Monday, January 14, 2008

"On Discipline and Bliss"

Glimmer Train is a literary quarterly that often publishes excerpts of writings by or interviews with authors on its website. This one, titled "On Discipline and Bliss" by Peter Selgin, seemed like a perfect fit.

Here's a teaser excerpt:
There's another side to discipline that's not quite so grim, it's not grim at all; in fact it's blissful. I'm talking about concentration, about that very special place where the disciplined mind goes if only it is disciplined enough, meaning if only it is patient and willing to put up with enough discomfort and pain to reach its ultimate destination, that pinpoint in time where nothing else matters but the very little thing that one is trying to accomplish right now: the thought, the sentence, the word, the nuance, the rhythm, the shade, the color—whatever it is that the we're as intent on as the seamstress is intent, when passing the thread through the eye of the needle, on the tip of that thread and the needle's eye.
Click here to read the whole thing.



Anonymous said...

I want to take your Short Fiction Workshop Informal Class but may have a time conflict with another class I want to take (so a choice may be required). Do you plan to offer it again in late Spring or Summer?


erzsebet said...

Hi, Tiffany -

I love that feeling of single-pointed concentration, that feeling of mediation that comes with focus. For me, this point can be reached when writing fiction, reading, or creating software code. It is one of the sincere joys of daily life.

I need to go read the Selgin excerpt in it's entirety, to see if he touches on the idea of 'Beginner's Mind.' That's the feeling that comes before blissful discipline, when a project is new and undefined. I used to despise having to go into the realm of 'Beginner's Mind,' I would panic and feel doubt and discomfort because I couldn't see how I'd reach the outcome I needed. For years, that kept me from writing. It also kept me in the testing side of software longer than I should've stayed, all because I was trying to avoid the discomfort of embarking on a new mental adventure!

Recently, I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which there's a long section explaining that the true virtue of 'Beginner's Mind' as being the state where you're most open to all of the possibilities. It's not something that should be feared or avoided, but accepted as a natural and necessary stage in the organic nature of coming to know a subject. Through discipline, you become more knowledgeable and one day you reach Selgin's blissful "ultimate destination, that pinpoint in time." The whole journey from 'Beginner's Mind' to discipline is enriching and I shudder to recall my bereft way of living before I accepted the journey!

Thanks for the post,


Tiffany Hamburger said...

Hi Natalie--
I plan on offering it again in the Summer, but there is always the chance that the class will be cancelled due to low enrollment. There is a requirement to get at least 6 students for the class to "make," so even if I offer it, there is that chance of cancellation. Out of the five times I've offered the class, it has been cancelled twice. You can always recruit friends though, in case it looks kinda empty. Hope to see you next week or in the summer, either way. We always have a great time! Good luck and take care!