“To Love is to act.” Victor Hugo’s last words.
Lately, for a variety of reasons, I’ve been a bit uninspired to write, or to finish the final edits for 5th&Hope.
But the other day, a business friend walked into my office, and she told me to keep writing, and to not give up, even though my current novel, 5th&Hope has only gotten rejection responses from the big, bad publishing world.
So what’s the point? IF I can’t get published, cliche’, cliche’, cliche’…
Now, Don’t cry for me Argentina, my life, for the most part, has been, and is, pretty good. I love my day job, and I love the folks I work with. They are a good bunch. And I am a US citizen. I’ve got it easy.
But then, as if the fates might intervene, I came across this happy photo, and it gave me the nudge I needed to keep at it. To keep sharing, to keep at my steep literary climb. I know I may never see the peak, but, I’ll keep trying – one word at a time.
From the photo, this child’s grandmother, who I asked for permission to use the photo,(grandmother?), is not just any childhood friend.
In my first novel, Bobby’s Socks, there is one chapter that comes from real life, the rest of the story I made-up. It was this child’s grandmother, who probably still has a great sense of humor and laugh, who went to a movie with me, the author, when we were both about 13 years old.
I’ll come back to this photo, later. But, there is something spiritual about the photo that you might miss, but it hit me! It hit me almost instantly.
First, let me tell you a story.
When I was a teenager I told my friend Ernie I wanted to be a writer. If you know Ernie, you’d appreciate his gift for dry-wit, as he advised me that was a poor career choice, to paraphrase him, “you know, you’ll only be a famous writer – after you’re dead”.
At the time I focused on the – dead part, because I understood, if I’m dead – why would I care to be famous?
Perhaps it’s my cynical nature, but I smirk every time I see or read about a career politician has a building named after them, as if they’ll live forever as the inspiration for a new library or other cold concrete and marble public building?
If there is a heaven, I hope, I’d like to think I’m doing heavenly things, and not telling Archangel Gabriel that back on modern day earth, the new campus library was named after me, and I might pull on his white feathered wings and whisper to him I had a good shot at the new freeway, too.
As to libraries, I’m not even sure the humbled-masses even read books these days.
It would seem to me, the humbled-author, many with the masses chase their 15-minutes of fame on YouTube, and why has it become a preoccupation within our American society to take a nude selfie and then share it with the planet?
And, I think we have the collective attention spans of a nat.
I think that preoccupation includes all ages, shapes and ethnicity. It has to include me, after all, I’m the author of this blog post that I have shared across the world-wide inter-web.
But I can only comment from where I observe, I don’t know what those in war-torn countries think.
But, the attention seeking effort causes me to wonder about the United States population, how we seem to live from fantasy-to-delusion within war-like video games like a scene from Saving Private Ryan. Of course, all these brave acts happen within the safety of our parents basement or your best buds apartment.
Pick your televised athletic event, here comes the video game commercials that bother me, they bother me because they encourage violence, and because I have dear friends that actually went off to war to protect my wimpy-behind, they can assure you and me it’s not a video game in Iraq, and the bullets and bombs are quite real.
Another nugget, I don’t care to be famous, except for one reason.
And it’s the single reason that drives my writing.
I’ll explain that one reason later, again, it has to do with the pasted photo I’ve shared of that beautiful child, a hint, she is wearing a bespoke cap, because just like the child and her DNA, that cap is one-of-kind.
Back to the story…
So, I went off to college and I earned a couple of business degrees. I write the word earned with intention, because I hated every-single-day, and every-single-class. I thought the entire learning experience was a bloodless adventure into mediocrity. It’s not like I was getting a Harvard MBA, and I was not genetically well-connected.
At the time, I had no idea that sort of negative thinking that had filled inside me a growing river of cynicism that could have caused my life to stop. And I would have been the person that stopped it.
I know those words might read chilling, but those are truthful words. And I know there are millions of others just like me that silently suffer with those thoughts, it can be a full-time job just staying above the green clover.
But a few years after I graduated, I got lucky, as I swerved into the business world of medical malpractice insurance. In a sense, I feel like God, or Devine Providence, or that higher-power thing – kept dropping plot clues for me to follow because I quickly became fascinated with medicine, in particular, genetics.
Of note, I wrote feel, and not think, because the most profound moments in my life have come from feeling first, and then thinking about those feelings. I think those feelings are fed by your instinct, that God-like whisper you hear from time to time.
So, my first day on the insurance carrier job, I met a world famous cardiovascular surgeon. He could tell I was a curious young man with an unblemished apple-pie face, so he patiently, passionately explained to the green-horn (me), as I sat across from him, how the heart muscle works. He showed me a scale model, the how he operated, and the why he treated the deceased patient in question, and I learned about surgical anastomosis.
