Advice to the Players

So you enter college, a place where you are supposed to learn how to conduct yourself in a place of work, and you learn how to interact with your peer. But most importantly you come across interesting poets, who can teach you a thing or two about life. I hope you enjoy this one. All my fellow makers and doers out there! This one really, truly hits home.

Advice to the Players

by Frank Bidart

There is something missing in our definition, vision, of a human
being: the need to make.

We are creatures who need to make.

Because existence is willy-nilly thrust into our hands, our fate is to
make something –– if nothing else, the shape cut by the arc of our

My parents saw corrosively the arc of their lives.

Making is the mirror in which we see ourselves.

But being is making: not  only large things, a family, a book, a busi-
ness: but the shape we give this afternoon, a conversation between
two friends, a meal.

Or mis–shape.

Without clarity about what we make, and the choices that under-
lie it, the need to make is a curse, a misfortune.

The culture in which we live honors specific kinds of making (shap-
ing or mis-shaping a business, a family) but does not understand
how central making itself is as manifestation and mirror of the self,
fundamental as eating or sleeping.

In the images with which our culture incessantly teaches us, the
cessation of labor is the beginning of pleasure; the goal of work is
to cease working, an endless paradise of unending diversion.

In the United States at the end of the twentieth century, the great-
est luxury is to live a life in which the work that one does to earn a
living, and what one has the appetite to make, coincide––by a kind
of grace are the same, one.

Without clarity, a curse, a misfortune.

My intuition about what is of course unprovable comes, I’m sure,
from observing, absorbing as a child the lives of my parents: the
dilemmas, contradictions, chaos as they lived out their own often
unacknowledged, barely examined desires to make.

They saw corrosively the shape cut by the arc of their lives.

My parents never made something commensurate to their will to
make, which I take to be, in varying degrees, the general human
condition––as it is my own.

Making is the mirror in which we see ourselves.

Without clarity, a curse, a misfortune.

Horrible the fate of the advice-giver in our culture: to repeat one-
self in a thousand contexts until death, or irrelevance.

I abjure the advice-giver.

Go make you ready.