Post principles and Shodo

As I started with this blog I focused on themes – a particular theme for each post. This was a good forcing mechanism to get myself to narrow on a meaningful message and not just ramble.

Last week I tried a different format – Bits and Pieces – because there were loose ends of things I wanted get on ‘paper’ before I forgot. They reflected meaningful moments – aha’s, little insights, big steps. I want to be able revisit these and unpack them, and explore new understanding.

Today I am somewhere in the middle and it’s making me think about principles around posts.

  1. I don’t want to ramble and lack focus/meaning.
  2. But I don’t want to worry so much about having it just right that I don’t write at all.
  3. I want to be excited about writing, not feel like it is a chore.
  4. I’m hoping for patterns, but rather have them emerge and not be forced.
  5. And so as not to stress myself out, focus on writing, for me – in order to encourage conversations with me about things that fascinate me, and if others join in, that’s definitely a bonus!

I have moments in the day where I’m really excited about a topic and am eager to write, but then face the reality of a full day at work, an evening at home with family and dogs and house work and me work, and that energy and enthusiasm dwindles.

Putting all that together, what’s a good strategy? What will set me up to write with enthusiasm and meaning? This brings me to my experimentation of the moment – bits and pieces, but with an emerging theme. Or the other way around – an emerging theme, but with lots of bits and pieces

One particular moment of pleasure stands out for today, which almost prompts a theme: coming home to a package from Amazon and seeing it was a particular book I ordered yesterday and started reading online shortly after. It was meaningful because of a number of connections to past ideas and events – and I thought for a moment, which connection do I follow as part of the blog? I can’t write about all of them at once.

My mind wandered into several directions and I felt overwhelmed and uncertain where to start – I wanted to get that spark down, but now had so much else I wanted to tackle.

I stepped back and did a quick mind map sketch, starting with the pleasure of that package and how it connected to a number of other important topics. And that mind map offers a quick glimpse into how I tick – the many things I think about and connections I make at any given moment. All of which I want to write about, because as I do, I have more clarity, both into the topics themselves as well as what they mean as they connect with each other and connect with me. And taking time to understand them, reflect on why they fascinate me, and draw deeper connections between them and what they teach me will ultimately make me a better person.

Here is the mind map sketch. For this post, I’ll focus only on what triggered the most enthusiasm and why – but eventually, I’ll follow up on other topics (some I already have).

Shodo inspired mind map
Shodo inspired mind map

The book is Shodo, the Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy. I was in the Barnes and Nobles a few days ago and it spoke to me; I looked at it, wanted to buy it, but already had 2 other books in hand. Lately I’ve spent more time in bookstores, ‘listening’ to the books, perusing the shelves and letting them speak to me. Maybe people do that all the time? I don’t – I usually go in with a specific intent, to buy one particular book, instead of just wandering and exploring. But I’ve been on this kick of trying to get at my purpose and will work with any signal I can get. Some months ago I forced myself to be quiet and listen, and let books grab me, and boy did a lot grab me! More on that another time.

Something about this book struck me deeply; I could stare at the pages for hours, but I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because it looks familiar? Years ago I dabbled in Sumi-e painting, . I think it’s more than that, though. I think what fascinates me is that on the surface it looks so simple, but underneath are so many complexities. You can’t easily replicate any one of the zengo. It takes rigor, practice and structure, yet in the end, to really make a true zengo, you must let go. And there is so much mystery, spirit and emotion in a small package, in one simple looking ideogram.

It’s the depth and complexity, combined with something visually so simple that resonates. And there is the emotional element, and the energy element it reflects. The first chapter describes a fascinating study done many years ago, where it looked at true shodo masterpieces against forgeries under an electron microscope and found alignment of carbon particles on the true works, and chaos in the particles on the forgery. This alignment is a result of the energy that comes together as the artist sets his body, mind and spirit together towards this one activity, and brings his energy, his ki, into the preparation and into the artwork. The books also discusses how this art form requires time, patience, practice, depth…did I mention time? How important it is to take the time to do things well…

Shodo, art, books about art, art thinking, energy, emotion, trying something new, experimenting, signals into true self, time, patience, mindfulness, stillness, meditation….all connected.