Writing Desk

Category: Thoughts

Brief Thoughts and an Old Poem

I like simplicity more and more. I know I could be a simple person, but the layers of complication and craziness make things more chaotic than they need to be. There’s a simpleness of heart at the quiet center of things. It’s the mind that keeps on chattering and making things spin out of control and into a world of illusion. Yes, dear mind, you are a nice companion, but you do make a girl nuts sometimes.

What does it mean to be happy in life?

So many people spend their days and nights chasing after such a thing but then they end up with ulcers or breathing troubles or pains in the lower back. They work long hours and bring home money and the outside world wonders over the glamour of their résumé, but at the end of the day they are fatigued and feeling a little dull. What are they missing?

what a little nonsense
grows thick in this girl’s brain!
the tulips are not blooming
the weather is half-fine
the rain is striking windowpanes
in time in time in time

 

 

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General Principles

Some general principles I try to keep in mind as I go through each day.

1. God is love and God is always with you and in you.
2. One thing at a time.
3. Take a deep breath to slow down worries.
4. Make a daily plan.
5. When uncertain or overwhelmed, look inside of yourself and try to find the answer before (frantically) looking elsewhere. (More answers are inside of you than you think!)
6. When upset, pray.
7. When about to purchase, ask: “do I need this?”
8. Let go of judgment, unhealthy habits, and all that keeps you farther from God (like fear).
9. Finish and clean up what you’ve begun before moving to the next thing.
10. Speak simply. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.”

Additional thoughts:

– Choose faith and love over fear as often as you can remember to.
– Positive thoughts create health.
– Don’t be afraid of good things, or of seeing good.
– Be gentle, be kind.

Advice to a Doubtful Girl

First, the girl needs to see that she is too worried. Worried about getting everything right. The truth is, there isn’t such a strict picture of what is “right” and what is not–that’s making the world too narrow. There is more truth in just doing than in sitting around, hem-hawing and mulling indefinitely over speculative things.

Second, the girl has to see how much she is worth. She won’t believe she’s worth trusting if she can’t see how much good has been built into her very being. The solution to this quandary is to develop her gifts in ways that make her happy and fulfilled.

Third, she can’t trust herself if she doesn’t finally learn that she is loved. Loved in a deeply satisfying way that makes her happy and alive. She misunderstands and thinks that the “love” she is being shown–the “love” she tries to accept and make herself aware of–is something she needs to learn to like, something dim and hard and not immediately palatable. She must understand that things are simpler and better than this, and that she is loved in a way that promotes her happiness and her being fully alive in every possible way. When she sees–and accepts–that God loves her in this really good, wholesome, exciting, perfect way–when she understands that He really wants her to be happy and fully alive–then the doubt will fade into the background, because she will no longer be split in two, trying to balance what she thinks is true but doesn’t really like with what (at a deeper level) she knows to be true and what, in fact, lights up her soul. The struggle to reconcile incompatible beliefs will be gone; her soul will no longer have to resist her mind to protect the truth of what it really desires. False thinking dies away, and she is free to see that the things she really wants are good and don’t need to be denied. She won’t have to try to convince herself to want things she doesn’t really want anymore.

Various Thoughts

Avoidance of things which are good.

Why do the things that need doing get perpetually moved into an unknown future? The constant postponement of things that will be salutary, enjoyable. Instead choosing non-doing and frittering away over nothings. Not writing? Because I don’t have the right kind of pen, I don’t know whether to write by hand or type. Not moving and getting exercise? Because I don’t want to overstimulate the nervous system, because the weather’s not good. Not applying to graduate school? Because I don’t know what I want, it might be the wrong course. Not going to bed on time? Let me watch one more video clip…. Not making time to pray? I’m tired now; I can begin again tomorrow. True enough, but reinforcing a habit of dissatisfaction and restless idleness. Feed yourself on healthy doings; do not oversaturate with easy but empty calories—activities which leave you floating here and there, but never produce much of solid weight, of substance, of happy pride. Do the things that occur to you as healthy challenges: making your heart sing a little louder, freer, and lighter. Maybe the things that you present as excuses will clear up of themselves, when you immerse yourself in the doing.

It’s not easy to let go of someone you care for. It’s not easy at all. But sometimes there’s a reason for being uncertain. There’s a reason for hearing the bell of courage and saying: well, now, it’s time for a change. You don’t need to know how things are going to work out. You won’t know. It’s better—more exciting—if you let it be a surprise. A pleasant surprise it will be. You just keep your head high and work hard every day to do what needs done. The confidence of a radiant love will build up in time. You’ll see. The path is not lit until you start walking.

… You needn’t worry about the resources. They are there. What you should concern yourself with is the habit. The sitting-down-to-write every day. There will be inspiration and opportunity enough, but it depends on you whether the writing will get done. There is the old-fashioned principle of hard work. It hasn’t outlived its use. Not very attractive perhaps, and simple in its ways, but eminently wise and, if I may say it, irreplaceable.

