So my writing recently has focused on things other than for this blog. It’s a shift I’m enjoying, but being a little out of the blog habit makes emerging from my shell that much more uncomfortable. Today, though, I thought I’d share a few of the things that have been on my mind:
1. This article about phone use and boredom. It came out more than a week ago but I keep thinking about it. This idea that allowing the mind to wander is great for creativity is not new to me, and I have been working to make/keep space for that in my life. (My new battle cry, in fact, may be “Make space!”—not just for creativity but for life in general.) The idea that my smartphone gets in the way of or fills that space makes sense. I do not think I will download an app to help me with this problem, but it is something I’m attending to in my own life. The thing that actually fascinates me the most about this article, though, is the idea of boredom. I’ve maybe always equated boredom with restlessness, for example being in a situation that I had to pay attention to something I wasn’t interested in. The state I’m in when my mind wanders—I don’t have a lot of trouble getting there, and I enjoy it a lot. I’m not sure I’ve ever considered that boredom. What about you?
2. One of the books I’ve been burying myself in recently is The Gift: Poems byHafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, entirely because of two poems I keep running across/thinking about: “With That Moon Language,” and “Dropping Keys.” I'm moving slowly through this book; I keep finding new favorites. I keep wanting to write more poems myself, and at the same time I feel tempted to quit. Maybe everything good has already been said.
2. And then this, a TED talk by Cristina Domenech, “Poetry that frees the soul,” about teaching poetry in an Argentinian prison: “And in that seventh circle of hell, our very own, beloved circle, they learned that they could make the walls invisible, that they could make the windows yell, and that we could hide inside the shadows.” Please make time for about 12
½ minutes and subtitles.
Last week I wrote some, practiced some, organized some. I did lots of normal everyday stuff and also cleaned my office (definitely not normal-everyday.) The whole week, frost flowers climbed across my office window, advancing and receding without my really noticing the movement. Just every once in a while—hey, look at that! and later—gone.
Also last week, from A.Word.A.Day, this: There are years that ask questions and years that answer. –Zora Neale Hurston
I’m so glad that’s true.
I had been suspecting it, wondering on some level. Because what a relief. If entire years can ask and answer questions then that allows for time—long stretches of it—and all the other things that move slowly and profoundly but only while you aren’t looking. Like the frost on my window.
* * *
Friday afternoon, as we worked our way through a bitter windy parking lot after violin, Oldest and Middle expounded on the future of technology. The things they talked about teetered on the brink of science fiction: information uploaded directly into our brains, easy learning, instant knowledge. I had to ask: So is being able to carry or transfer information the same as knowing something? I think they thought I was trying to be argumentative, but I wasn’t. I spend hours a day trying to move people from understanding, to ability, to something that is a deep abiding part of their being. Besides effort and process, the thing that seems to matter the most in this progression is time.
* * *
Whole years of questions = whole years of discomfort, true. But the softness of not-knowing is there, too. Have you ever run into the hard brick wall of someone else’s Knowing? I think I prefer softness. That slow slow motion and growth. Because it must be here in the question years that compassion grows, and humility, and humanity.
The years that answer—they are like breathing pure oxygen. Peaceful, whole. Welcome. And yet they probably hold as much potential for danger as the question years. A person could get stuck there. The questions and answers need each other desperately, and as much as I hate to admit it I need them both.
These are things I maybe have not wanted to accept: the necessity of the question years, the long periods of time that answers and understanding require, the waiting. But the idea of slow things, of softness and knowing and Time, of a cycle of questions and answers that does not ever have to tire out—there are promises there. They make me want to promise to keep watch.
I started this scarf almost a year ago, and worked on it through most of 2014. On and off, although looking back it's clear I spent more time not knitting than knitting. Such slow work, even after your fingers know the pattern. That's okay, because the process is the thing, at least as much as the finished piece. And besides, there it is, more finished than not.
Consider this my version of the New Year's looking forward/looking back post: