Sunday, October 09, 2005

August's Lesson: Don't Waste Time

His mother wanted him to be a lawyer. He tried the Army, odd jobs, directing, and technical writing. But August Wilson's life's work began when he started writing his cycle of plays that chronicled the effects of slavery on African Americans throughout the 20th century.

I lived in New Haven for a year and I got to see the original production of "Fences" with James Earl Jones and Courtney B. Vance at Yale Rep. Running downtown for lunch, I looked over a wrought iron fence into a sunken courtyard where I frequently saw Wilson seated at a small cafe table, legs crossed, head down, writing. Later, he moved to Seattle and continued the practice in cafes, bars, and restaurants where it seemed too hard to concentrate. But the voices in his head spoke loudly and insistently enough that he heard them clearly and recorded them for the rest of us.

The mourners at his recent memorial service vowed that they would not let August Wilson or his legacy die. We should all take up that challenge.

But for me, an equally important lesson from August Wilson is that life may seem long, but it can shrink drastically when you are trying to complete your life's work. Wilson just barely completed his cycle of plays by the age of 60 and we are blessed that he did.

So, in honor of August, let's get busy.

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