“Is it possible to practice noticing?
I think so.
But I also think it requires a suspension of yearning
And a pause in the desire to be pouring something out of yourself.
Noticing is about letting yourself out into the world,
Rather than siphoning the world into yourself in order to transmute it into words.
Practicing noticing will also help you learn more about patience
And the nature of your mind.
Noticing means thinking with all your senses.
It’s also an exercise in not writing.
So what is noticing?
A pinpoint of awareness,
The detail that stands out amid all the details.
It’s catching your sleeve on the thorn of the thing you notice
And paying attention as you free yourself.
It requires no gear, no special tools, no apparatus.
You practice noticing as part of your ordinary life.
What do you notice? Whatever you notice.
Behavior, thought, overheard words, light, resemblance,
Emotion, totality, particularity,
Whatever you find in the habitat of your perceptions,
Anything, no matter how minute,
Whether you’re working or reading or taking the subway.
The pattern is particular to you,
An element in what gets construed as “style.”
What you notice has no meaning.
Be sure to assign it none.
It does not represent or symbolize
Or belong to some world theory or allegory of perception.
Don’t put words to it.
And don’t collect it. Let it slip away.
Be patient for the next thing you notice.
There’s always an urge among writers
To turn fleeting observations and momentary glimpses
Into metaphors and “material” as quickly as possible,
As if every perception ended in a trope,
As if the writer were a dynamo
Turning the world into words.
The goal is the opposite:
To get your words, your phrases,
As close as you can to the solidity,
The materiality of the world you’re noticing.
Rushing to notice never works,
Nor does trying to notice.
Attention requires a cunning passivity.”
~ Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several short sentences about writing, pgs. 39-40
I ran into this a few weeks ago. You can see why I didn’t share it right away.
I actually wrote it down, but only the reference; I couldn’t bring myself to copy the actual words. Not yet. Could you?
“Pages 39-40 in Several short sentences about writing.
DCTalk’s In the Light.
~ Krista’s complete notes for the day
In the intervening days, I added:
~ Krista’s collective notes for the week
Sometimes I wish I had a screen recording of my thoughts. It would be terrifying, but if I could see through the fog, quite helpful.
The pages from Several short sentences hit me hard that day. I have always been that writer who believes it is my duty, my gift, my honor, to translate the noticings of life into words. To notice for those who can’t notice. The author up there with the crazy name challenged that.
I think I read those two pages through almost a dozen times. Why?
Well, the thing is, I agreed with her.
And I disagreed with her.
And the reconciliation took some time.
I think she’s onto something, Ms. Klinkenshnorkel, even though I’m not willing to give up on the definition I’ve given my own calling. Calling. I kind of hate that word. I’m not trying to be pretentious. Apologies for the pretentious. But in some ways, it fits, so let’s move past whatever baggage we have associated with the language, and just stick with the basics. Calling.
Anyhoo, I’ve been hearing Andy Puddicombe (the Headspace guy) in my head (appropo), and thinking that the lesson here is not to not write it down, but to resist that primal impulse to turn everything to words. Let’s face it, there is a strong temptation to look at the world as fodder, as meaning, as material, and to see right through the whole damn thing. Because when we’re looking for fodder, we’re not really looking at all.
So the lesson, for me, is to give myself the space, and the prerogative, and the release from any writerly obligations, enough to see that noticing, being Here. Now. is my job all the time. That sort of noticing will, of itself, lend to more moments to translate onto paper than the Seventy scribes could take down in all their hunched lifetimes.
I don’t have to lower the nets on life to catch the whole of the ocean. I need to lower the my masked and grinning face just enough to see my portion. To let it pass by. To watch it and let it go. To be thankful, just for my little glimpse.
And every now and again, something’s gonna’ smash into my upturned and snorkeled head and give me something to write. There’s no use dangling around wildly grasping for fish. They’ll come. They’ll look me in the eye. They’ll ask to be written. They’ll wave their little flippers and beg for a cameo.
And then I get to write. Then I get to do the hard work. To write it all even when that fish suddenly decides it would rather slip back under the water, thank you very much.
A while ago, I wrote a post, To be the chaplain. Faithful readers might remember it. Unfaithful readers will just have to go back and cheat.
F’real. You should cheat. I’m pretty positive you’ll never make the leap all the way to DC Talk without the cheating.
For whatever reasons, when I read pages 39-40 of the crazy-named lady above, I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber. I heard Andy Puddicombe teaching me how to sit my arse down and let everything just pass by, and I heard Nadia teaching me that intense presence is enough, that it is an actual calling.
I’m not gonna’ rehash the whole thing. Really, you’re gonna’ hafta cheat.
Then DC Talk came up on my playlist.
And it all comes together.
Consider me smacked. But did you see how long I waited before having to write it down? There was even some composting in there. Woah.
If you need me, I’ll be paying attention, just to pay attention,
Bearing witness is a sacred task. Calling it a “calling” is called for, I do believe.
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Yes, well. There may be a healthy dose of Evangelical leavings stuck to the heel of the word as well, hence… a sometime hesitation. 🙂
Much that I notice can not be easily be captured in words. Yet I usually like to provide for my readers photo images of what I observe in travel.