Thursday, August 9, 2012

Removing Things

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” -Socrates

Most writers know that recognizing what to cut is equally as important as knowing what to add.  In my opinion, elegant writing is not long flowery passages, but being able to paint a portrait, create a mood, or convey an idea with as few well-chosen words as possible. 

It’s a lesson I try to apply on the page, yet it seems a lesson that applies to life as well. Creating peace, happiness, and/or satisfaction sometimes depends on what we choose to take away.

I just had some dear friends visit from the Bay Area to spend three days with Herman and I while they looked at property.  These friends, a couple, are loud, animated, and can fill any space with conversation. As much as we enjoy these friends, after a few hours of them being in my house, I was ready to return to a quiet, empty space where I can concentrate on my work. It made me appreciate the meager environment I’ve created for myself.

I place a high value on my work and contemplation and self-reflection, which means I spend a great deal of time alone. Yet, even though I love that, I often feel too removed from my husband, other people, and the physical world. You see, it takes a balancing act.

It’s great to love life—work, friends, spouse, new adventures—but if you overextend yourself to one extreme or the other, even the utmost passions can become stressful and overwhelming.

I think the key is balance, knowing when to cut back on certain activities in order to maintain a rich, full existence. A few dozen years ago, I was a person to stayed on the run, always busy with something. Through Zen meditation, I finally realized that I stayed busy to mask my loneliness, insecurity and emotional pain. Staying still allowed me to deal with, and finally work through those feelings.

There is a famous urban legend that someone once asked Michelangelo how he was able to create his masterful David. He replied, “I simply chiseled away everything that wasn’t David.”  By that same thinking I believe we can all chisel away all the thoughts and choices that don’t contribute to a balanced, fulfilling life, to find a masterpiece.

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