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Do you feel at times a bit like a channel for words that arenít even yours?

Well, I wish I did. I love this idea of channeling and Iíve been waiting for it for about 35 years. People say once you start writing this song or this book, it will write itself. The characters will write it for themselves, or the song will just unfold itself. Iíve been waiting for this wonderful automatic process that continually evades me. If I knew where the good songs came form, I would go there more often.

In a certain sense, all this kind of activity is mysterious, and in a certain sense, we all are channels for everything we do and sayófor the children we produce, and for the declarations we make to one another, and for everything that goes on. There is a case to be made for the mysterious element in all our activities.

But for me, itís been sweating it one word at a time. Nothingís every come to me and nothingís been easy. Iíve resorted to all kinds of aids and practices and rituals to get me to be able to write because much depended on it. My living, but even something deeper than that. My self-respect,  but even something deeper than that. There was an urgency that compelled me to do this kind of work. It was very, very serious to me all the time.


In what sense an urgency?

I donít exactly know shy I felt that compulsion. I always thought of myself as a kind of lazy person. I was really much more interested in womanizing and drinking and praying than I was in this work which turned out to be tremendously difficult. But it was the difficulty of it that drew me in and that trapped me there. The absolute difficulty of getting something right started to have a tremendous sway over all my waking hours. To get those things right was very, very difficult, but just the difficulty itself somehow hooked me.


How do you know when it is right?

I donít know if itís right. Auden said we never finish a poem, we just abandon it. I donít know if thatís true. Maybe for a great poet, but Iím a minstrel and I donít presume to be numbered the great ones of verse or poetry. I think Corso made that distinction between poets and minstrels. He spoke rather pejoratively about the second category, but I think itís a decent category and Iím kind of happy to be in it.


What is the miracle youíre waiting for?

I think the miracle that is experienced in this song is the vision from the other side of waiting. It beings us back to that wisdom of no exit. There is a miracle that we are all waiting for that somehow goes along with the construction of the human heart, the human psyche. We seem to be waiting for a miracle. It seems we donít have to dig too far to experience that waiting, that anxiety.

Thereís another position where you move across the waiting to the other side of waiting. Where you recognize or acknowledge or affirm that youíre waiting for the miracle, but this is a position of freedom, rather than a position that is imprisoned or fixed.

Waiting is fixed. The other side is free. Youíre free to come or go from your waiting, and thatís where the song says, ďLetís do something crazy,  something absolutely wrong.Ē At the other side of waiting, you can act freelyófree from right and free from wrong, free from waiting and free from not waiting. Thatís the miracle of the song. It led me to that other position where I could look at waiting from the other side.



Originally published in the January 1994 Shambhala Sun magazine.


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