The point of the post is perhaps a little slippery to grasp, but is perhaps best summed up by this lovely quote from it:
The constellations in the night sky are stories invented by ancient Greeks. They looked up, they saw points of light, and they joined them together in the most wonderfully human ways that still mean something to us. Who hasn’t stood on a hillside as a kid and delighted as a cluster of random stars turned into a shape that their mind tried to fit into a picture – “look, there’s Orion’s belt – and there’s his sword. Do you see it?”.
I worry about our ability to stand there patiently, in the dark, until we see it.
I feel that there is a lot of truth in this: that in the modern world, especially in the strange cyber-world where social media rules, that we have lost some of the time for contemplation; for real thought. Lately, I’ve found that some of my best ideas and writing have happened when I am forcibly removed from those pressures, and have the luxury to stare out the window for a while with no other external pressures.
When I was visiting Namibia last year, there was a period of about two or three hours during the day when it was just too hot to do anything, and so we, and the locals, simply rested. It was impossible to sleep, but it was valuable time out. Your brain just had that time to saunter around a few ideas in a very casual way. It was cathartic.
I suspect that this is part of what Thoreau was writing about when he wrote the classic ‘Walden’. Not just a simplification of our lives, but also by reconnection with the real world, a chance to really think for ourselves without all that mental clutter.
How is this to be achieved in daily life, which seems to become busier and more demanding all the time? I’ve no idea, but if you have, please let me know.
I suspect that there is something in that ancient Chinese saying “When you cut wood, cut wood. When you draw water, draw water.” That is, when you have time to think, to assimilate all that raw data which might become a story, then just do that. Try to quieten all those other voices which are demanding you think about that phone call you need to make, or what you’re having for dinner. It’s almost meditative: that unforced focus on a task.
As a natural multi-tasker, I’m pretty bad at this kind of focus, but I’d like to try and give it a go in the next few weeks to see if I am able to sculpt some ideas into something worthwhile. Arrange those carbon atoms to become a diamond.
What are your thoughts? Do you need time to draw together data and craft a story out of it, or do they bubble away in your subconscious and come to the surface already formed?