Spoiler alert: This post is an introspective study, a pondering on pondering. I go introspecting when grief hits. Besides, it’s my third and final epiphany. What kind of final epiphany would it be if I plumbed the shallows?
Lately, I’ve found myself again searching for a label for identity, searching for a better, more comprehensive answer to this question: Who or what am I? Over the years, the answers have focused on what I do. The art me writes, draws, photographs and studies music. The engineer me does research and development, test and evaluation of new systems and sensors. After years of identity searching, I’ve become a middle-aged man who fails at balancing both sides more than he succeeds.
Until art school at age 45, I believed that the engineer and artist were opposing forces. Between them lived a mad scientist experimenter who meant well, but was in over his head. One day I watched him stitch my parts together in a puckered seam. He used an over-sized rusted needle he said he made from alchemy. It looked like a curved samurai sword that had been left in the rain for seventeen years. Looped through the needle eye was a piece of twisted burlap rope he had pulled through flaps of art and engineering skin. At least that’s how it felt.
My point is, I saw my halves as two colors that, when mixed, refused to form a third one. There’s a less graphic analogy for you. Regardless, the division caused me to wander aimlessly through unmixed colors, lost in the in-betweens of art and science, and asking:
Who or what am I?
What if I never figure it out?
What if I stop asking what if?
Who or what else do I become then?
You may have questions of your own, like:
Why ask so many questions?
When will you stop thinking and live at least a little before you die?
I saw progress after my art degree. My two sides each became 100% me. Apparently, Savannah College of Art and Design uses non-Euclidian geometry instead burlap ropes or rusty alchemic needles, although I’m sure both were readily available.
Now, I’m asking what if questions again. When I was a teenager, my maternal grandmother asked me more than once why I study on such things, instead of just enjoying life. She’d ask me that, and I’d consider my answer carefully while she looked at me and waited.
“I wish I knew,” I’d say.
“Honey, you’re pondering yourself to death,” she’d say. “One of these days, you’re going to ponder yourself right into a tight corner. Then what?”
Great, I thought. Then what? Now I’ve got another question to ponder on top of the other ponderous ones. I am pondering myself into a tight corner.
“I can’t help it. I ponder things. I guess I’m curious.”
Then she’d quote. “Ecclesiastes 12:12: Too much study is weariness to the body.”
And that’d be the discussion’s end. Even if the teenage me could have articulated why I pondered, any justification would be vapor before a scripture-quoting grandmother who, in her own words, loved me more than anything in this world.
Enough introspection. Here’s epiphany number three: I’m a storyteller.
(Really? You put us through all of this just to say that?)
I’m a storyteller. I make stuff up. That’s what I do and that’s who I am. I don’t know how that revelation came, but it happened three weeks ago, exactly at 2:17 PM on a Tuesday. I wrote it down because the randomness seemed fitting. I’m a storyteller. It’s a more accurate description than half-artist, half-engineer, or whole both.
I don’t always tell stories in written-form, but things tend to have a strong narrative component, some element of a story, whether it’s a one-off image, a series of sketches, poetry or prose, or some complex engineering thingy. I’m a storyteller. That’s as close to myself as I’ve ever gotten. I’m a storyteller.
It’s something that I don’t mind backing myself into a tight corner doing. My wife, Alane, would tell you that that’s when I do my best work, when I’ve got no back-up plan, no net, when my back is against the wall, and I’m stuck in the corner.
The epiphany is not jaw-dropping, but it’s personal. It’s enough to free me from the burden of asking what I am, or who. It gives me permission to use whatever medium or media is required to be who or what I am.
Remember that mad scientist who stitched halves together? Let’s name him Ponderer. The storyteller revelation gives Ponderer a rest for a few years or months or minutes, or forever. I can divert that pondering energy to storytelling. I can run and trip and tumble headfirst into the Tight Corner, instead of backing into it unexpectedly. If I slam-bang into it often enough, maybe I’ll find a secret compartment.
Who knows? Maybe this lack of pondering will extend my days. A wise person once taught me that too much of it wearies the body. She’d never lie to me. She loved me more than anything in this world.
Hey, it’s April 1st! April means National Poetry Writing Month. I don’t have time to waste pondering. There are too many stories to tell.