And At Once I Knew

***When I posted this, for some reason all of the html tags printed without opening and closing brackets and all of the text without apostrophes. So it looked like a mess. I have fixed most of it, but it was a weird problem that I've never had before, so if I missed anything I'd appreciate you letting me know so that I can fix it.***

I wanted to do something grandiose for my first contracted post not only of the year, but of, well, ever. Granted, it was something I imposed on myself and in no way has any kind of bearing on real life, but I still felt like it was kind of a big deal. So I've gone all week knowing that the deadline that I set in my last post was today. I sketched out the beginnings of some of those follow me as I try to figure something out posts and the I like to think about things like quantum physics even though I don't really understand it at all posts and the I want to make a list of the wonderful things of 2011 as we move into 2012 posts but none of it would flow.

I tried to force it. I wrote about forcing it. I tried to justify digging in the archives to find something worth reposting, but I felt guilty about that. I wrote about feeling guilty. I wrote part of my letter to men and hit a wall. Then I wrote about hitting walls. Then I came back to what I wrote about forcing it.

Of course, when I say I wrote about forcing it, I mean it came out like a bitter mix of poetry and yelling instructions at myself about how to escape writers block:

Just pound it out. Play until your fingers bleed, you need to change strings anyway. Play until the coating erodes and the callouses rip and one of you gives way to the other. It's like a drain that's stopped up, that's all. Play nonsense. Strum open chords. Pound that block away. Make it sound as dirty, nasty, offensive as you can. If music is what you're battling, write not music. Stomp every box and listen to the noisy, oscillating, overpowering signal hum amplified by the single coils and wait for the feedback. Turn it up. Make your ears hurt, make your speaker crack. Break something. De-tune as far as you can. Dogs had better be whimpering.

I seem to go back to music when things like this happen.

What you are seeing right now is a scarily accurate representation of how my thought processes unfold, which I find interesting, because I enjoy learning how other peoples thought processes go. I wanted to write about that.

I thought maybe an honest exploration of art and beauty, two things I think have lost meaning nowadays. But then I saw the trailer for The Artist that opened last year and realized that anything I had to say about art and beauty was fairly petty and irrelevant in comparison.

I wanted to make a list of things that I wanted to get done this year, but then I read about a man who threw 4,800 messages in a bottle into the ocean and got responses from most of them, and about this man who has taken a self-portrait every day for twelve years, through cancer treatments and paralysis, and all of the sudden my lists looked incredibly unimportant.

So I scrapped (or at least put on the back-burner) three or four pages worth of ink and hand cramps in favor of, apparently, these words telling you that I had plans to do something awesome and ended up doing some sort of meta-blog filled with things I could have written about. And then it hit me.

It hit at 12 o'clock last night, the night before the first day of my final semester of college, the night before the year that harbors touring opportunities and record label beginnings and graduation and promises of completed screenplays or short stories or poetry collections, on words embedded in a website that I just got done plastering my name across, just how much it isn't about me.

Justin Vernon sings in Bon Iver's song Holocene about vastness and sublimity. About the natural sort of sublime, akin to the interests of Wordsworth and Byron (whom you should know by now I adore, along with their contemporaries, more than any collection of literary period authors). The sort of thing David looked up at and asked, "who is this King of glory?" In the song, Vernon sings this line at the beginning of each chorus that doesn't punch you in the face, but rather settles quiet inside of the place that senses loneliness and houses doubt and interprets rhododendrons into the transcendent things Emerson saw them to be, and sits there until you can deal with it: "...and at once I knew I was not magnificent."

You have to hear it in the dark of a quiet room without people vying for your attention or pressing engagements looming over your head, because it is a thing of subtlety, as all beautiful things ought to be.

And once you hear it, you cannot un-hear it, but you wont remember until you're alone and listening only to what your brain has to say. You will realize that you tried all week to get something worth slapping your name on only to get frustrated and move on to wall-staring and coffee-drinking and creativity-avoiding because you can't shake that feeling that came all at once when you realized you were not magnificent.

This sort of realization isn't a bad one, I don't think, at least it isn't for me. I take comfort in the fact that it is not I who is magnificent, even though sometimes the self-worshipping part of me likes to try to convince me otherwise. I believe strongly in magnificence. I believe that it can be encountered and interacted with and marveled at and discussed and even argued against, though that doesn't make it any less real.

I even believe Magnificence has a Name to know.

Happy 2012, you guys. I'll see you here next week!


Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.