I walked into my own “library” last fall, before I started writing in earnest, and standing there, I was overcome with a moment of gratitude for those who have come before, and who have had the kindness to write it all down. I realized that I have before me more of the vastness of human knowledge than could ever be available to one student, no matter how many years they listened to a single master. Burnham’s Celestial Handbook stands here in conversation with Jorge Luis Borges, Douglas Adams, and all of Jane Austen’s novels. Without leaving my house (or turning on the computer) I can read Celtic myths and legends, design a solar house, or learn 51 new games of cards, all because somebody cared enough to compile their knowledge, tell their story, or spend years in dusty libraries and/or dangerous travel and then write it down so the rest of us would have a record of it.
This, to me, was a great moment of revelation. It was the turning point from thinking of my own writing as a pursuit bound by ego, to making of it an offering. I had these experiences. I have had the opportunity to read all these people who came before, and had the chance to spend years of my life in formal education, learning to make some sense of it all. This sense I make, this is the best I can give back to the world. It is my way of saying to my thousands of teachers, “Thank you for writing. Thanks for your books, and your articles, and your blog posts, and your artwork, and your conversations, and for sharing your meaning.”
Since I’m feeling completely overwhelmed with positive feelings right now, I will end with my blessing for a winter evening, that began as a consideration of what I want for my children: May you overcome challenges. May you experience moments of pure joy. And may you come to know that you have done some good in the world.