“The only thing that has less value in our society than reading is writing.”
Bret Anthony Johnson, Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University
To the average person, Mr. Johnson’s comment during a recent talk about his new book at Book Passage may have seemed more like an indictment on his own book and craft than a rallying point for those of us in the audience.
But for those of us pursuing work that is not highly valued by society, his comment serves as a validation that our efforts have a value that extends beyond the surface on which most of society seems to accept as solid ground.
At this point of my life, I seem to have mired myself in what most of society would view as pursuits of little value:
- writing fiction for a vanishing audience,
- studying esoteric martial arts, and
- protecting animals and the earth and poor communities from the industrial juggernaut.
But these pursuits allow me to dig into the depths beneath the surface – whether it is through the joy of creating or practicing martial arts forms every day to peel back layers of the somatic experience or to know that my caring has made a difference in the lives of other beings. In these depths lie the jewels of meaning.
Society moves on the level of the lowest common demoninator – that which is most widely accepted. But we exist as individuals and it is our responsibility to burrow deep to uncover the worlds that we want to explore in order to create the lives that we want to live.
What could be of greater value?