I had no idea what those two words meant before I had walked into that office, but after, I thought they sounded like fancy words to this Kentucky kid. I craved to learn more.
I had also learned the deceased guy had lived a sedentary life, smoked, drank and ate himself into heart disease.
From that point on, I was hooked.
At the time, as I roamed all over Florida, and then the United States, in-and-out of hospitals and medical practices, I was blissfully unaware, I was learning about medicine, and how life choices impact patient outcomes.
I was learning how the human body and mind work, or in many situations, how genetic defects alter a life’s journey.
In a simple way, if you think about it, gene expression is a lot like a light switch on your bedroom wall, but the trick, good ones or bad ones are turned on based on what you got from mom and dad, and then the food you eat, the air you breathe, the water you drink, and even the traumas you have experienced.
If a scientist draws a little bit of blood or tissue or saliva from you, that genetic code will tell your story.
To be clear, some days, I wish I were blissfully ignorant. But what goes into my brain, the images, the thoughts, the feelings, they stay there, waiting for my mind to return. And many of those thoughts – scare me.
Now, fast-forward twenty plus years, I’m a middle-aged dude sitting in my office researching claim data to better negotiate on behalf of my psychiatrist client – with a rather difficult underwriter. Since I had been a medical malpractice underwriter, I knew all their bag-of-tricks. I had the advantage, I just needed evidence.
That day, my mission was simple, to keep the physician in business because without that insurance policy, that, by the way, costs about what a brand new E Class Mercedes goes for, he couldn’t work at the hospital. He couldn’t treat any patients, or earn an income. He couldn’t pay his mortgage, or feed his family. No pressure.
The key thorny issue was that my clients patient had committed suicide, in front of him. I’ll not bore you with any comments about standard-of-care, or the pathological effects from profound mental illness, but during my effort I came across an article about the epi genetic link between child sexual abuse and suicide.
The study theorized about a so called, suicide gene. Today, thanks to the hard work from those scientists at McGill Univesity, their theory has by and large, been validated.
After I read the article, a not-so-funny thing happened, I couldn’t breathe, in truth, I was having a panic attack. All those trapped memories from my childhood had returned for an unpleasant, unplanned family visit.
So, I had to quickly leave the office building, and I slowly walked down the busy city street on a hot spring day in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was in those moments, sweating under the sun, in the open air under palm trees, that I returned to my desire to be a writer, to be a story teller.
I stared up into the blue sky and thought, why not? To emote what was hidden behind my hazel colored eyes, and what I had felt from my youth. I didn’t have to have my blood sampled, I knew what lurked within my genetic code.
So, we return to today, and you ask, what’s up with the photo, and what’s so spiritual about that photo?
“To Love is to Act” – it is recounted that those are Victor Hugo’s last words.
If you closely examine the photo of a perfect, blue-eyed, smiling child, a photo taken by her grandmother, you will note that sunlight encircles a yellow heart shape that was meticulously weaved into the cap. I know this, because I’m the persons that ordered it from the artist, with my requested specifications. And that is not caused by different colored yarn, that circle is from morning sunlight.
For me, the way the sunlight casts over the Happy Heart symbol, it felt like it was a quiet signal from you-know-who. I had been feeling depressed, I guess you-know-who noticed, so I got a happy booster shot.
I’ll explain further:
The yarn strands used to create the cap, like our socks, represent the double-helix strands of DNA.
The heart shape represents the phrase, Always have a Happy Heart!
Because a happy-hearted child can positively change the world.
And a smiling person releases, endorphins. The happy chemicals released from your brain, spinal cord and other parts of your body. If you question that, go smile as you workout, how do you feel?
The photo is spiritual to me, because her grandmother took the photo, and if memory serves, that child’s first name is ~ Grace.
And if you look up the meaning of the name, in part, it means, “A virtue coming from God.”
And so we come to the only reason I would ever want to be a famous author, living or dead. Otherwise, I write my stories for me, and the joy I get from writing.
It would be for a child or teenager or adult to ask someone wearing a woven cap like the one in the photo, or wearing a pair of our socks:
“What’s up with the cap with the happy face? I’ve never seen anything like it?”
“Have you ever read the novel, Bobby’s Socks?”
“No, what’s it about?”
And then you never know, from that simple, casual conversation, a person living in shame, a person silently suffering, he or she, might for the first time in their life, talk.
They might begin to search for help, for answers.
And once someone talks, a therapeutic journey begins, and perhaps, the story, in part, it will help, save a life.
And remember, the word, Love – is both a noun and a verb.
“To Love is to Act”.
Silence is a choice. And silence, can be deadly.
Always have a Happy Heart!