Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Pleasure of Doing Nothing, Well, another chapter in progress in my book

I am thinking. I am reading. I am searching for more questions to think about and more answers as well.

Originally this chapter was The Pleasure of Doing Nothing or Too Much. I talked with Tom who retired early and added his ideas to mine as well. He is smart, figured out the system and was retired at 40 and figuring out how to live from that point. Sounds like a dream, retire at 40, what do you want to do when you grow up? When you have the creative spirit and energy you better figure it out. He started with flying airplanes and I think his spirit still soars. As he said, "I wanted to figure out how to do nothing, well." As in doing things well, taking time and doing things right or with care.

I remember hearing about Jimmy Carter's wife writing. He saw her laying across the bed, eyes closed and said, "You are writing?" Yes. If you cannot stop and listen how can we write.

In the third grade, Miss Exler, made us set upright, no legs crossed, new shiney plastic pens to be held correctly and then write. Correctly. No talking, either. I don't think I could teach that way. We did not question or we stood in the trash can. We had stay busy, be quiet and always productive. It takes a while to undo that kind of thinking.

Zen, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf and Satchel Paige keep me in good company. A writer named Jill Badonsky thinks in a similar way and had these significant quotes on her site:

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” — Zen Proverb quotes

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” — Gertrude Stein

“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth comes to the top.” — Virginia Woolf

“By slowing down, taking a break, releasing the process, and diverting our attention, we fill our souls, body and mind with the nutrients for the next step in the creative cycle. Ideas, inspiration, and motivation fulfill the creative cycle’s promise of the return to spring. Aha-phrodite shows up again, you resume your Marge efforts and continue from a place of plentiful readiness. We don’t need to fill every space of silence with stimuli. Silence and stillness can be quite medicinal” —Lull, Jill Badonsky’s Modern Day Muse of Pause, Diversion and Gratitude.

“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.” — Satchel Paige

So if it feels so good to do nothing how come we don’t feel good and productive when we do nothing? It is a cultural thing and sometimes we need to get over it.
As a typical American I take pride in working hard and accomplishing something significant every day. Even in the relaxing environment of a friends home in Costa Rica, I still find some way of trying to do too much. I was sitting on the couch with legs propped up, good start, computer on lap, be careful, and a language book and inspiring reading material. How many things can we do at the same time? Well, I can learn Spanish while I facebook while I read my sources for my book while I post travel pictures on my blog, while I think I should be exercising and not just sitting there. That is all quite telling for us all and I think my daughter’s generation is going to have it even worse. No haiku poems for them!

Those words like pleasure and joy, happiness and success, work and tradition all rest precariously together. (more here)

We come from perhaps grumpy old forefathers with a bible in one hand and attitude for hard work equals success in the other. Sometimes I think we should have stayed in France.

Stay calm America. You are going to give yourselves a heart attack. Put the bible down and take a nap. And have a glass of wine while you are at it.

And then we have reality. Ceramics is one of the most time consuming of the arts. We are never ever finished. Something is drying, something is firing, something still needs to be made. Always, it is never finished. It is late

My son says, If you want to date someone in college and you need to study a lot, date a ceramics major. You will never see them. We visited him at a serious competitive art school and there in the studios late night Fridays and Saturdays you will see the art students working until midnight. The teachers walk through to see who is present and who is not.

Is May West correct? Too much of a good thing is wonderful? (Or terrible?)

Usually, pacing oneself is a good idea. It leads to better work habits, staying uninjured and a bit more mentally sane. Late night studio works well for me because it is usually my only uninterrupted time. Being alone with clay is wonderful.

I learned from Hal Rieger to blindfold students and pass around objects to feel in silence. Then make pinch pots while still wearing the blind fold. Some are uncomfortable and giggle as their senses wake up. Some students have even been afraid to be blind folded and I let them squeeze their eyes shut and promise not to peek. Often, these pinch pots turn out to be some of their finest coming from a quiet moment.

MORE SOON, got to think.

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