Monday, January 21, 2008

reactive vs proactive

It seems lately that I've been a step behind, basking in some quiet time, indulging in a somewhat somnolent mood of watching and reacting to others instead of proactively stepping out at my own pace. Not a bad thing, since I'm one who needs gathering time to store the fuel needed for creative output. Although product is the obvious proof of creativity, I've learned that ceaseless production can sometimes simply stagnate the process, like spinning wheels in a rut. So I've been sorting my supplies to reacquaint myself with their potential and thinking about the direction of my new art journal and planning my next classes ... prepping to come out of low ebb.

Meanwhile, it's been great fun helping a friend furnish her big new home further out from the city. Our discussions about how happy she is to create her new environment just as she wants it, bit by bit, one found "treasure" at a time, reminded me of a passage in Jan de Luz's book The French Touch. It also seems an appropriate thought at the beginning of the year when so many of us resolve to make new progress:

"This is one reason why I enjoy interaction with people as they make major transitions in their living spaces. Humans are perpetually confronting or constructing turning points; and major changes in living space always indicate transitions are happening. The ones I witness are transitions that people have chosen for themselves. It is exciting, and a totally human event. Whether you are packing the crates for a move to a new country, unfurling the blueprints for a new house you designed yourself or had designed, or simply changing the mantel art, change always indicates a point of attention, and what we focus on changes us. As the American poet John Ciardi said, "A man is what he does with his attention."

"Today's speed of communication, the nearly instantaneous transfer of impressions, pushes change into individuals and cultures faster than ever. Humankind's ease toward distraction and ricocheting emotions becomes a problem. Neither individuals nor nations absorb change beyond some natural limit. This, in part, is why ... I have a passion for rescuing fine pieces of old architecture. Keeping cultural history alive slows the absorption of change. Pausing to reflect is a natural tonic. Whether stressed by duties or manic with the excitement of designing, I try to remind myself to pause, to not hurry so fast from task to task. The hour can get so cluttered with the details of the moment or the goal of the day that life itself gets buried. This is a form of demolition as surely as taking a wrecking ball to a thirteenth-century stone building."

It seems natural that many of us want to collect and reconnect with and even reuse "treasures" from the past as a means of anchoring our present to a longer chain of meaning. Wynton Marsalis, in his jazz lectures at Harvard, observed that even jazz musicians, improvisational as their music can be, need to know and respect the history of jazz that preceded them in order not to find themselves out on some overlooked limb with no viable connections to the living growing tree. Reflection, as a form of creative thinking, allows us to measure our individual and collective progress, strengthen our sense of what we already know, and energize the purpose of our next steps in our chosen direction. But then it comes time to focus our attention and move out.

As I blog visit, I am so pleased to see how many of my blogger friends are doing just that with their new or newly energized ventures. Hope you are all relishing the changes you've chosen!

1 comment:

Junie Moon said...

Your post is so thoughtful and lovely. There is something to be said for slowing down and relishing life--and then we can pay attention to those things we're missing or didn't notice because we're too busy.