Friday, March 4, 2011

Rimbaud vs. Ripken

We were five miles into a trail run, zagging along the Creekside Cliff Trail, when AK threw Rimbaud out as his favorite poet.

The context was my Mike Tomlin letter and achieving success or acclaim (too?) early in life. Is it too soon? Do people extinguish themselves without toil as kindling? Without pacing themselves?

Hendrix. James Dean. Kurt Cobain. It's frequently creatives--artists, musicians. Rimbaud stopped writing at age 19. And yet is thought of as one of the most revolutionary writers, and major influence on subsequent writers over the last couple hundred years.

Security once gained, heart and beauty are set aside...

Rimbaud may have been on to something there. The poet Franz Wright has railed against the notion that poets and writers must today be teachers, academics to earn a living and earn respect. Wright argues that what this creates is sameness. He pictures William Blake and Rimbaud--two outright game-changers--in their tenured professorships and what a sham, a nightmare that would have been. Their struggle, what they went through, their place in life, informed their work, which was different than anything that had come before them. Teaching freshman English was not for them.

In our trail running seminar on creativity and success, AK and I agreed that being a slow starter, a late bloomer was perhaps the way to be. To have perspective and pacing alongside whatever success you encounter. Merwin is my example; my model for someone who is at the top of their game later in life. Don't burnout and do nothing.

Call it the Ripken example. If you live near Baltimore, you know Cal's sustainment phenomenon. Just keep going.

This week I rode to Philadelphia with two Coast Guard admirals, tagging along to write a couple stories. They never stopped working--pouring over notes, discussing strategy, what's next. It was inspiring.

They are of the age where you talk about retiring from the military, yet they are moving and doing more now than early in their careers, prior to earning the stars on their shoulders.

For some, once you've made it, attained the security that you set out to get, you stop. Welcome complacency and laurel resting.

I like the Merwins, the admirals, the Ripkens, the distance runners, who keep going. Who want to see what is around the next corner. Who realize the slog, when turned on its side, is a dance. That you can't achieve a moment like this, without playing 2,129 games in a row ahead of it...

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