This should be split into two posts … one part in “breathe in” and the other part in “do be do”
Another book I picked up at the library and read cover to cover — and may possibly need to own and loan — is The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno. I’ll return to this post to note the insights I spotted (obviously, I won’t note the insights that I didn’t spot).
My initial need, though, spurring this post, is to mull on the thought that lately I’ve been doing less and reading lots. Granted, I moved one month ago and it was The most Exhausting move I’ve ever gone through, depleting my reserves and simply slightly injuring me; so I’ve been recuperating, and reading is a fantastic reviver. It feels (correctly, no doubt) like decades since I’ve read three books in three weeks. My new commute gives me about 20 minutes of bus reading each way — with quick intermissions to gaze out the window at this spring’s clean green canopies that line certain stretches, so full and clear with the generous rains and mild temperatures of this spring. I’ve dropped the lovely habit of listening to French lessons during the commute because I haven’t walked for any part of it because my hip and back were dinged in the exhausting move; it’s too hard to hear with the bus noises, and my repeating French phrases makes other riders uneasy. So I grant that I’ve been reading as part of recuperating.
But by this point, reading and deciding what to read next are a new consumption reflex where ‘more!’ is as triggered as, say, when eating chocolate or chips or popcorn. Dave Bruno points out in T100TC that what drove him and his partner to start an audiobook business was eventually nearly overrun by the ‘more’ impulse — hey, we’re making some money here, let’s make more! And it overruns the simple provisioning of a life — hey, while I’m out buying this week’s leafy green vegetables (or other needed item requiring a frequent purchase), I’ll check out sales on more video games / kitchen gizmos / stuff I could better live without. More please. That’s not quite enough, let’s have more.
Well, how many books from the library, the internet, the indie bookstore, the used bookstore, and the guys covering the sidewalk there are enough? For now? For this week? When I think of what to do this evening, the first thing that pops into my mind is the different transit routes to the book places — because that’s what’s primed. My body needs those leafy green vegetables, but I just had a chocolate (so easy to grab first thing through the door, a bit hungry, after a day at the office) and what do I want next? More chocolate … that wasn’t quite enough … how about a bit more.
So there came a point in reading T100TC when something I read linked up with something I’d been anxiefying about: I’m not getting anything done, just less-than-usually-focused work at the job and reading (and, granted, recuperating) at home. Must do more. And I thought a seedling thought I want to cultivate here. … After a blank pause, I see again the need to select and cultivate seedling ideas — they slip out of view so easily. What is that little idea, again? There’s a germ of something useful in it, not just another fact, but something I need now for my own good (no sarcasm).
Here are the two things side-by-side to elicit the pollination: 1) Bruno’s insight that if we wish we were a woodworker we might find we’re simply buying woodworking tools, not actually working wood. I sometimes I buy a graphite pencil or a hand-hold-able sketch pad because I wish I were drawing, I wish I were an artist. As I read about Bruno selling his woodworking tools, I thought that I would instead use up all the art materials I have — that would be as challenging as the stories of someone told he has to spend $1million and have not a cent left over at the end of x months or whatever (I didn’t pay close attention to that story). To use up all my art materials — the papers, pencils, inks, watercolor. Imagine! IMAGINE that. What a thrilling challenge that is. What if I could do that in 333 days? Wow. And no buying new materials till these are used up.
But I was mulling about the reading — more! — and so, the other thing to put beside Bruno’s wish:buy insight is … what is that slippery bit of thinking? … is that I am reading about a bunch of things right now all circling around two things really — how to spot and do what I’d be best at and then how to do that the best way. So, not only do I want to dig in to find out what my best contribution(s) might be but also teach myself better techniques of accomplishing what I’d better accomplish. Writing, clearly, is not going to be my best contribution. Drat. Ah wait, writing clearly would be a great contribution, to myself if to no one else.
Someday Bruno may work with wood and it would be a wish come true for him, and there’s more to say about that, touching on his important-to-me insights about self perception and the woodworking wish encompassing a larger man with calloused hands wish — if he does woodworking, it’ll be when he decides the wood is calling to him even after he has grown into his own smaller frame and smoother hands, even after the wish to be other than he is has blown out like a candles flame.
Suppose … what if … what keeps me from the art supplies is the struggle with an artist wish; until I am the artist I wish I were, I feel inadequately obsessed, unauthorized to spend my time at a drawing board. It has to be me, who also likes computers and teaching/learning and intellectual puzzles and wants to play cello, me, who picks up the pencil each time, arts all over a paper’s surface, tosses or keeps it, keeps doing it often. If I’m not entitled without the obsession (not Van Gogh) then honesty keeps me in check. Honestly, I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m not a Van Gogh. Untangle the wishes and let that one flicker. The other flame is that joy of marking marking marking — that joy does not obligate me to become a Van Gogh, which I can’t do anyway, and is not something I have to pay for somehow by earning the right or by buying a course or a kit or whatever. The fact of the joy is the cause of the wish to repeat the joy by sketching, and the fact of the joy the sole sole sole justification for time spent in joying it.
But the reading … 2) I keep ‘shopping’ for more books to consume because I wish to be more educated; it is flatly impossible to know it all. It is extremely important to practice knowing what I know. So the reading has nearly come to overrun the initial motivation of learning a bit to bolster and direct my quest to spot my capacities and better act on them and has the risk of consuming what is now known rather than continuing to learn while knowing what I know — however temporarily until I know better. I was slipping away from reading to fill a need and was reading to feed a ‘more!’ I still need some recuperation, but I needed to reflect here to this extent on these seedling ideas. A thing I know is that I need to write about these ideas and put them into action through my hands, or it is popcorn all, nothing taking root.
I had to come back into this post a bit and stick with the ideas a little longer to get a bit more growth, a better chance that the ideas will grow up. They’re so slippery or quiet or half-seen. They’re not really in hand initially.