Tolkien on Becoming a New Person

The spider lay dead beside him, and his sword-blade was stained black. Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.

“I will give you a name,” he said to it, “and I shall call you Sting.”

After that he set out to explore.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Sartre on Story

You seem to start from the beginning… and, in reality, you have started at the end.

…everything changes when you tell about life… things happen one way and we tell about them in the opposite sense. You seem to start from the beginning: “It was a fine autumn evening in 1922. I was a notary’s clerk in Maromme.” And, in reality, you have started at the end…

The end is there, transforming everything. For us, the man is already the hero of the story… we feel that the hero has lived all the details of this night like annunciations, promises, or even that he lived only those that were promises, blind and deaf to all that did not herald adventure.

We forget that the future was not yet there; the man was walking in a night without forethought, a night which offered him a choice of dull, rich prizes, and he did not make his choice.

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Chris Anderson on Leadership

I think that leading people is perhaps the most important skill these days… Helping (and inspiring) other people to do cool stuff is what an editor does, and when you take it out of a purely professional media context that looks more and more like effective community management. It’s a great skill and I admire those who do it well.

Chris Anderson, Wired Editor in Chief

Dorothy Sayers on Art

There is power in the recognition… the single and indivisible act of a creative mind.

[An artist] is a man who not only suffers the impact of external events but also experiences them. He puts the experience into words in his own mind, and in so doing recognizes the experience for what it is… By thus recognizing it in its expression, he makes it his own — integrates it into himself… it is no longer something happening to him, but something happening in him: the reality of the event is communicated to him in activity and power.

So that the act of the [artist] in creation is seen to be threefold — a trinity — experience, expression, and recognition: the unknowable reality in the experience; the image of that reality known in its expression; and power in the recognition, the whole making up the single and indivisible act of a creative mind.”

work-in-progress

For those of you visiting this site in browsers other than Safari, I feel your pain. I recently viewed this site on another machine and much of the beauty is lost to some formatting glitches. I hope to have those fixed in the next while.

I’m happy with how often I seem to be drawn here to post. It comes and goes… but there are times this web canvas is an attractive forum for thought. When I’m in deeper trouble, I tend to be more introspective and less ends up here. I turn to my sketchpad, my personal thought-bucket. The thoughts trickle back into public places once I’ve had a “Eureka!” moment, or when I can’t hold it in any longer.

This is one of those times.

outside my window

I am working out something within me that seems to nag whenever I reach a period of stability. Somehow, right now, I have more passion and creativity; but it’s stagnated, dirty water in a puddle: like I have words but nothing to say. I am more prepared than ever before to burst into what I want to do, but I’m creating less than any previous period. Why?

I feel trapped by stability.

For me, freedom is a Very Big Thing™. Keeping my options open falls above engagement in my subconscious reflexes. Options give me the illusion of control.

Bizarrely, and – this is where I’m wanting to understand myself – I pair aloofness with responsibility. I frequently bind myself to roles and ways of thinking that negatively cut down the emotional and creative side, in the name of duty – and in the name of power: power to keep my options open.

In the end I bind myself twice – to self-imposed responsibilities and exile from true engagement.

That’s why I turn to writing, sketching, drawing. Not usually here, public like this – but writing helps me work out my ideas, just like photography & music help me work out my emotions. I’ve been taught how to listen to my internal themes to avoid the siren call of distraction, and when something’s up my gut pulls me to express it so I can work things out.

And this writing, this expression is the art. It helps me remember: I am not bound to freedom. I am free so that I can live life fully – to create, engage, be broken and re-create. That, to be bound to things worth holding is not a cage.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

— Dr. Howard Thurman

[updated to work out the 3AM writing delirium]

Kurt Vonnegut on Writing

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

  1. Find a subject you care about
  2. Do not ramble, though
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Have guts to cut
  5. Sound like yourself
  6. Say what you mean
  7. Pity the readers

— Kurt Vonnegut, “Palm Sunday”

Dorothy Day on Love

It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause as they have loved a woman. They have loved the brotherhood, the workers, the poor, the oppressed – but they have not loved man; they have not loved the least of these. They have not loved “personally.” It is hard to love. It is the hardest thing in the world, naturally speaking. Have you ever read Tolstoy’s Resurrection? He tells of political prisoners in a long prison train, enduring chains and persecution for the love of their brothers, ignoring those same brothers on the long trek to Siberia. It is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love.

— Dorothy Day, “Meditations”