Movement, Balance & The Art of Being Still

5 12 2012

Silas House, in his essay The Art of Being Still, expresses beautifully the delicate equilibrium between movement and stillness.

Writing is a very active pursuit: there is the fluid flow of words, the vivid visualisations, and perhaps some brain rattling to squeeze out those ideas onto the written page.

Mr. House points out one jarring problem, however: “too many writers today are afraid to be still”.

Like me, Mr. House is constantly in motion. But he also knows there can be movement in stillness: “We writers must learn how to become still in our heads, to achieve the sort of stillness that allows our senses to become heightened.”

We must ingest and digest simultaneously, as Eddie from the movie Limitless put it, and as I explained here.

Most tellingly, the Chinese word for movement is 動靜 – dong jing. Dong means movement, jing means stasis and quiet. Put together you have a beautiful word that perfectly exemplifies the equilibrium between the two. Movement and stillness are not polarities – they are in fact forever in balance.

Mr. House gives his essay a roaring finale with these fine words:

I give it to you now and hope that you will take it out into the waiting world, pushing forth through all of your daily work and joys and struggles with a bit of your mind focused on reality and the larger part of it quiet, still, and always thinking like a writer.

Yes, move. But stay still, too. And hang on tight – it’s going to be a hell of a ride!


I dwell in Possibility…

22 06 2011

Poetry? Blehh. I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, and I’d rather stay away from it.

At least that’s what I used to think – until I met Ruth Padel.

I didn’t actually meet Ruth Padel personally. I read her two books, 52 Ways of Looking At A Poem and 60 Poems For The Journey Of Life. As I immersed myself in the books, I realised how interesting poetry could be. Poems are full of life, meaning, inspiration…and movement.

How is poetry movement? There are words dancing down and across the page. Sounds flicker and ricochet throughout. Colours weave in and out. Vivid images are projected. Each poem is a journey. We might read it linearly from beginning to end, but I don’t think the poem itself is as simple as that. Good poems are more like spirals. They twirl, twist, swivel, spin. They are interlocking journeys of thoughts, feelings, associations, images, as Ruth Padel puts it.

Where does all this winding and whirling lead to? Truth, I think: “the spiraling dance and winding stair are poetry’s road to truth”. But here’s the thing – truths can lie. Paradoxical? Not really. The poem can lie, but the lies are true to what the poet “sees, feels, imagines”. Truths in the poem can also contradict each other, but that’s the whole point.

Do you have no contradictions? Then you have no possibilities.

Czech author Vladimir Holan

That’s probably what’s most exciting about poems. They’re full of new possibilities and inspiration. Poems embody the possibilities of seeing new truths.

I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors–                                 Emily Dickinson

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