This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.
One night, staring bleary-eyed at Facebook, I came upon a quote:
“A man’s work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
The quote was uncredited, so I didn’t know I was reading Camus at first. I just thought my brother Henry was being even more eloquent than usual. But regardless, I stared at the line, and felt a kind of tingle. Because for me, the quote describes so perfectly what life truly is. A series of familiar beginnings, through which we are allowed to redefine and revise our world, and in doing so, redefine and revise ourselves.
Through which we learn the lessons we have been learning all along.
This process can feel frustrating at times, as though we’re perpetually banging our heads against the same wall. Coming back to the beginning of the same maze again and again. But the thing is, we come back to the beginning changed each time. If we are present enough to see the difference.
Life is art. Art is life. As writer, I revise with words. But just as easily, I could be a gardener, a chef, a friend, a watcher—revisiting a garden, an eggplant, a conversation, a streetscape through a window. In any medium, there is something to be gained from a new angle, a new approach.
My father, who loved math and numbers, became an engineer because he had a family to support. Then in his fifties, he reimagined himself, went back to school, and became an economist. Poof! A new life. Numbers counted through a different lens.
My mother, who had me when she was still pretty much a kid herself, wasn’t able to travel, so instead she read her way across Europe. Novels and poems gave her the world she craved. Now, at sixty, she takes French classes on the weekends and spends her summers overseas. But really, every year of her life she has been traveling in one way or another.
You can see my parents’ paths as early compromises if you want to, see them as misspent youth. Or you can view those decades as early incarnations. Chapters waiting to be revised. Promises of adventures to come
So I take this as my definition of renewal—this hunt for the next version. Renewal not as the chance to start with a blank slate, which is what I thought this season was about as a kid. But renewal as a chance to see and do the same things again, differently. To approach, as I find them, my heart-opening images, and to translate them each time with new eyes. So that I may be changed by my experience of revisiting, and by every moment in time.