I read an old letter today, that Kurt Vonnegut wrote in response to a private high school English class sending letters to him asking his advice. Here is his response in full:
November 5, 2006
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Practice without attachment to the outcome. Try, with best effort. That alone is it, isn’t it? Be creative, be active, try and try some more. Learn who you are and soothe your soul through not just your joys and triumphs but as well your frustrations and epic failures.
In my art work, that message is easier to encompass than with my asana practice…I don’t know why I’m harder on myself in my physical capabilities, quite odd considering how uncoordinated I always had been, and having some damage from rheumatoid arthritis in my joints. Though most certainly asana has helped me be more graceful so to speak, sometimes I still trip over absolutely nothing, as my husband has coined, “The ground came out of no where!” Art on the other hand is just something I enjoyed, I never tried to be more with it, just engross in the process. I think I need to learn to stop criticizing myself more, and just be.