Monday, January 16, 2006

Ari's Oasis. 2. The Dancer With Too Many Interests

Magdalene, a dancer, came to the oasis.

"I have too many interests, too many talents," she said. She had on the bluest dress, which made her eyes look wild and fierce. "First, I dance. But I also have a painter's eye. And I love to write. I've been keeping journals for years and years and have thirty fat journals filled with my thoughts. I do collages, digital photography, raku. I write songs. I want to put this all together into something, I want to figure out how to concentrate on one thing, because--" She hesitated. "The fact of the matter is, I never complete anything. I start all these incredible projects but then something else starts to interest me more and I begin on it. That's what's been happening," she ended, trailing off as if her thoughts had failed her.

"The thing you want to put together? What is that?"

"I don't know. I want help with that."

"You have some ideas, no doubt."

"Well, I thought I might do a family history, maybe an oral history or a video history of my family, with my own drawings included. I've thought of doing a novel about fifteenth century France--I've made notes about that. It would be about a young woman who stands up to the French Inquisition and is tortured and sentenced to be burned at the stake. But a young priest helps her escape. I've had the idea to do that novel for the longest time."

"You could do those things," Ari said blandly.

"I could." Magdalene fell silent. "I have so many things I want to do!" she exclaimed suddenly. "I can't seem to choose."

"No," Ari said, "It isn't quite that."

Magdalene colored. "You think I'm just avoiding--"

"No. You think that you're just avoiding choosing. I don't think any such thing. I think the problem is quite different. I think you believe that nothing is worth doing, that neither you nor your efforts matter. The problem isn't that you have too many interests and talents. The problem is that you don't believe that you matter."

"That isn't true! I know that art matters!"

"I didn't say that. You don't believe that you matter."

Magdalene slumped down. Ari noticed that a cool afternoon breeze had come up. He could smell the scent of sweet jasmine tea from the tea shop a few doors down, the scent carried on the desert wind.

"When you told your parents that you wanted to be a dancer, what did they say?" Ari inquired.

"They told me to get a job and dance on the side," Magdalene replied softly.

"They told you that dancing didn't matter."


"When you thought about showing them your poetry, what did you think the next split second?"

"That they wouldn't be interested. That they would tell me to get my real homework done."

"They told you that poetry didn't matter."


"When you hung things on the wall--"

"They told me not to make holes in the wall."

"They told you that visual images didn't matter."


"And music--"

"They hated how much money I wanted to spend on music. And the kind of music! They hated that I always listened to music. They couldn't believe that I could do my homework and also listen to music, even when I brought home straight A's."

"They told you that music didn't matter."


"Did you ever try to talk to them about anything you held as sacred?"


"Because they didn't believe in the sacred."

"They went to church--"

"Did they believe that anything was sacred?"


"Did they believe that you were sacred?"


"Neither do you."

Magdalene's eyes welled up with tears.

"What should I do?"

"Decide to matter. Affirm that you exist. Call yourself sacred."

The desert silence embraced them. At a corner of the oasis, near the Great Well that was encircled by twelve date trees, a man with one leg played a reed flute. His song drifted on the breeze and entered through the open back door.

"I always wanted to write a story about summer camp, when I had my first period," Magdalene said in a dreamy voice. "That story always felt different from the other things I wanted to do. Those other things were clever, intriguing, exciting. But this little story, it had a different feeling."

"You could see your soul in that story?"


"Write that story. Will it matter?"

Magdalene hesitated.

"That's the wall that confronts you, the thought you just had," Ari said. "That story has your soul in it. But the instant I asked you if it mattered, an existential doubt so huge that it swallowed up all of your reasons for existing rose up like bile."

"I hate that I've been ruined this way," Magdalene whispered.

"So, the question is, Do you exist?"

Magdalene began sobbing.

"You'll write this story?" Ari continued.

"Yes," she replied between her sobs.

"If you can't, you'll call me. We'll talk."

"I'd rather come back!" Magdalene exclaimed suddenly. She sat up and brushed back her tears. "If I can't write this story I will come back and see you again."

"It's more than seven thousand miles," Ari said, but not in a way meant to discourage her.

"I know! But I matter enough to make the trip!”


Kayll said...

Are you sure you didn't write this about me? :)

Thank you for this post. It is very relevant to me. Perhaps it's why my website it named Decide2Matter.

Ash said...

LOL...I think we will all post the same comment..."is this about me???"

Holy Toledo socked me between the eyes...thanks again.
I'm going to go write about this in my blog.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Read about this post on ASH's blog.
This is soooo profound, it makes me cry. The struggle of the ages!!! And as artists,we feel it so very deeply...(which I think most people do feel this by the this what parents mean to do???? So very wrong! OY!)

This is great and I thank ASH and I Thank you too, Eric...Just where is Ari, again? (lol)