An artist starves for their work. A writer never quits reading. A wise man travels often. A platitude is a platitude because we count it as common sense.
The most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen was painted by a nurse between shifts. The best stories woven by farmers leaning over the wheels of their tractors. The most poignant wisdom over a beer and burger in a bar in Washington.
A platitude is a platitude because we count it as common sense. Common sense is just a phrase for the things we want everyone to believe without thinking.
I spent years as an academic, penning masterpieces that nobody loved. The only things I haven’t burned since then were written as the stupid boy leaving the farm and the broken scholar coming home. Those things I wrote when I didn’t know better are my apocrypha. I read and stare back over them wondering why my better self can’t make the same.
Ideas were scribbles, scratches, and grunts pried between bouts of energy. I fought with myself in the house I’d made, screaming in the kitchen by the cellar stairs. I watched that waiting descent with a sidelong glance, afraid to go into that basement until I was pushed.
A friend killed himself the other day and I was pushed down those stairs. In the dark cellar underneath I found my best pictures framed and my best words bound in leather. I found the exhiled farmer and the stupid scholar huddling together, smiling over a book I’d read with my dead friend.
Everything I’d ever planned was in the house above, pinned and labeled next to their blueprints. I looked up the stairs and then looked at my better selves lounging happily under the bare bulb illuminating the dungeon where I’d sent my best work.
“Turn out the light.”