Sunday, February 17, 2008

632. On writing

These past almost-two months of (more or less) daily writing have been an interesting learning experience. Until embracing ritual in the form of Jewish observance, I was resolutely against the idea of doing anything the same way from one time to the next. This vow didn't always translate into action: for three years, for example, I bought my coffee and buttered roll from the exact same coffee shop at just about exact same minute each morning. (Eventually they learned to watch for me as I crossed the street, and would hand me a bag of breakfast the instant I walked in.) I think I allowed myself the luxury of devising insignificant patterns because I didn't want to succumb to larger ones. I refused to apply the same insights more than once to any creative endeavor, and even remained with boyfriends longer than I should have because I feared making the same mistakes as before--better to stick with a bad but unique solution. Strange but true.

But the discipline of fixed prayer has taught me that certain insights can only be discovered through repetition, after you've plumbed the surface for so long that you have no choice but go deeper. You get bored, or think you'll go nuts if you have to read the same sentence one more time, and then a word will jump out that will put your whole day, or life, into perspective. We live to learn, which we can do only if ready to receive wisdom. It's like the lottery: if you're in it you can win it. The more I pray, the more I place myself in the right frame of mind to understand what I'm saying.

The practice of writing in this blog (even if just two words) seems to be teaching the same lesson. Writing slows down life, and forces me to look more closely at daily miracles that might go by unnoticed. I often write best when I sit down with nothing to say. Like Musaf on some Shabbat mornings when I forget how cool it is to sing and pray and can only think about lunch after services end, I am tempted to imagine how great I'll feel when the year is over and I rest on the laurels of those 365 posts. I need to remind myself of the the whole point of this exercise: to create a framework and disciple that will help me enjoy the journey as it happens. This is also why we pray: to find the sublime within the routine, word by repetitive word.

Meanwhile, I like to think that my two-word posts, for reasons I might figure out one day in a thousand-word post, are exactly what I need to hear at that very moment.

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