Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Gradualism in action

I had picked up a penchant for Scrabble a couple years ago, and fed it with Hasbro's computer program for a little while before it fell away. My Treo 650 smartphone, however, suddenly allowed me to play the game in tiny doses at almost any time and place. I found myself whipping it out in all my spare moments -- on the toilet, lying in bed, during the kids' bath, waiting for someone to call me back. Those moments never seemed like a dedicated block of time, but boy did they add up. For a while I was playing two to three games a day, about an hour to an hour and a half of game time, every day.

About a month ago, at the very same moment I decided to work more closely with the UNC SKS, I stopped playing Scrabble. It just stopped seeming like a good idea. I think part of what prompted it was seeing one of my clients playing Solitaire on his computer, and feeling a smug disdain, and suddenly realizing that my Scrabble fixation looked a lot like his, only worse, because at least he had no illusions that he was not utterly wasting his time.

So . . . what happened to all that time. Well, predictably, I found another way to fill in those moments. Hopefully, a better one: I listen to audio books. Again, a miracle of the smartphone: you can carry around dozens of audiobooks in your pocket, so you don't even have to wait until your driving to listen to them. In the last month or two, I have read/listened to:
  • The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Freakonomics
  • Something Rotten, by Jaspar Fforde
  • A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle
  • On Writing, by Stephen King

It's not meditating on ultimate reality, but it's a hell of a lot closer to the way I want to live my life than Scrabble.

I write this mostly to toot my horn and celebrate a small victory. Richard Rose wrote that, in the spiritual life, "you must use gradualism, even as gradualism was used on you." He believed that the spiritual path was a "backing away from untruth," constantly getting rid of the things that were less-than-conducive to living for the truth, and replacing them with better things. It's nice to notice that it still works.


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