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September 28, 2003


by John Clay, editor-in-chief

Today was a shopping day. Shopping in the best sense: to acquire necessaries and not simply for the sake of shopping itself. Two stops, two shops: the grocery store and the bookstore. The pairing of food and art is apropos of bhag, the magazine that asks us all to bear in mind that we take in images and ideas and produce our own, just as we take in nourishment to power our living. But in fact, with apologies to those who enjoy grocery shopping, I'll focus on the bookstore.

I bought a small selection of literary and political journals. The selection was small but the selection process telescoped from minutes to hours. It was a matter of finding journals open to my prime medium (essays) and relevant to my kind of subject matter. And it was a matter of insisting that the journal grasped in hand and scanned by eye give me inspiration. These were journals I would take home to read and likely would consider submitting my own work to in the future. That they accept essays was not enough. That the essays be good was almost enough—yet there was something more. The style of design and layout, as well as the writing itself, says something about the people who make the journal and what they value in life. Everything had to come together so that I could say: Yes, I want to be a part of this.

When we acquire necessaries, we know what we have to have to survive. And sometimes it isn't what we would have guessed. There in the moment, we know what's needed. Then why did the journal shopping take so long, apart from the large number of choices? On first arriving at the bookstore, I had two factors in mind—openness to essays, and relevance to my subject matter. I almost forgot to demand inspiration. Maybe I expected to be inspired by all of them. But that isn't the way it works. Something inspires because it connects with our thoughts and sensibilities in a very particular and intimate way. It connects with who we are, or tells us something new about who we can become. It's not about being snobby. Each person will be inspired by something different. It is about remembering that inspiration is possible, then deciding that we can't live without it, and then finding it, no matter how long the search.

© 2003 John Clay

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