He Will Be 5 Completely

This is suppose to be easy. Making art is all I know, it’s what I can remember most from all the time before now. I played as a child and I made art from my play. I created my childhood from the world around me and it worked. I am a child again. I am searching once again. I find myself locked in a velvet prison cell of sun and beach and ease, but its not easy. I feel my audience calling, growing and hungry for engagement with the ideas in my mind, for the passion in my heart and I feel the tug of desire. I want something more than I have, I can not remember not wanting more than I have. The world for me has never been a place of satiation or fullness or finish.
It is not late here but it is, I remembered who I was a minute ago. I remembered I had good whiskey in the cabinet and I remembered I had something that needed doing. I remembered that I could talk outside my head and maybe someone would hear. Technology has eliminated real loneliness. As most of the people who love me know, late nights will lead to preaching. So forgive this sermon, but don’t forgive its author, because we are all here for just such reasons as this thought. We all want more, you should never stop wanting more.
I talk to students often in classrooms. I beg them to care more about what they are doing and to care more about what they could do. Reaching deep within oneself for drive should be common, feeling driven should feel natural. Less than trying with all your might is boring. The world needs your poetry. The poetry of dancing through your morning routine and the poetry of a story told by a child. Never rush them, let them dance around the point, they will often surprise you if you shut up and really listen. They are trying with all their might to become. Let them become with the same effort.
My brother while watching his son dance for no reason, leaned over and elbowed me, and said, “See that… you can’t teach him to do that, but you could un-teach him.” And then we both watched him dance. Never stop dancing, never stop dragging your finger along pickets in the fence, never stop kicking the can down the road with two friends on the way to a wedding in the middle of Michigan.
We can all stop doing any thing, but it is very damn hard to start. Only when it’s not. This summer I was tasked with igniting the minds of some young scholar artists at the university. They didn’t want assignments so I gave them five inspirations. But only one of them did I really believe in. The idea that they should make something that would cause me to respect them. By the end some met that mark. So when I try to decide what my motivation for making is, beyond the overwhelming need to let it out, I find myself thinking of that dancing nephew. I think how badly I would like him to respect me. I think how great it would be to maintain his respect past childhood. I imagine how great it will be when he and his sister and his cousin are grown and knowing they respect me. I imagine their respect will feel like sunshine. I know they will love me, we are family, that’s just how that works, but for them to respect me, that would be amazing. That would be an inspiration that could carry the act of making far into the future.
We all must choose our incentives, money or fame or recognition. I will make my stand on the hill named admiration. It will be thirty-three years until he is my age now, I will be seventy. The future is almost as romantic as the past, and I build future nostalgias. I will remember him dancing always just as I remember the day Robin fell from his bike on the street in front of my mother’s house on the same slippery gravel I had fallen on when I was his age, and I remember covering the ground to get to him, I remember over reacting to the bloody knee, I dread the bloody knees still to come. We have three more in the danger range of falling off bikes. Josh just had his middle son tumble from a monkey bar and crack his left arm. Tammy brought home the same injury just the weekend before. How do you parents survive the dangers of sending them out every day? I remember my own durability differently, I remember falling off my bike a hundred times, I remember knocking the wind completely out of my lungs. Flat on my back gasping for breath, staring up at the sky seeing just blue and thinking I may never breath again. I have hundreds of moments that would probably still give my mother night terrors. All of that risk and hurt and potential for hurt comes naturally. We are all meant to hurt and feel it.
I will not un-teach it and I know he will not be untaught. Because despite my brothers fear that someone might some day come along and break his boy of the magic that makes him Max, it can not be done. No one could ever break him, no-one will ever come close to erasing the joy that he possess.
Before the big man died on one of my many breakfasts, when I was doubting myself, doubting my chances, I asked him if I should keep going. He laughed at me, and like I have said before, he explained that what I have always been was what I am right now, and it is what I will always be. He told me I was an artist, and you don’t argue with men like him.
I don’t know if that is the same for everyone, I believe you can change many things about yourself, but I don’t know if you can change what it is people see in you. He saw that artist in me, and I received the gift of hearing him say it, because I shut up long enough for him to say it and I listened with my whole self. In 1927 he would have been  turning five, like Max will this month. In 1927 he was already the man I admired. He didn’t know about my respect for him then, just as Max does not know the admiration he will build in the minds of some generation further down the rope of time.
(Happy Birthday MAX, you are fantastic and brilliant and I love you. Come go surfing again soon.)
We exist past words. We tell each other polite things, statements we think we should say, but we exist in the world that dances, and hugs and looks you in the eye. I do not fear losing admiration, it doesn’t work like that, I am anxious for that pure look in the eye that people can give you, looks that extend past what they are saying.
I feel my ledger is in the red, I have too many ideas and not enough finishes. I am hungry for another project. Maybe today they will come break me out.


Popular Posts