Monday, May 24, 2010

What is your passion?

Boy, I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I last posted anything. I can only blame end-of-the-year craziness, a chickadee who turned six (!!!!) this month, a husband who has been out of town for 3 of the last five weeks (including for our anniversary and said chickadee's birthday!), and sheer laziness on my part.

But never fear intrepid reader(s???), I'm here to tell you about a wonderful and motivating evening I just spent. I joined the lovely ladies of Momz Share for the Silver Spring Soiree this past Saturday. Hosted by the beautiful and amusing Jessica from A Parent In Silver Spring and organized by the amazingJennifer from Hip as I Wanna Be and the energetic Lara from Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom, the Silver Spring Soiree was a chance for mom bloggers from all over the Greater Washington DC area to come together to network, nosh on goodies from some incredible mompreneurs ( including Theresa of Treets and and Sarah of SouperGirl), as well as from the fabulous Done Right Catering, and to reconnect with our essential selves.

Lauree from Simply Leap led us all in an exercise designed to do just that. Imagine 60 or so slightly giddy mom bloggers, relieved to have left the demands of the laundry monster, husbands, in laws, children, work, and life in general behind for the evening, sitting (somewhat) quietly in the play room of Silver Spring's The Little Gym with their eyes closed. As they wait, a bit nervous about what is coming, Lauree's sweet voice asks:

What is your passion?

What would you do if time and money were no object?

What excites you? What gives you joy?

She asked us to come up with a word that represented all those things. There behind my eyes, FRAGMENTS FRAGMENTS FRAGMENTS.

Now, this might not mean much to you, or you might be thinking that there's something terrible going on in my life if all I can think of to represent my passions is the word "fragments". But here's the thing, I knew EXACTLY what that meant and where it came from.

T.S. Eliot.

Specifically, "These fragments I have shored against my ruins." (The Waste Land, 430), which are almost the last lines of this magnificent poem. If you haven't read it, you MUST. Oh you must.

I first encountered Eliot in Lit Trad I, the first of a series of English literature classes that all students at the University of Dallas (the absolute best Catholic university in the nation, hands down), regardless of major, must take. The Lit Trad series looks at literature generically and holistically -- Lit Trad I, for example, covered epic poetry from The Iliad to Eliot's The Waste Land. Other courses in the series looked at lyric poetry, drama. and novel. Reading Eliot at the age of 19 changed my life. It made me the person I am today. It set me on course to try to change the world through (studying and teaching) poetry, which is nice in theory but paid less than 30K per year, and only if I wanted to teach as some perpetual adjunct somewhere. The pursuit of this dream marred my twenties and sent me into a depression that was very hard to shake. But it also gave me something talismanic. In fact, when I was in graduate school at the George Washington University (maybe the most expensive, but not the best, university in the nation), I used to tell my students (who were for sure not looking at literature as anything but a stupid requirement), that one thing I wanted for them to get out of the course, maybe the ONLY thing, was something that they could take with them that would sustain them in the future -- that in a time of crisis or joy, a word of poetry, an image, a line from a play, a character they had come to love, would appear before them and help them through. I don't know whether any of my students took a talisman away from freshman English. I hope so.

What I do know is that Eliot's fragments of literature and culture and art and beauty help to sustain me in this life. They are what help me to see God in this world. They are what help me to see God in my fellow human beings. They are what led me to the road of Communion and Liberation, which is "the road toward a solution to this existential drama", as John Paul II of blessed memory said.

Any species that can create the perfect Shakespearean sonnet... When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes.... Any culture which can give rise to the magnificent David or The Burghers of Calais... any society that can birth a recluse who can impart Scout's wonder at Boo Radley's courage? That is the species, the race, the society for me. The creators of these artifacts have been touched by God. They participate in the Creation -- the original Fiat Lux. And I can be part of that. I can touch that just by having a fricking library card.

That is my passion. THAT is my passion. Literature and culture and theology and philosophy and HOPE. Now, if I could only find a way to make a living at it.