A Ceasing

Linked recently via the IdeaFestival Facebook page, Paddy Harrington pointed outthat "No process guarantees insight, but plenty set the stage for its arrival." I think this is true in a couple of ways.

If the creative stage is pre-verbal, intuitive and emotional, then obligations that require our calculated attention pull us away from the possibilities coded in limb and experience. In the IdeaFestival Conversation posted earlier this week, Stefan Sagmeister talked about the need to regularly put aside the helter skelter, not to escape but to recharge. While most of us, me included unless something truly extraordinary happens, won't have the opportunity to spend years away from work and the family obligation to turn that work into pay, his point remains.


The word "sabbatical" comes from the Latin sabbaticus, from the Greek sabbatikos and from the Hebrew word shabbat, which means "a ceasing." Observation, empathy, imaging - these creative acts depend on a ceasing from mere ogling, from self-preoccupation, from the bottom line logic of the family or business bank account so that we may fully say what it is in each of us to say.

So when I send see-through ribbons of sycamore above a finely tuned jack plane, or listen to a nearby pond throb with the rosined vibrato of frogs, or read contentedly late into the night when my family is sleeping, I'm not just doing those things. I'm stage-setting. I'm reveling in the fact that there is more to my life then deadlines and torrents of email.

In that quiescence, everything is possible. The manic self that answers the phone (and sometimes doesn't) no longer has first chair in the dirge happening in my pre-frontal cortex. And invariably, that expansiveness makes its way to my body. The heart and chest respire, attending in their own way to heaven knows what, and once in a while I unexpectedly catch my breath, sitting a little straighter.

Oh, so that's it.