One of the most powerful college experiences I ever had happened while I was alone in my room, doing homework. I had just come out of a class on poetry in which the basic rules for the sonnet were introduced, and we were told to try our hands at it. As I was packing up my things, I wrote down a single line of pentameter:
She stood and broke her alabaster box
I had some thought of rhyming “box” with “fox,” and I went back to my room to play around with it. Five hours later, I had finished Memorandum.
I’ve always been pleased with that poem, but the effect on me of writing was profound far beyond the pleasure of a nice bit of verse. The sensation of executing something flawlessly after hours of profound mental exertion was cataclysmic on my psyche. (Rather unlike the previous sentence.) I really don’t know how to explain the rush I got.
The only other times I have experienced a similar sensation have been times of intense prayer, when the very heavens have been opened, or during powerful worship services where God clearly and profoundly made his glory known. And here I had gotten nearly the same sensation from writing a poem. It made me think this was exactly the sort of thing that the character Eric Liddell talked about in Chariots of Fire. “When I run I feel His pleasure.” It is the certain pleasure that comes from functioning in accordance with the nature God has given you.
Judge then, my increasing dismay, as over the next two years I slowly realized how infinitesimal were my chances of successfully embarking on a career as poet. Judge my consternation as I have come to terms with how difficult it is to establish a career as a writer of anything. Judge my surprise at my experiences of the last few weeks:
I’ve been working in the Accounts Payable office of a regional food distributor. The work basically consists of taking our supplier’s invoice, matching it to our record of what was received and the price agreed upon, verifying that it matches, and paying out. Except of course, that often it doesn’t match, and often we have incomplete documentation, and in our case, we are currently often behind and have the threat of discontinued service if payment is not made soon.
In the middle of this, somebody discovered that I can add. A coworker had a particularly messy conglomeration: none of the prices were matching up; none of the items were matching up; and certainly none of the totals were adding up. I asked if I could take a look at it, and in about 20 or 30 minutes I had managed to clear things up.
This was apparently so impressive that by the next morning I had received a stack of such requests. I sat down and set to work. Around me there was chaos and cries of frustration, but I honed in and heard almost nothing. Three hours later, I emerged, bills balanced. And was hit with a rush of pleasure and a general sense of peace. It was nowhere near as powerful as writing a sonnet or a six hour prayer meeting, but here is the glorifying difference: for this pleasure I got paid.