This morning, once I was showered and dressed, I made a cup of my favourite tea (an Oolong from Vietnam) and took it onto the balcony outside my study. Relaxing into a lounger, my face warmed by the winter sun, I allowed myself to become aware of my body, hear the urban sounds coming from the street, and noticed the thoughts floating into my mind, before letting them go.
This has become a bit of a habit lately. I do it before I switch on my computer. And, if the sun isn’t shining, I just sit quietly on the sofa in my study instead. Only after this ritual do I get out my pen and paper (yes) and start writing.
I know I'm not the only one to practise sitting quietly. Meditators do it, and Quakers do it, each for their own reasons. A couple of years ago I came across a nice phrase: ‘sit spot’, meaning a place where you go regularly to sit and do nothing, just be calm, at approximately the same time each day.
But sitting-quietly-before-writing goes one step further. It's not only calming. It also helps me find out what interests me most on this particular day. That then guides my writing, which in turn allows me to get clearer about what I love writing about, and what might then become a lively read.
In this brand new blog, I intend to explore what I call ‘interpersonal moments’ or 'meaningful moments'. These typically arise in everyday conversations, or spring from something I have read or witnessed. Sometimes recent experiences, sometimes more distant memories.
My aim then, in the words of my friend and onetime doctoral supervisor, Patricia Shaw, is "to reflect on our concrete, actual lived experience". Ultimately I want to show that social patterns (e.g. power, bullying, racism, organisational culture, as well as trust, cooperation, defiance) have no real existence outside specific human exchanges. Without paying attention to the human encounters in which they emerge, we cannot fully understand them.
The flipside is that I do not want to write a grand theory of communication or a book offering unsubstantiated opinions and generalisations. That wouldn’t be me. For some reason, I have always wanted to understand things in sufficient detail, and from different perspectives, before I was willing to reach even a provisional point of view. But this will not be my last word on this matter - I am already exploring what it means to 'make a judgement'.
As a writer, I am all too familiar with the temptation to produce an artefact that is unified and comprehensive. One way for me to resist that urge is to stick to reflecting on meaningful moments. To quote Hannah Arendt "...to stop and think; to pause and reflect; to allow yourself the alertness to be struck, surprised, and to respond without too much presupposition or prejudgement." *
If you'd like to read these posts as they emerge, please subscribe. Judging by past form, they might appear, at most, once a fortnight.
* Why Arendt matters by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (2006) p.16