The first time I read, as a child, Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If—' I loved it, but didn't fully understand it. Sure, some critics dismiss the poem as middle-brow corn, but not me. I admire stoicism and generosity of spirit, and the poem celebrates those things. But the real meaning of the lines, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same" eluded me. Who the hell could ever equate triumph and disaster? Must be some metaphor in there that I'm missing.
When I learned that those two lines are inscribed above the players' entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon, I thought, there must be more to it than I think.
It was only after I studied Zen and other spiritual texts that I realized those lines of the poem are meant to be taken literally. Everything changes; everything passes. Therefore everything is the same; therefore everything is sublime.
It's a great lesson for writers, who tend to live and die by the opinions of others. You know:
Good review = happiness
Bad review = despair
Same holds for remarks from writing-group buddies. Same holds for rejection by an agent or an editor.
The more you write, the more material you put out there, the more you hear from critics. The Zen challenge of being a writer is to treat the one-stars and the five-stars just the same.
For real. For true freedom as a writer.
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[photo of arguably beautiful ruined building by ES]