Doing

I’m getting sort of stressed, realizing how much stuff I need to do in order to live a truly minimalist life. I have far too many clothes, books, DVDs, appliances, cooking utensils, gadjets. All of these are destroying my chances of happiness. They are keeping me from Getting Things Done and focusing on the One Thing that Matters, or even figuring out what that One Thing is.

Getting that Zen thing down takes a lot of effort. Maybe I’ll look for another article to read.

Recently I’ve read a lot of articles and a couple books about minimalism, organization, getting things done. All of this gives me new ways to spend my time without really producing anything. I can take in a lot of advice without really changing anything inside me.

It may be that enlightenment is approaching, because I am finally beginning to understand what I already know: life isn’t about Getting Things Done; it’s about Doing Things.

Proponents of GTD will say, “Of course. That’s what GTD is all about — getting the time and focus to accomplish what’s important to you.”

But that’s not exactly what I mean. What I have learned about myself is that a sense of accomplishment is less satisfying to me than the accomplishing. Getting there is better than being there.

Wordsworth said, “All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Ask yourself which is more important: the emotion or the recollection — or the resulting poem? For me, the the poem is less important than the emotion and its recollection. The act of writing is more satisfying than “having written.” Working on a story — getting ideas, inventing characters and scenes — is not a chore that must be finished so that I can mail out another box of pages. It’s just what I do.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie Harvey is Veta Lousie Simmons’ explanation of what art is: More

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Plagiarizing Poet, part 2

The Plagiarizing Poet has struck again. How can this be? Was I not stern enough the last time?

It is (according to him) my fault. Did I really expect him to write eight poems?

(Tiresome excuses continue as Dax rolls eyes and uses body language to say, ‘Do I look like an idiot? Or are you one?)

Dax: Well, the good news is that we can now answer the question, “Am I passing?”

PP: Do you mean that I have an F?

Dax (palm itching to slap own forehead): Why, yes. If my math is correct, zero plus zero still equals zero. More

Greek Class

This box of silent books troubles me.
Its sides are caved in, disappointed
by my worn out excuses.
If I bend the flaps open,
mustiness closes my nose
and I am in Greek class again.

You taught us Greek as if it were math;
every particle fit an order so crisp, so elegant
like lines of geometry, profoundly simple.
Real life never fit into those neat declensions,
but slipped between, untidy fallacies:
love, death, anger, time.

Honest words
I groped towards meaning
through the clutter of English
our language too soft, too dull
to reflect their many facets.
My mind, a sieve, tried to catch
small particles that orbited
around a larger meaning.

In later years words became mere tools
to pry apart life’s meaning.
But experience did not yield
like sentences we chalked on your board,
took apart, reconstructed, proved,
disproved by theorems of grammar.
What is the grammar of love?
How shall we construe death?
Where is the paradigm for despair?

Sitting on the desk you smoked cigarette
after cigarette lighting up every seven minutes
hands trembling from nicotine your body
no longer felt.  Inspired, we inhaled.
We had no choice — Greek and smoke
together, filtering meaning through haze.

You could not teach us poetry:
you were never a doer or a maker.
But as we sang the rising/falling accents of ancient words
Ancient music came to life, long-dead people
talking, arguing, loving, dying to that music.
English makes a science of these sounds:
they do not play on our ears
or dance on a stage.

But cigarettes and alcohol
and all the things you (being no poet)
could not do or make
broke your paradigm.
Like a Pythagorean discovering the impossible proof
You had to die, or change your religion.
You could not change, so you died.

I have kept my books:
Plato, Xenophon, Herodotus.
Like friends I have not written to in years
they needle my conscience,
draw my guilt like blood.
Sometimes
I open the box,
lift a volume out, feel
its weight, gently
turn fragile pages, run my eyes
over words that have faded.
That slow ache
is one more untidy detail.

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