"Scribe ergo quae vidisti..."
the things which thou hast seen,
and the things which are,
and the things
which shall be
~ Revelation 1:19
These moments of the changing season offer an occasion to consider the recorded word itself. As we address our days, we are exercising our words and investing our thoughts into the preservation of our unfolding times. And when the waters calm, there can be just enough respite to realize what the soul has explored. An enjoyable opportunity to appreciate the trail takes shape in one of my sister’s projects. The other day, she told me about some good advice she’d gotten that involved a workbook on the theme of personal development. Being interested, I asked about the process, and in response she sent me the book which is essentially a structured set of open-ended questionnaires. Deciding to follow along, so we can compare insights, I found many correspondences to this very forum of reflective writing. There are considerations of past, present, and future hopes. For the context of the sphere of writing, here is a question from Finding Your Own North Star: "Are there any activities in which you participate that cause you to lose track of time?" And there are. So I wrote them down. One of them was writing.
One of my friends likes to refer to my having a hypergraphic streak, and perhaps there’s something to such jovial jabs to tell me I have stumbled into a writer’s life. But assuredly not a real writer. The sort of writing I do at my profession must be factual and unambiguous. Journal writing is different, having no rules, no assigned audience, and without a set pace or context. It’s really quite liberating, and reflective writing can take on any theme- including the topic of reflective writing. Be that as it may, one may be as the biblical clanging cymbal of insubstantial verbiage, or the pilgrimage and its narrative may be such that we "lose track of time." Years back, during a spirit-breaking crisis, I took a few days' leave of my job and life to journey to a monastery for a retreat. One of my colleagues sent me off with a small blank book, which I gratefully received while confessing that I had nothing to write and did not imagine myself to be a diary-keeping type. "You’ll have plenty to write, when you get there," my friend said. But, truly, don’t we do what we do because we know we must? Much like the life of faith, there are explorations, then reinforcing nurture; there are observances and reflections- or, if we will, there is reading and there is writing. As thoughts and words manifested together, it became necessary to write; It became vital, especially in the immediately ensuing years, that I cultivate the silent witness to my life’s voyages by articulating my adventures and thoughts in writing.
Might it be disruptive to the rhythm and flow of living one’s days, to be "taking notes?" Rather like some photographers who "get the shots," unaware of the magnificence and eloquence of their subject matter. No, not if the writing (or the photographing) is actually within the movement. We do, after all, need to breathe. If there’s no time to record thoughts now, there will be later. Indeed, holding a thought in a few short words, while waiting at a red light or on line at the bank, should convince the uncertain of their hypergraphia. If, during the more generous pauses, I am reflecting back on the week, it’s a review, and then when the written words parallel simultaneous thoughts it’s in real time. Sometimes the impressions’ additive sum surfaces quickly; other times, it’s what I call "doing the long division" of writing thoughts out in order to make sense of things. All of this is not to mention re-reading the musings, reliving the transatlantic flights, the coffee-break room at all the different jobs, lonesome diners, cafés in tiny villages and in majestic surroundings, the Appalachian Trail, or the laundromat. The vistas do vary, but it’s always the same pilgrim soul.
The narrative is the archival record of a soul’s traversal, across the pages of the days it has been given. Finding that so much of my recorded thoughts hovered around the "what was," and the "what I wish for," I am training my thoughts and words to engage the challenge of speaking to the "what is now." Through the maze of articulative navigation, the more authentic my reflections are, the more rejuvenated my pilgrimage. New truths are found while writing, and that is itself a motivation to continue. Surely, all pursuits have purposed goals, and perhaps here the goal is in the very pursuit itself- thus blurring the distinction. Like prayer, we may find ourselves deep in contemplation during which we say we aspire to a spiritual life. Also similarly, the continuity of written discourse has been my antidote against complacency. Still further- like prayer, writing has not so much altered my circumstances as it has indeed changed me.
So, now to continue and to persevere. In Writing Down the Bones (another book my sister gave me), Natalie Goldberg offered that if your ideas seem too scattered, you might start a page with "I remember..." Becoming an amused observer of my own mind, I’ll frequently start with "I heard myself say..." (And you are all certainly welcome to trying this). As with photography, the written archival record is a way to accentuate the latent value in what is so easily disregarded. Noticing the overlooked is appealingly unspectacular, and attending heartily to humble matters is actually a subtle attuning to grandeur. Indeed, the wind blows wherever it pleases. We hear its sound, but we cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. As well, from holy writ, we find the concept of fighting the good fight of conscientious faith, and with this gratitude for the benefits of the ground already covered, I submit the hundredth entry of this journal.