Saturday, 12 March 2011

Being and not being


In my book New Age Encyclopaedia I mention the physicist David Bohm who suggests that reality is made up not simply of matter and energy but of matter, energy and meaning. In human terms, you could think of this as ‘having’, ‘doing’ and ‘being’. Science tends to ignore the dimension of meaning and we in our lives forget the importance of simply being. We rush around buying things, ticking off items on our ‘to do’ lists and trying to be successful in our work and then we wonder why we’re so unhappy. That is the way we’re taught to be, that is the way our society is arranged, and I hope I’m not being pompous in presuming I’m not the only person like this and in speaking for others as well as myself.
            In a previous posting I mentioned artists’ dates. I took myself off again two days ago. I went for a walk. But not any old walk. I left the dog with a dogminder and I left my writing notebook and camera at home. As I trudged up the muddy footpath behind the house, I realised that my walks, which I had always thought of as my relaxation, were in fact far from relaxing. Not only did I have to keep an eye out for the dog (Will she chase those sheep two fields away? Will she get stuck down that badger hole? Will she go and jump all over those nice men putting up a fence whom she adores?) but, even if I wasn’t actually writing and taking pictures, I was forever doing so in my head. How would that tree stump look in a photograph? How would I frame it? How would I describe that yellow leaf in the middle of the path or that ivy trailing down the bank? What words would I use? It took the absence of camera and notebook for me to realise that.
            It was Frog, as ever, who gave me the clue.
            I have a secret vice – I LOVE clothes – which for somebody who spends their life in jeans, fleeces and wellies is rather sad. The biggest treat I can give myself is to wander round clothes shops and buy myself something new. Or so I thought. Increasingly over the years however I have enjoyed my shopping trips less and less.
            ‘I can’t find anything I like,’ I would moan to Frog as I collapsed at home, footsore and empty handed.
            ‘How would it be’, said Frog a few days ago, ‘if you told yourself you weren’t allowed to spend any money?’
            And of course he was absolutely right. Spending money is just another obligation. What I really enjoy about shopping is gazing at colours and shapes, and feeling fabrics, and dreaming about clothes I might wear or how I might adapt the clothes I already have, and coming across something totally new that gives me all sorts of ideas for the different sort of person I could be. Without the pressure to spend, browsing round shops could become fun again.
            I didn’t need to acquire clothes and I didn’t need to pin down whatever I experienced on my walks and turn it into something else. I didn’t need to be productive.
            Like my cafe lunch last week, I didn’t notice finding the walk in itself particularly relaxing. My brain may not have been planning pictures and writing but it was still whirring away. What shall I cook for supper? Could I wear that with that? But later, as I stirred the supper, I felt different inside. I felt a sort of dark strength, like a blackboard behind me propping me up. I felt like I had an inside, instead of being a nothing pulled from the outside in all directions.
I thought of one of Roselle’s blogs (http://www.roselle-angwin.blogspot.com/ ) (and I hope she won’t mind me quoting from it). Roselle is a writing teacher with a difference. She doesn’t so much teach you technique as how to put yourself in the right frame of mind for being creative. She talks about ‘finding ways to slip in to, and maybe even dwell in, that space where words might arise, but haven’t yet’, about waiting for ideas and words to arise naturally from the unconscious, about feeling the tug on the line that signals an idea, words ready to be written. Creativity arises from the unconscious she says, the mind’s wilderness or rainforest. Not from the suburban garden of the conscious mind.
I realised that being - not-doing and not-having – was probably one of the most productive things I could do.
            I’m into the third month of a six-month on-line novel-writing course taught by Roselle. So far I have chapter one, a rough plot and some characters, but I haven’t added to the text for a fortnight – or at least not rainforest stuff. How long do I have to wait for the next tug on the line?
I’ve realised something else though. I don’t write to please teacher, nor even to produce a brilliant, best-selling novel. I write to be a happier and more complete person. ‘Writers’, says Roselle, ‘need to cultivate tolerance for entering and staying in these wordless places for as long as it takes.’ I must try and remember that next time I panic about being a sort of writer who doesn’t write. Even if I’m not adding to the novel, I’m learning about ‘being’.
And at least I came up with the idea for this blog entry (or 'post' as they call it).




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