When I was ten, or perhaps eleven, I found a little plaque made out of clay or porcelain or something like that, perhaps five or six inches across, painted brown, behind some books on the bookshelf in my old bedroom. In the years and years and years that I lived in that old bedroom, I have collected so many memories of seemingly little consequence: the sight of a curtain in the wind. The stickers on my dressing table mirror. My dark red velvet jewellery box. Hundreds and hundreds of images that float around in my mind. But the completely accidental discovery of that little brown plaque stands out amongst all the rest as a completely transformative, miraculous moment. I don't remember anything - whether it was morning or afternoon, what I was searching for behind those books anyway, who the plaque belonged to or how it got there. Almost from the outside of myself, I can 'see' myself standing in the centre of the room, perfectly still, staring down at the words on it: "FEAR NOT. ONLY BELIEVE."
I have always considered myself a very fearful person. Nervous, anxious, highly-strung, sometimes even paranoid. But I maintain, absolutely, that from the moment I first saw that plaque (and subsequently placed it on the front of the bookshelf), I found what I need to achieve.
Words are superficial. I never interpreted 'Believe' as a slavish kind of devotion to any idealogy, imagined future comfort, any doctrine. I can't define it. But I'm trying to discover what it means to me. 'Fear Not' is by contrast utterly clear: As a dictum, an instruction for how to live, there's no interpretation possible (for me) except the most basic: Banish All Fear. I have diary upon diary, piles of papers, Facebook notes, letters to my mother, emails to friends, documenting all the little bits and pieces of my internal landscape and how it is evolving (or not). Underneath and above each and every one of these is a shadow of that first moment when something led me to find that plaque and the instruction printed on it.
The plaque did not say how to do it, or why it is was necessary.
My whole life so far has been about finding out: from the tiniest and most superficial struggle (going downstairs in the dark without trembling), to the most (seemingly) insurmountable (how to face imagined future loss, how to love but still be free, how to not panic about tomorrow or the day after but still prepare for them). This little instruction sowed a seed which is growing and growing and growing.
I am no closer to the answer or the art as when I first began. But I am closer to being able to think about it clearly (not evidenced by my writing, I know).