Beyond my window, robins, wrens, blue tits and blackbirds are nest-building, with bursts of passion. Dipping in and out of view, they settle shortly on a deck chair, branch or flowerpot, balancing lavish bouquets of fluff, moss, twigs and leaves, before darting off towards the next promising material. The birds winging through my garden make me happy.
My thoughts wing in similar fashion dedicated to another passion, no less preparing for a new round of birth – in my case the writing of the next chapter of a novel. I anticipate with joy each few hours of unstructured time that allows me to visit my garden of recollections, a space where myths re-weave themselves from the fluff, moss, twigs and leaves of memories. Like the visions I brought into this world, ambivalent responses to my existence, altered states, affinity with elements, genetic markers, epigenetic quirks … my bundle of life that fell into a mould and was conditioned by socially convenient patterns of time.
Dividing reality into past, present and future time, measured by clocks and dated events, called facts, is a fairly modern idea that made Science the grail of knowledge. The best of science deepens our understanding of the cosmos and improves the quality of our lives, but its method is limited, not suited to go to court on another reality dimension, inner time, infinite, immeasurable, where our experiences assume meaning. We may walk through life like snapshots of ourselves, collecting capture after capture of evidence for our existence, while longing for a dimension within, the bridge to a spiritual presence hidden between each breath, a truth impossible to evaluate? Some religions banked divine capital in heaven. Science too, in its present phase, projects a kind of heavenly capital, hijacked by corporates selling us the future, a Promised Land of artificial intelligences catering to our every need, uncannily resembling the Matrix or Plato’s cave.
My rhythm of life changed when I dropped out – the second time in my life – taking the financial risk to work from home and make time to write, which I had failed to combine with careers, family and social obligations. The experiences were vital, up to a point. Now I relax about clocks and tend to my inner worlds. I crave unstructured time. Not everyone does.
Recently a friend reflected humorously on her frustration at finding herself with one hour to spare, having miscalculated her travel time. She would have been happy had she brought a book to read. Instead, she endured a dragging hour of unplanned, wasted time. Intrigued, we reflected on this sense of loss when there is unexpectedly nothing in particular to attend to.
Is there merit in unstructured time … what do you think? Is it only for children, is it a luxury, a waste, or an opportunity to shift perspectives, discover your passion, break the mould and loosen up your ideas of reality? I don’t see unstructured time being much encouraged, or its lovely randomness being valued. I was burdened by the message that my imagination is fanciful, a kind of debility. It took me decades to claim the time for my passion, writing …
This seems the place to share a personal rant, blaming no one in particular, since, from where I look the rift between head and heart that is tearing apart the fabric of western societies may yet need to become wider before the peril is addressed. If the media is anything to go by, meaningful purpose, visions, let alone joie de vivre, are overshadowed by collective gloom. Feel free to disagree with my take on this. Straining under the pressure to change, I see our systems are attempting to cement a shaky launch pad towards a logarithmic future, with good intentions, though the consequences are dire. Every aspect of our lives is in danger of becoming: over-calculated, over-regulated, over-efficient, over-specialised, over-mechanised, over-prescriptive, over-secured, over-insured, over-compartmentalised, over-conglomerated, and over-economised.
On a more cheerful note, young people in their 30s, at least the ones I know, are asking sharp questions, and are finding ingenious ways to play with, while not getting sucked mindlessly into programmes that abuse data, spoon feed illusions, appeal to personal anxieties, invade privacy, and insult the intelligence of creative individuals.
Back to the birds winging through my garden …
* * *
To see a world in a grain of sand
And Heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour … W. Blake, from Auguries of Innocence
12 responses to “… inner time – writing – rant …”
I’m glad you finally have the time to explore your passion for writing. 🙂
I celebrate most days 🙂 and hope I won’t have to downgrade to a tent, having become accustomed to a few creature comforts.
Thoreau can be a great mentor on what do with unstructured time. Buckminster Fuller argued that if you picked any 1,000 people, and gave them free, unstructured time, one of them would come up with an idea to pay for the whole enterprise. But I think the best business people also understand that it’s in our unstructured time that we make unexpected discoveries about what’s actually going on around us, while the executive too tied to the day-planner may not end the day having learned of any new possibilities. The unstructured time also allows for non-specialized views. The reductio ad absurdum of so much specialty is twofold: 1, it leads, as Fuller explained, to extinction, and 2, it lends too easily to cloistered views. Good post. Have a good time with that chapter!
Thanks Joe. I wished there were more Thoreau’s and Bucky’s in this world, and Joe’s 🙂 Re: the chapter I’m working is difficult, ’cause at this point I must decide on a curve towards the conclusion, another 30 000 words or so before the characters walk out of the story. Still, the nest-builders and the first warm sun of the year today may inspire a good dream.
That “curve towards the conclusion” I am interested in. It suggests an “arch,” which is an important characteristic of literature. But on a lighter note, I love the idea of “characters walk out of the story.” Seriously, this sounds a bit like Ray Bradbury, but I love Bradbury. Anyway, characters walking out of a story, like an audience walking out of a theatre. It’s a cool, funny image. An escape from the author! The Great Escape. Not “Six Characters in Search of an Author” (Pirandello), but “Six Characters on the Run From an Author.” … Nest, sun, warm dream…
Ha, ha. I have a scene where a character says ‘It’s your damned story’ … Some want to take over, some might be glad to walk out, if I let them.
If you know what the character wants – well, that’s huge.
I find that unstructured time always carries with it a sense of guilt. I try hard to deny it space but my northern upbringing still niggles at my conscience. I think it has to be a gift to oneself and I will continue to try and find a way to enjoy it guilt -free
Same problem, niggling guilt. Last generation’s hard work moral, especially after the WW2. Sad, my dad insisted art and writing doesn’t earn you a living, though he’s an artist at heart. He took up painting late, still paints at 95. I wasn’t going to wait that long 🙂
Enyoyed your post and the comments. Cancelled hours are such a wonderful opportunity to explore, discover something new or simply do nothing but sit in the sun and watch the birds. Agree with Diane, a gift to oneself albeit as you say, not often available nor particularly encouraged, even for children nowadays, which is a shame. But writing isn’t just about writing. We need creative thinking or non-thinking time too. Love this in support of faffing around and doing nothing: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/13/7
Faffing around is good for you – ha,ha, love the article. And, seriously, some people are so busy they forget to breathe out.
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