a broken one, for periods are never intended for permanent habitation, however satisfying. They serve as temporary quarters and tenancy eventually expires. I exit as if exiting the garden, the stickiness of recently acquired knowledge still sweet on my tongue. I will speak a slightly different dialect then, one influenced by personal out-of-body experiences that do not quite translate into the common language. I mumble my vespers to myself because nobody else could possibly understand their meaning or significance.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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