Yesterday I looked at my workout schedule. A two hour bike ride. Crap.
It was hard to begin...so hard. Why? Because:
a) it's winter and sitting on a bike, in the basement, watching daytime television, is exactly as physically pleasant as plucking your own nose hairs;
b) simple physics. Newton's Second Law - An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. I was the object at rest. Oddly enough, I was also the unbalanced force that acted on my resting self. I think of this as some perverted form of multi-tasking;
c) finally, it was hard to begin because I know that once I begin, I will not stop until I've done what I set out to do. Beginning is an unspoken promise to complete the task. It's never the first step that's hard, it's knowing that I will have to take all the other steps, and some of those steps will hurt.
Rainer Maria Rilke said, "It is a tremendous act of violence to begin anything."
Rainer Maria Rilke is the best name ever. If I get to name myself in a future life...I'm going to be Rainer Maria Rilke.
Rilke was a poet, a tad on the morose side... but he sure nailed it on the idea of beginnings.
Contrast Rilke with Lao Tzu, the "journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" guy. People want to believe this single step notion because it's simple, peaceful and exquisitely rational.
But I'm with Rainer Rilke...and science backs me up. This whole show, the roots of our existence, the beginning of all beginnings - it didn't start with a step - it started with a big violent bang.
Races start the same way, the blast of a horn, or a gunshot. As the countdown begins the starting line becomes electric. The air takes on a particular odour; the ozone smell that precedes a lighting strike blends with low notes of fear, something that smells like lust, and the reek of the guy who's running in an unwashed "lucky" t-shirt. The crack of a pistol, the blast of an air horn...the runners explode forward, each one writing their own race. Bang.
...and a story, it never really begins with a single word, tapped softly on keys. The story begins with anguish, or a thought so terrible (or beautiful) that it's impossible not to think it again, a jealousy that brings burning bile to the throat, a passion that could breed violence, an act of violence that could spawn an impossible love...
Passion is the "bang" that starts art in motion.
"Bang" is the unbalanced force that precipitates action.
Perhaps that's why, when I ask politely for quiet, then come calmly to my desk, there's a good chance I'll spend a docile hour, checking out Facebook, on-line shopping and reading that pathetic drivel that passes for news on my homepage...and I will write nothing.
When I come to my desk on fire, that is when I write. On a good desk day I start by ripping off far more than I can chew, then I chew it anyway...I take more steps than I'm comfortable with.
"It is a tremendous act of violence to begin anything."
We can only finish what we start.
To begin, begin.
Begin with a bang.