Composing our Lives

Wednesday January 4, 2006

Woodmoor Village

I was struck today by a typically thought-provoking post written by the indefatigable Nacho, who has been blogging away at Woodmoor Village” since before thinkBuddha was even a twinkle in my eye. Nacho’s post was written for Thanksgiving and mentions, almost in passing, the idea of blogging as a process of “composing our lives with others”. This is a striking and resonant phrase, not least because it can be read on so many levels. After visiting Woodmoor Village, I went on over to Chambers dictionary to look up “compose”. Chambers gave me the following:

compose verb (composed, composing) 1 tr & intr to create (music). 2 to write (a poem, letter, article, etc). 3 to make up or constitute something. 4 to arrange as a balanced, artistic whole 5 to calm (oneself); to bring (thoughts, etc) under control. 6 to settle (differences between people in dispute). 7 printing to arrange (type) or set (a page, etc) in type ready for printing.

What I like about this is that it brings together so much of what I aim to do through blogging: a process of creation, of writing, of constituting something new, of arranging thoughts in a balanced whole, of bringing all these unruly thoughts that assail me under control, a process of calming and settling, arranged upon the page (or the screen) for others to read.

Of course, our lives are not works of art that are composed once and for all. The painter Bonnard was notorious for reworking his paintings throughout his life, even taking them off the gallery wall to apply a bit more paint here, to make a small modification there. This may or may not be reprehensible in a painter (surely there is a time when we should let the work stand as it is), but it is necessary in terms of our own lives. The task is one without any clear ending, a process of continual recomposition in the company of others.

Once, several years ago, when I was talking to a Buddhist friend about what I really wanted from life, I surprised myself by saying that what I wanted above all else, was to have interesting conversations. This is not as trivial as it sounds: it is about a certain quality both of reflection and of relationship with others. This sense of deep conversation, of a reflective and shared approach to the questions that life presents us with, seems important only not for its own sake (although surely it is important for its own sake), but also so that when it comes to our acting in the world, it might be possible to act with at least a modicum of wisdom. Blogging, for me, is a part of this on-going conversation. And both online and off, I am grateful for such good company along the way.

# · Sabio Lantz

In a fascinating psychology book called “59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot”(2009) Richard Wiseman (a psychologist, I think) reviews evidence and fraud in Self-Help books. In chapter one he tells of the therapeutic effects of writing and how it differs significantly from telling or thinking. It seems there is something to composing!

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