Saturday, July 19, 2008
Get Up and Do It Again .... Amen
Tibetan Buddhist monks spend weeks and months creating intricate sand paintings only to brush them away at the end of their labor. The meditation is a sacred practice in non-attachment. I witnessed part of the construction of one of these mandalas at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts many years ago. Today, the images and the practice reared its multi-colored head.
Three days ago, I was working on two scenes from my novel. The writing was working. It wasn't great, but it was good draft work. Two days ago, I was working on the scene that followed those scenes when the computer froze, forcing me to do a reset, which caused (though it wasn't supposed to cause this) a loss of all my data. I had a portion of the book saved on a different computer, and though this computer freeze didn't make me jump for joy, it was only about ten hours of work and I looked at it (mostly) as an opportunity to revise and make the scenes better. I always advise my students to take their early drafts and put them in a drawer and not look at them as they move into the revision process. (Though to be clear ... I don't tell them to actually delete them). I believe, and still do, that revision is best done on a fresh piece of paper. So, I figured this was a chance for me to practice that in a little more of a boot camp fashion than I was accustomed to. I went home, wrote a quick outline of everything I'd written, taking special care to write down as many of the surprise details that came up through the process of writing. Not that big a deal.
Today, I had four hours to work this afternoon. I was able to rewrite the scenes that had been lost as well as move forward two more scenes. And yes, you guessed it, the screen froze again. What an opportunity to practice my yoga, I thought, as I wanted to throw this machine across the room. What a teacher this computer is turning out to be. What is this actually about? I've never lost data in my life, and now it's happened twice in one week. By the time I rewrite the scenes tomorrow (on a different computer), they'll be pretty darn fine scenes.
After my first thought of OH @*(#, the very next thing that popped in my head was the song lyric from The Pretender: "And when the morning light comes streaming in/ I'll get up and do it again, Amen..." which made me laugh. The next thought I had was of the Tibetan monks and their beautiful sand paintings. I remembered reading an interview about their work in which they were asked why they spent all that time making the mandalas only to destroy them. They replied, as monks are oft to do, that the making of the mandala was what mattered, not what happened to it after it was finished. But how can you work so hard to make it so beautiful knowing it will be gone in a few weeks? was the follow-up question. I'll never forget this answer.
The work is the practice. That is all there is. Everything else is an illusion. Today we make a painting. Tomorrow it is gone. This is the way of everything.
So tomorrow, when I rewrite those scenes again, and back them up on two thumb drives and e-mail them to my work e-mail, I'll approach them with that frame of mind. I can never rewrite them like I wrote them the first time. Some images are gone. The ones that matter will come back. New ones will appear. This is what always happens.
This is the way of everything. When the morning light comes streaming in, and when it doesn't.