There is no reason at all, no matter the physical limitations or geo-psycho-biological circumstances, to keep from loving someone you have already loved. Love is by nature a permanent fixture. It must be kept alive in various ways—sparked into renascence by attention or kind intention—but it is really not meant to die. For love to die is slander to its eternal character. Yes, you must love.

I have no easy answers for you. You wish for reassurance, and for certainty, but life is an unpredictable thing. There’s too much mystery for answers to come hard and fast and easy. What I can tell you is just this: Look to your heart—to the deepest place of your soul—you will not miss it, it is unmistakable, and you feel at home there. Look to this place, which is true, and ask: What can I be in this world? What love can I bring? What choices will lead me to the highest place of love, where the joy of surrender is a daily gift? The truth of your answer will bring you the peace you seek.

H-A-P-P-Y

Hold your tongue when you are bitter and be kind instead.
Accept things and people for what and who they are.
Play like a child and let your imagination go free.
Pray and practice silence every day.
Yes, the rules for being happy are simple!

In Search of an Audience

It is fine to do the writing alone—of course this is how it gets done, how it often must be done. But too much of this notion of “writing for yourself”! People brandish this idea like a banner, floating it above their writerly heads, as if to say: “we are the authentic ones.” But how silly, and how humiliating, to be accused of “lesser ambitions” if you don’t want to write just for yourself! It’s only natural to share what you have made, to want an audience for your thoughts. After all, your writing concerns itself with the human condition, and how can the human condition be figured out in total isolation? Isn’t part of the desire—like Forster’s—to “only connect”? There is no shame in hoping someone will read your words: it makes you feel less lonely, and a little helpful. If you search your heart and comb your thought for a semblance of truth, don’t you hope that someone else will profit by it? Wouldn’t it be nice to know you’re not alone in thinking the things you do, and feeling, too? Wouldn’t it be marvelous to watch the change on a person’s face when, reading your words, he says “a-ha!” and settles into the happy comfort of a shared truth, a common understanding?

Fork in the Road

Which path to take? The choice is paralyzing: it could root you to the spot and make the whole business of choosing any path at all a needless task, since you would move neither left nor right, forward nor back. How crazy-making! Your feet like stones, loath to be moved, because you carry around the weight of so many predictions and contingencies, worries and fears. Why lead a cautious life? Doesn’t that fly in the face of what you say is your deepest wish? To be noble and free? You say one thing but live another. The doubleness is pulling you in two. Of course it’s hard to move! How can you take a step when one foot moves forward and the other moves back? Your heart is the compass you thought you forgot to pack. It knows true north, and will guide you reliably, recalibrating with every new encounter you have, every new position you take. Just as you must be very still, holding a compass in the palm of your hand, so the needle will settle; so, too, must you cultivate inner stillness, a quiet suspension of activity, to let your heart point the way. Then you will walk according to its directions; for if you don’t walk, you will get nowhere at all. And then what will be the point of all your calculations, since there’s nothing to discover by standing still for the rest of your life?

Twenty-Six Letters

Do you see this simple truth?

Thousands upon thousands of magnificent stories—the kinds your mother read to you as a child, the kinds a soldier carried into war, the kinds you fell asleep with under the bedclothes—have all been made from 26 letters. Twenty-six unchanging letters, tiny and discreet. How could such humble materials give birth to so many unforgettable moments of beauty?

We forget that we already have what we need. The building blocks of creation are simple and perfect in their smallness. We can honor them and use them in elegant ways, taking only what is essential to our design. If we are foolish, or extravagant, we begin to think that what we have is not enough, and we complicate and contrive, spoiling the integrity of  our project.

Twenty-six letters can be built to towering heights: a glistening castle of magic and stone. That is to say, small pieces—if they are put together in an intelligent way—can aspire to grand proportions. The smallness of our materials does not limit the scope of our dreams.

The trick is to use our materials as they ask to be used. Do not stand in the way and try to order them into something they are not. Each of the 26 letters comes with an indwelling of sound: a particular hum or ring that can make a happy strain of music if combined with another in a delicate way.

Do not complicate. Remember that even the most high-turreted castle was made of simple brick. The most vital body was made of muscle and bone. The most enchanting story in all the world was made of the alphabet you learned when you just barely old enough to speak.

