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.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Writing as a Spiritual Discipline . . . no, Really

I was pitching some SKS students on a collaborative spiritual blog, and one of them raised a concern: "I would think that constantly publishing your thoughts would be egotistical, and be counter to an attitude of humility and service." Granted, he had just come back from many months with the brothers at Mepkin Abbey, who probably would find a blog to be somewhat self-aggrandizing. But I wanted to take the question head-on: of what spiritual value is blogging?
  • Public exposure can kill egos as well as create them. Public forums, and constant exposure to your peers, is actually less likely to inculcate intractable egotism than staying isolated. Other people pick up on your egotism far faster than you will . . . and they are usually only too glad to point it out. If your egotistical monologue remains only in your head, it can live their for decades unchecked. But if it expresses itself out in the open, at least it's more likely to be challenged and deflated. This is one of the primary directives in the whole SKS philosophy that Augie Turak has articulated for decades: you need a group of peers in a spiritual search, to provide a check against the untrammelled ego as well as providing general support and fellowship.
  • Some truths only emerge clearly when put into words. I think it was Socrates who said, in essence, "If you can't say it, you don't know it." I have often started blog entries with a firm opinion in mind, only to ditch them halfway because I realized my arguments sucked. I have been accused (usually behind my back) of (gasp) talking too much. Ironicially, it's not necessarily because I think I have a lot to say. Rather, I figure out half of what I'm really thinking by saying it. By blogging, at least, I'm sparing some poor souls the burden of politely listening to my half-baked ideas.
  • People perform better for an audience. Almost all performers (actors, musicians, etc.) will tell you that a good audience makes all the difference in giving a good performance. Audiences can evoke the best in the performance, literally giving them a reason to give their all to the performance. I would never put as much effort into my writing if I didn't know it was actually being read.
  • You actually have a duty to share. You have to share what you've learned with others. That's part of the formula for spiritual enlightenment, according to Augie's teacher Richard Rose, among many others. True, you may only be saying something someone else said, much better, at a different time and place. That really doesn't matter. For someone, it's probably still new, and better than what they heard before.
  • Writing is continuous meditation. Writing makes you engage life more completely. I read more, listen more, think more, reflect more, for the sake of my writing. None of these things is spiritual in and of itself, but the spiritual path is just a continuous attempt to "keep your head on it," to keep your attention focused on the truth.


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