Saturday, April 6, 2013

NPM: The choice, the work, the life.

My pal James shared this photograph with me not long ago. That up there is Hunter Thompson as a young man. Accompanying the photograph was an except from The Proud Highway:  

As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says, ‘you are nothing’ I will be a writer.

James has known me for a long time. He's aware I've made a similar declaration, and in my dedication to the work I've sometimes come near physical collapse or existential despair. But I'm still too stubborn and ridiculous to quit, so I continue to slope along.

Some months ago at my day job in the library, I pulled a Yeats paperback off the shelf, and it split in two the moment it was opened, pages spilling onto the floor. One one of these pages was a poem called "The Choice."

I taped the page to one of the shelves near the library's entrance, so I can be reminded every day that I've made my choice, and it must ultimately be a good one.

The Choice
William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)

The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.


  1. That's a great Thompson quote, and though I pursue a different discipline it's one that I've stuck to many bedside walls in my time. Also, if you're into your photography (and HST) there's a great photobook called 'Gonzo' which comprises all the (surprisingly good) amateur snaps he took throughout his career, along with diary excerpts and the like in a big chronological catalogue. I'd recommend it if you're into that sort of thing.

    1. Yeah! I've heard about that one. Forty bones is a stiff price, though; and it needn't be said that I don't have a lot of disposable income.