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.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Faith in the process

In contemplating the nature of teleology (evaluating everything in terms of an end goal) and finding meaning in the present moment, I've been thinking a lot about process. Process may do a lot to bring the two together.

You'll hear a lot of talk about process these days -- the artistic process, the legal process, the democratic process, the diplomatic process, the therapeutic process . . . and let's not forget the spiritual process. In all these different processes, people begin with a specific end in mind, and at the same time don't know how things are going to turn out. They believe that things will work to their best conclusion by application of the process . . . and yet it is not a deterministic process. When the artist makes his first brush stroke, he doesn't necessarily know what the whole picture will be like. The novelist may start typing with the story only half-formed (if that) in his mind. And yet they still dive into the process. They have faith in the process; they believe it will work, even though they don't know how or even why it works.

Faith in the process is the closest I can come to describing what feels like the most appropriate way to consider meaning and purpose. We can apply certain principles to our life and work, and faithfully apply ourselves to the process, trusting that the process will produce a good outcome without necessarily knowing what the outcome will be. It might even be counter-productive to insist on a clear vision of the outcome before beginning to act. We should have a notion of where we might want to go -- otherwise we are just aimlessly drifting -- but we can hold that vision of the future very lightly, allowing it to evolve and unfold in a dialog with our own experience. Process is not necessarily squishy, just because it is non-deterministic. A writer may not know what he's going to write every day, but the process of "sit in the chair and keep writing until you've produced 2000 words" is very demanding and not squishy at all.

Finding that process -- consciously understanding what to do, even without knowing it's final outcome -- is the goal of all philosophy. I don't think most people want to know how their lives will turn out -- otherwise, why live at all? -- but they do want to have principles to guide their moment-by-moment action, inevitably but unpredictably leading them towards the good, the right, and the true. In process, being faithful to the moment can ultimately mean being faithful to the final end.


Blogger Kenny Felder said...

I really like the fact that "plan for the future vs. live in the moment" is becoming a recurring theme.

At the same time, I'm honestly not sure what you mean by "faith in the process," despite the fact that I know it is an Augie catch-phrase. Presumably it does *not* mean that you define a process and then stick to it religiously, without every stopping to question and revise the process itself: that seems like a recipe for disaster.

So I'm not trying to pick nits here, I really don't get it: what do you mean by faith? It is shorthand for desparation?

6:24 AM  

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