I have read and reread a book by Julia Cameron called, “The Artist’s Way.”  It first called to me, assuring me that I too could be an artist rather than a shadow artist.  Shadow artists, according to Cameron, hover around those creative people who have the gumption and audacity to follow their own dreams.  Shadow artists subjugate their own dreams and ambitions in favor of a more staid existence.  The lesson implied is to be brave, be very brave.  And, as you discover your creative self, steer clear of those shadow artists, often well-meaning individuals who nevertheless tear down your resolve to follow your passions.

One adage that she explicitly taught:  “Leap and the net shall appear!”

This lesson was especially directed toward emerging writers, painters, dancers, and poets, but also applied to anyone else who wanted to live a more fulfilling existence.  Even politicians, clergy, professional baseball players, or social workers could benefit, according to Cameron, in living a life that matters.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it slightly differently:  “Always do what you’re afraid to do.”

Vaclav Havel started out as a playwright with modest ambitions stuck in communist Czechoslovakia.  His writings attracted the notice of communist officials, and he was imprisoned off-and-on for five years, then endured secret police surveillance for almost twenty years while his many plays and writings were supressed, withering away.  The things we take for granted, the freedom that guarantees us the ability to say virtually anything that comes into our little brains is not allowed in other countries.  As a fellow writier, I cannot imagine anything more tortuous than having my vocation denied to me with the promise, ney threat,  that no one would ever read my work or share my worldview, or even be interested in what I have to say.  Vaclav Havel could have emigrated, many other prominent Czechs in all sorts of careers did, but he chose to stay and “fight the good fight,” all the while facing the very real possibility of being assassinated.  

After all his trials and tribulations, he was elected as President of Czechoslovakia and served from 1989 until 1993 when his country broke apart, leaving him the leader of the newly formed Czech Republic, starting in 1993.  It is one of the very few times when a writer, an artist, has been elected as president of his country, and become a force to reckon with on the world stage.  His close friends included Lech Walesa who sufferred under communist rule in Poland for forty years.  Both Walesa and Havel acted prominently in ushering in a new era of openness and aided in the fall of the Iron Curtain.  Havel also often relied on the adivice of Nelson Mandela. 

On two different occassions Havel spoke about the wonder of his own life, saying, one time, “It’s interesting that I had an adventurous life, even though I am not an adventurer by nature.”  Another time, just as eloquently, he said, “I wonder if all that–the fact that a man as calm as myself had such an adventurous existence–is due to the fact that life is an incredible miracle.”

Not to be beaten down by the past, but to bear burdens lightly, like wearing a light linen shirt, would be a wonderful goal to reach for this new year.  Don’t be afraid to make yet another New Year’s resolution, taking a few moments before the close of 2011 to list steps which need to be taken to head for what you want out of your life.  Then, take the next step and make a gratitude list for all the things we may take for granted, but which help usher us into new adventures.  Embrace your destiny this year.  I will be rooting you on, all the while trying to convey my truths, my own unique vantage point and lens to view the world around me.

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