Writing in the Silence

I came to do the typing. The words will be what they will. I will record them as they choose to flutter by. It is not hard, now, because they move at a pace I can keep up with; they are no longer running faster than my legs can carry me. It is probably good for all of us to slow down, to recollect the sense and the sound of the words—of the silences, too. How can you carry on without taking a pause for breath: a nice, solid, uncluttered pause, free from the need to do anything in particular? A lot is said about being. Being as opposed to doing. There is truth in this distinction. I can only speak to what I learn from being in the silence. Silence is the best teacher I have found. Many ideas run and play in the talking-through of things, but they only stop their gamboling and mature into full flower when the rushing has ceased, when their roots can sink into something solid. This is the nature of things. When human beings are restored to nature—which is based in simplicity—they find the truth they have been seeking. Live in harmony with the simple principles of life, and the simple pleasures of being alive will make themselves yours. There will be plenty of water and food and time to share. It makes you peaceful, this breath of pause, this listening for simplicity. You could search the whole wide world over for a teacher and would find nothing so beautiful or wise as this silence, this simple act of being open and ready to listen. Where do I find the authority to talk like this? I have no real authority. It is simply the gift of a continual listening, a pause with every word, to hear the stirrings of the next syllable of thought. In this way, I put together whatever sense has chosen to present its nature to me today. The record of its nature—its very imprint—is never complete. You must take a moment to stop doing and listen for yourself. The thrum-thrum of your heartbeat keeps you alive: but it is only known to you when you take a moment to seek it out and still the noise around you. Why search far and wide for the simple truths that have already found you? You make the work so trying and painful. It is not meant to be an arduous task. Simply open yourself to being your very self—“who is this self?” you ask; but that is for you to answer—and do not think your way into solutions or puzzles. You will only confuse yourself. Your mind—you can leave it to play. You must not bother with its activity now. Your help will come in the shape of a heart and you will find what you have been longing to see.

Something to Be Said: Part One (Come Inside)

Elizabeth’s note: Consider this an exercise for drawing thoughts to the surface when nothing seems to come. I sat down to write, but hardly knew what my subject might be. I intuited that there was something there—something in the recesses of thought, waiting to be articulated. But how to discover the nature of that thought? In a spontaneous act, I decide to persuade the thought to come forward, to coax him from his hiding-place by speaking to him—writing to him, rather—as if he were a proper creature with a body and a name. At last, I got him to speak. Here is what ensued.

Is there something that must be said? Something that should be written now? I’m racking my thoughts. Is there someone there? Hallo? Hello? Was someone knocking? Step forward and announce yourself, if you want to be heard. Otherwise we will go about our duties and we won’t open the door again till very late. Are you there? Come, come, speak your piece. There will be a cup of cocoa waiting for you inside. It’s cold today. Come in, out of the cold. You are welcome here.

No? No one there? I have a feeling someone is there, hiding in the wings. Come out! No need to be frightened. We’ll listen to you gladly. We talk about many things in this house.

Yes, yes, I saw you move! A shadow of a movement—just there, beneath the tree. A little rustle. Come nearer! We won’t hurt you; we wouldn’t harm a fly. It’s so cold outside; you’ll freeze if you don’t come in. Please, please, Elizabeth is making cocoa on the stove. It will be ready soon.

Ah, yes, there you are! Poor little thing, all shivering and fingers turned blue. Come, come, let’s bring you in. There’s a warm blanket in the hall—we’ll wrap you in it. There you are, easy does it, just like that. Let’s get you to the fire. Take the chair, there. It’s big enough for someone twice your size. Little thing, just rest a while. Here’s your chocolate. Elizabeth will put it on the table for you. Drink when you can. It will warm your bones; it’s very good. One sip at a time—we don’t want you burning your tongue.

That’s better. Now the hubbub is done, let’s hear your name. Will you venture to tell us your name? A scrap of information; but how could we not ask?

Well now, dear. Just drink your cocoa, that’s all right. You’ll tell us your name in time. You’ve warmed yourself a little; your teeth have stopped shivering, I see. The cocoa always does the trick.

Now, dear, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve some business to attend to in my study today. So I won’t be staying with you all the noon. It was my impression you had a story to tell us. Something important to say. A born storyteller, I can see you are, dear.  

So go on, then. Let’s hear what you’ve got. No need for embarrassment; we’re all kindly around here. That’s a good dear. You mustn’t rise from your chair; just pipe up and we’ll all be fine.

The poor creature made his spine a little straighter and sat stiff against the back of the chair. His fingers were not so blue as when he first arrived, although they still trembled—in cold or in fear, or perhaps in both. He blew a breath, a tiny puff, as if to wake his voice from sleep. A moment’s pause, expectant silence. Another breath, another puff, an inflation of the cheeks and a compression of the lips. But no words escaped. The little fellow drooped in his chair, hanging his head to his chest under the weight of effort. It was as if he had never been taught how to form words; his mouth, bravely though it struggled, could not assume the proper shape, and no sound would come loose.

Oh, dear, what’s this? Cat got hold of your tongue? Like I said, no need to trouble yourself around us. Elizabeth, go to the poor boy. See what’s got him all tied up.

Elizabeth approached the sad little creature, all weary-looking, with a quiet step. With one hand, she took the creature’s palm; with the other, she gently raised his pointed chin. She saw a miserable look in his eyes, and her body shivered. What compassion could she show this little thing? The poor dear. Suddenly, she was lit with a thought, and letting go of the creature, fled the room.

She returned a moment later, bearing a pen and a few scraps of paper from the hall. She set them gently on the creature’s lap, along with a hard book for writing on. The creature smiled a peculiar smile—of gratitude perhaps, or of joy at being understood—and wriggled himself straight in his chair, his head hardly poking over the top rail. He took the pen into his tiny hands, and began to write: at first slowly, haltingly, and then with feverish insistence.   

This is what he wrote:  

(See Part Two)