December 31, 2010. In the past month, I chose to re-dedicate myself to the practice of writing. I had an attractive “nudge” to do so: the #reverb10 project.
Each day, a prompt for thoughtful reflections would arrive in my email inbox. Some struck me as silly or juvenile, some really interesting, and some maddening — but all accomplished their purpose, which was to provide inspiration for writing. After Christmas, after 25 days of blogging, it was time for a break.
I’m old enough that it didn’t bother me in the slightest if I did not adhere precisely to the literal surface value of the words in each prompt. I used the prompt as a “center of gravity,” or as a firm surface against which to push, to gain some traction, and to move forward. I wrote about comical things, serious things, and I hope that what I wrote was interesting. I proved to myself that I can write, and I can write every day.
After 25 days, the prompts started to feel repetitive to me. I also experienced a shift, largely inspired by #reverb10. After three weeks of devoting myself to reflection, I was ready to emerge from the cocoon and fly, gracefully, into action. Inspired by several of the prompts, I began to picture the kind of office I would like to have, the kind of home environment I would like to have, and so on — and then I felt full. Time to stop, and start to do. As I have written previously here, I launched into a massive re-organization of my office (the bathroom closet and the dresser are next!) and I feel that sunny virtuousness that comes from doing satisfying work that is largely hidden from public view.
“To everything there is a season,” as the Good Book says. A time to reflect and prepare, and a time to produce, to act, to create. There is too little reflection in our culture and society. Our actions, personally, nationally, globally, are mistakenly described as bold, courageous, or strong, when in fact they are merely rash and reactive. Intelligent action requires a prelude of reflection, of careful thinking and planning, or at least noticing — in order to have the freedom to act spontaneously with strength and power. This is the foundation of the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, and the Feldenkrais Method.
There’s also a danger in spending so much time in reflection that you never DO anything. I think that, as with any appetite, allowing oneself to gratify the urge will eventually establish a healthy limit. You can feel it when you’ve had enough to eat, or drink — that is, if you haven’t dulled your senses so much that you habitually ignore yourself. Likewise, the emotions of sadness and grief might not turn into long-term depression if we simply allow ourselves to feel what we feel, without rushing or judging — until we have had our fill, and are ready to move on. And so it is with reflection. Stare at yourself in the mirror long enough, and you’re going to put on some lipstick or brush your hair eventually! And then, it’s time to take yourself out in the world to do something.
Reflection and action are two sides of the same coin, and both are better for their acquaintance with other. I think the key is not to imagine some arbitrary place “in the middle” where “we have a balance.” In that balance is inertia. No, we need a dynamic balance: we navigate along a spectrum, as life sometimes requires more action and less reflection, and other times require the opposite. We adapt, we flow, we live.
[Thanks for reading this month. Thanks to all the new readers and friends who contributed so much to my world and my awareness as I read their reflections in comments here, and on their own blogs. I’ll continue to write every day, or almost every day, in 2011. Some of what I write will appear here. Come back any time!]