Living an Impossible Promise

Getting to back to work again… I don’t want this semester’s Journalism class to be the same old inverted-pyramid, “Write down the who, what, when, where, why to tell the story.” I want them to fall in love with words, to want to write like they want to breathe again tomorrow. I want them to write good news — news that is well done but also that will cause hope and happiness, community and compassion on the planet. And so I am looking for what might spur them on. How do I teach this class that far outside the box?

I came across a speech-turned-book chapter by a columnist named Donald M. Murray. It’s called, “A Lifetime Apprenticeship.” He wrote it at 70. He still writes at least 500 words every day, usually before noon. The rest of the day is spent observing and ruminating, working on the next day’s writing. He writes to live the questions, to figure out his thinking. He quoted the sculptor Henry Moore:

The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your whole life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of every day for your whole life. And the most important thing is – it must be something you cannot possibly do!

Stefan and I have talked about this idea recently… the idea of the impossible promise, living life for something bigger than you’ll ever finish, for then you’d be over and done with, no? Interesting that. What is your impossible promise?

This quote also has me thinking about babies. Having babies. Several people have said to me recently that I’m running out of time, so of course it has me thinking about what I’m really committed to, what I’m absolutely certain of. I see the brilliance of not having one’s own children… though I think I’d foster or find a way to express all the mothering I so love to do… but then I think about how big the love is for children of one’s own (whether biological or adopted, even with Zach I didn’t care that legally he was not what in our culture we’d call mine). It’s bigger than any one of us, isn’t it? Katia’s blog reminds of that these days. There is no getting enough of one’s own new baby, and the love in their San Francisco house is palpable all the way around the world every time I see the latest pictures of Lucia.

I’m not sure how it will look for me… fostering, adopting, giving birth… who knows? But I’m clear I want to be a part of that something bigger… for how long, who knows? What is your impossible promise? I’m working on mine.

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