Last week I learned that Sarah Lawrence College has accepted my application for admittance this fall into their Master of Fine Arts Writing Program. While I’m certain this will be a rewarding journey, it won’t be an easy one. I will still be writing and editing full time at the headquarters of a global bank, doing so in gratitude for the fact that they make my monthly house payment here in Westchester County, just north of New York City. It’s one of the most expensive (and most lovely) places to live in America.
Why would I do this, at this stage of my life, almost four decades after earning my undergraduate degree? Bear with me and I’ll attempt to explain.
I’ll start at the beginning—the very beginning. The Bible states that in the beginning God spoke, saying let there be light, and there was light. Later, reinforcing that, we are told that in the beginning was the word, and that the word was God. Yes, our ancestors understood the powerful tools that words can be. Metaphor can be more real to our perceptions, more satisfying, than mere bare-bones scientific facts. Metaphor is a cluster of words on steroids and on edge ready to strike.
But as the creationist Bible story reveals, words aren’t just instruments and stories aren’t simply created from words. Words themselves create reality—or form the space of possibility that action then makes real. Words shed light on our long and chaotic night as human beings, showing us the way forward. Even a single, right word can uncage the spirit and make it soar like a bird on wing, or one lost in the midst of a song.
I have heard the siren call of such a song and it pulls at my spirit. I am drawn to its creativity and, joyfully, I’m now yielding to it.
The faculty and staff at Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) have been informative, supportive, and affirming. The highly professional faculty includes Vijay Seshadri, director of the graduate writing program in creative nonfiction. He is the 2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Graduates of SLC include Barbara Walters (media), Vera Wang (fashion), J.J. Abrams (screenwriter/director), Julianna Margulies (actor), and Alice Walker (writer), to highlight a few and to show the incredible range of creativity represented there. All this from a college of fewer than 2,000 currently enrolled students.
Words have a mystical majesty. I learned long ago that they bring order out of chaos. Words can be strung together like pearls to make a beautiful necklace, just for the art of it. They are the fusion, the genesis, of art and science. I want to associate with others who feel the power words possess, people who adore words, as I do. I love the music of words and I want to learn to be a better composer.
Back in my youth, my father, who passed away just over a year ago, wanted me to be a teacher. My mother just wanted me to be happy. I’ve been both through the years, for no matter what I did, I taught. It’s my nature. Now—and for me, as well as for my father—I want to be prepared to spend the last quarter of my life as a “legitimate” teacher. One who learns still more deeply by teaching others what he has learned already in life. I have so much to share, and I know I have so much more to learn. Tempus fugit. I can’t wait.