I keep a list of things to do. Little and big stuff I want to get done. I’ve also kept an attitude towards that list. It is a sense that I will someday cross everything off it. I will finally get it all done.
I have noticed, however, that there is always a list. When I cross something off, something new appears. Getting things done leads to the need to get more things done. If I finish a book, the book needs to be formatted and finalized. If I accomplish that, the book then needs to get uploaded on Amazon. If I do that, I need to find keywords so people can find it. Then I need… And on it goes.
The idea that I can finally cross everything off my list and “be done” has had a counterpart in my attitude about myself. For a long time I have had an idea that I need to achieve something great. If I could just do that, finally, and cross it off my list, I will have arrived. I will appear wondrous to people. I’ll be famous. Or at least I’ll be officially recognized as great, as worthy.
I know intellectually that official accolades are empty. Or do I? Perhaps that’s it. I’m not convinced that there isn’t something there I want, or want to experience. Or maybe, more accurately, I sometimes know those things are empty. Because I can say this: When I am in a space where I don’t care about official recognition, I love what arises from me—whether it’s a poem or some lines in a journal or a lightness in my step or an appreciation for the beauty of the world.
I also know that this morning, as I wrote in my journal and looked at the list of things to do that I also keep there, I saw the list not as things to accomplish but as channels. I saw them as places to allow the energy that is me to flow. I realized that, most essentially, “I” am not someone who accomplishes, but someone who creates—ongoing, without end. I am a fountain that bubbles up and wants to flow. And I thought of the words of the visionary poet, artist, and philosopher William Blake: “My business is to create.”
I don’t see this as unique to me. I think that what we call art is just our starkest example of a creation. But we’re all creating all the time. Generating a to-do list itself is an act of creation. New things pop up from somewhere in the mind and get added to the list. (Where do they come from? It’s a mystery.) Ideas are creations. The idea that I need to accomplish something to be worthy is a creation. It also appears in the mind. The idea that someone has wronged us is a creation. The idea that other people are stupid or bad—or that we are—is a creation. Why do we believe it?
I think we are all most fundamentally creators, like we may imagine God to be. We live in our creations—in our ideas about the world. Our business is to create. And then create some more—and, if we want, something better.