Charles Bukowski has this poem entitled “Spark”. It’s about some of his darker days as a cog in the machine and how hopeless the everlasting monotony of life can be. Somehow, through it all, Bukowski managed to save just a spark of himself and wouldn’t allow the jobs or his lifestyle to take it away.
I’m always moved by this poem and reread it fairly often. As I was reading some Alan Watts and thinking a few days ago, I realized the spark Bukowski is talking about is the sense of wonder. This is the most precious gift given to us humans. When it dies we become cold and zombie-like (walking dead basically) because our lives are meaningless without it. In order to justify being alive we then create meaning by desiring endless piles of things, or trying to be better than someone else, or any other of the self-destructive behaviors out there.
I’m depressive and anxious (Jesus, who isn’t, right?), and I’ve lost sight of my wonder for many years. I Kept myself alive through these periods with booze and other momentary pleasures. I never even tried to hold on to my spark, in fact I probably would’ve sold it for a few moments of escape if I could’ve. But, within the last year or so, I’ve discovered and nurtured it, and now have a small glowing ember. If my spark was gone, I’d truly be dead. Are you still alive? Then, there is hope.
It’s ok if you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t either at some of the places I’ve been inside. Once at Boyscout summer camp we started fires with sticks. Even with properly designed tools this was a difficult endeavor. You move a bow like stick back and forth quickly to spin the upright stick. The point of contact at the bottom gets very hot and smokes. Any slight breeze may cool it too much so you have to keep it protected. You build the smallest of embers and add a small amount of lint on the ember. Shield it from the wind, but blow gently and directly as needed. If it starts burning add a small amount of kindling. Keep it sheltered and keep working at it.
This is just like finding and rekindling your own spark. Sit in the dark and quiet, perhaps journal your feelings and ask for some sign of your spark, then back to sitting and listening. It doesn’t necessarily have to be dark and quiet, but you have to be open to it. Your wonder will find you, but you must be open to it. Don’t deny it as small as it may seem. It may be a desire to purchase a particular magazine, or check out a book about a certain topic from the library. It may just be an image of a guitar, a cat, a pencil, oil paints, a business idea, just noticing how your sheets are laying on your bed, or how your floor scratches your bare feet. Just be open to it.
Once you nab the idea, you can run with it, or like starting the fire, just take your time, protect it, build it. For me it was a desire to own an electric guitar. I started thinking and researching, a small amount of money came about to help me purchase one. I met people at work who played and one was selling a cheap practice amp. Things fell into place. I subscribed to a Guitar magazine to serve as a shield to my ember, reminding me monthly of my love for guitar and offering me new ideas if I got bored or sidetracked. I’ve been journaling more, I want to paint, the world is starting to look like a more interesting place.
Find your shield, find your kindling, and create your ember. Pretty soon you’ll be fanning the flames!