“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. This is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety.
“But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God.
“Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.”
— Flannery O’Connor, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction.”
This op-ed by Christy Wampole got my attention this afternoon. An excerpt:
“Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.”
I’ve been thinking about some similar themes recently- how to be authentic, how to be optimistic without feeling foolish, what it means to be an adult. I’ll just leave it at that.
“I’m reminded of a Bible passage that had struck me when I was in captivity a hymn in the book of Psalms that described the harshness of crossing the desert. The conclusion had come as a surprise to me. It said that the compensation for the effort, courage, tenacity, and endurance displayed during that journey was not happiness. Nor glory. What God offered as a reward was only rest.”
-Ingrid Betancourt, Even Silence Has an End
I am running myself ragged and starting to get sick. Granted, quoting from the memoir of a woman who was held captive as a political prisoner in Columbia for 7 years is SLIGHTLY melodramatic given my situation. But really, what I wouldn’t give for rest.
Filed under books, personal
LOVING Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Don’t let the lame cover or even the title & subtitle (“Flow & the Psychology of Discovery & Invention”) discourage you.
On having a space to work:
“We need a supportive symbolic ecology in the home so that we can feel safe, drop our defenses, and go on with the tasks of life. And to the extent that the symbols of the home represent essential traits and values of the self, they help us be more unique, more creative. A home devoid of personal touches, lacking objects that point to the past or direct toward the future, tends to be sterile. Homes rich in meaningful symbols make it easier for their owners to know who they are and therefore what they should do.
“Of course, furnishing one’s house in a certain way does not miraculously make one’s life more creative. The causal connections are, as usual, more complicated. The person who creates a more unique home environment is likely to be more original to begin with. Yet having a home that reinforces one’s individuality cannot but help increase the chances that one will act out one’s uniqueness.”
I feel this way about my personal environment and about clothing. It doesn’t actually matter what I put on my body, in that clearly I am the same person in sweat pants as in my favorite dress. However, when dressed in a way that makes me feel most like myself, or the person I imagine myself to be or aspire to be, I rise to the occasion and act as that person. It is not to be confused with an artificial persona because I am not pretending to be someone I’m not. There are many versions of the self that are expressed in different circumstances. I am slightly different in different contexts, such as work or home or with friends, although my basic essence remains the same.
On the eve of my first day of graduate school classes, I give you an excerpt from Paul Graham’s essay, “Do What You Love”:
“It used to perplex me when I read about people who liked what they did so much that there was nothing they’d rather do. There didn’t seem to be any sort of work I liked that much. If I had a choice of (a) spending the next hour working on something or (b) be teleported to Rome and spend the next hour wandering about, was there any sort of work I’d prefer? Honestly, no.
“But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Caribbean, or have sex, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn’t mean, do what you will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.
“Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After awhile you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something.
“As a lower bound you have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. You have to like what you do enough that the concept of ‘spare time’ seems mistaken. Which is not to say you have to spend all your time working. You can only work so much before you get tired and start to screw up. Then you want to do something else– even something mindless. But you don’t regard this time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you endure to earn it.”
Filed under feminism, health