Charles Darwin toiled for decades to research and compile his great work, “The Origin of Species.” It was his life’s work.
I can read “The Origin of Species” in a week or two. Now I know just as much as Charles Darwin knows about pigeons and selective breeding and natural selection.
It doesn’t seem fair. Darwin was hard-fought to come by all of that knowledge. He paid dearly for that knowledge with the only currency that matters – hours.
The poet Gary Snyder said that, “In Western Civilization, our elders are our books.”
Everyone is a reader. People who say they aren’t readers haven’t been found by the right book yet. Or maybe those people don’t like to eat books. Maybe they like to eat movies, radio shows, podcasts, or conversations with friends.
Because of course books, the physical things, are just vehicles. The Ideas and the Stories are the heart, the real nourishment, the real magic. (Ideas and Stories are savvy businessmen. They don’t care how they get moved around, as long as they’re being shared one way or another.)
It hurts my brain to think of how much value I’ve ingested through books, through people like Tolstoy and Da Vinci and John Green and a million others. By producing their works, artists give unique gifts to the universe.
I hope I can be a giver too and not just a taker.
But this impulse of mine is not about repayment. I don’t feel guilty or that I’m required to pay a debt. That would be a shitty feeling.
It’s more like… there’s a party going on. This party is filled with artists who are charging into their fears, sweating, grinning, loving, and releasing their one-of-a-kind butterflies into the wild. I want to join that party. For almost thirty years I’ve waited for an invitation to that party, but it never came, so now I’m inviting myself.