The Hardest Work

I’m nearly done reading Robert Moss’s The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead. It’s about dreaming and death and imagination and some other far-out things, all mostly topics for another time.

You can read about Robert Moss on his website and Wikipedia page. He’s a fascinating guy who has more to say about dreaming than just about anyone I’ve come across.

Anyway, of the many parts of this book that have stuck with me, there’s one that’s grabbed me and even helped me shift my thinking a little bit about the things we choose to focus our energy on.

Throughout The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead, Moss talks a lot about his relationship with the poet W.B. Yeats. “Relationship,” because Moss claims to have had contact with Yeats through his dreams, and considers him a mentor from another realm.

Moss also talks about the idea of the “daimon,” a demigod or guardian/guiding spirit in Greek mythology—and in particular Yeats’ conception of the daimon, which was, as Moss explains, as a kind of creative energy, “a larger entity that does not permit the ordinary self to slumber when great things are afoot.”

Where am I going with this? In Yeats’ own words, from Per amica silentia lunae, an early book of his:

When I think of life as a struggle with the Daimon who would ever set us to the hardest work among those not impossible, I understand why there is a deep enmity between a man and his destiny, and why a man loves nothing but his destiny.

The hardest work among those not impossible.

Let that sink in a bit. Then hear what Moss has to say about this terrifying and wonderful notion. Some of what he talks about below might make a bit more sense in the context of the rest of the book—and I gladly recommend you read it—but…read on.

The following thoughts occurred to me as I reflected on this:

  • When we are passionately engaged in a creative venture—love, art, or something else that is really worthwhile—we draw support from other minds and other beings, seen and unseen.

  • According to the direction of our will and desire, and the depth of our work, those minds may include masters from other times and other beings.

  • We draw greater support the greater the challenges involved in our venture. Great spirits love great challenges.

  • Whether we are aware of it or not, all our life choices are witnessed by the larger self that Yeats called the daimon. The daimon lends or withholds its immense energy from our lives according to whether we choose the big agenda or the little one. The daimon is bored by our everyday vacillations and compromises and detests us when we choose against the grand passion and the Life Work, the soul’s purpose.

  • The daimon loves us best when we choose to attempt “the hardest thing among those not impossible.”

I find all this daimon business just terrifying enough—but still inspiring. Because, let’s face it, terrifying without inspiring is like, what—really bad decaf?

How would you proceed if you were assured of the existence of an energy like that? One with such a monumental stake in your choice of pursuits, creative and otherwise? One that wanted you to choose the big agenda?

I thought about going on about how you should choose the big agenda, how you should embrace the grand passion, and how you should tackle the hardest work among those not impossible. And I do think that, and I like to think that I am slowly getting better at it myself.

But I also know how hard it is, and I don’t want to disingenuously tell you to just effing do it, so I will mostly let Yeats’s and Moss’s words speak for themselves.

As for me, I’m off to start planning this great new idea I just had for a coffee shop.

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