Reacting to Invisible Forces

In a letter written to James Harmon to be published in his book, Take My Advice, writer John Shirley writes, “What if we’re a lot more unconscious than we know?  What if, even when we think we’ve got everything worked out and planned out, we’re actually, in certain ways, just reacting to things?”  In this quote Shirley hits on the idea of being present in the moment without directly stating it.  His quote talks about how much of the world is hidden from us and impacting our decisions, and how much is influencing us without our knowledge.  When we begin to work on being present in the moment, we become more aware of what shapes the decisions we make.
I recently read Grant Korgan’s book, Two Feet Back, in which he describes his recovery following a spinal cord injury.  What Korgan explains is that his injury gave him the chance to pause his goals, plans, and desires while he worked towards regaining feeling in the lower half of his body.  He explained that he went from being someone who tried to plan every part of his day and life, to someone who had to enjoy the simplicity and spontaneity of each moment.  His injury taught him the importance of being present in all that you do.
I think that Shirley’s quote speaks to the same understanding of presence that Korgan came to understand.  When we focus and plan each detail of our lives, we spend a huge amount of energy and effort in a single direction, and we are then not aware of the little things that sway and move us away from that direction.  When we focus on presence, we begin to understand what forces are trying to shape our coarse, and we can be more responsive to those events.  These forces that we may not be consciously aware of may push us towards our goal, though possibly towards our goal in what seems like a less direct path, or they may push us to new goals that ultimately align better with who we are.  Gaining presence helps us identify our emotions and reactions, and helps us understand our place relative to others.

Knowing Where You Are

Joe Dallesandro wrote a letter for James Harmon to publish in his book, Take My Advice, which is a collection of letters from creative writers and poets, independent creatives, and passionate artists.  In Dallesandro’s letter he writes about many topics, and touches on our life’s work, “Nobody’s going to fault a guy for moving on if a good opportunity comes up, but people switch jobs these days for the perks, for bragging rights, and their life’s work suffers.”

I love this quote because as a recent college graduate with a great job, I have definitely felt the pressures of wanting to have an important position, a clear work plan, and something I can brag about to my friends and family.  What is difficult for me is to envision where I want to go in a career, and still remain happy and content with the job that I have now.  I think that part of what Dallesandro is saying is that we need patience and to be self aware so we recognize when we were in a good place.  I read this quote several months ago, and even wrote this blog post itself a few weeks back. At this point I am now reading, Two Feet Back, Grant Korgan’s novel about his recovery after he broke his back and was paralyzed from the waist down.  In Korgan’s book he constantly mentions his though process during his recovery, particularly one idea, “We are exactly where we need to be.” For Korgan who was recovering from back surgery, he could not judge his progress relative to others or allow his progress to be determined by other people.  He had to focus on constant improvement moment to moment, and his refrain helped him stay focused on the present without fear that he should be doing anything other than what he was actively doing. This quote merges perfectly with what Dallesandro writes.

For me, this means that I do not have to shun the thoughts of wanting a job that pays more or sounds more impressive than my current job. I do not have to feel bad for wanting those things, but I do have to be honest with myself about where I am in my current job.  Right now I am in a job that I enjoy, but that I do want to grow within to reach new opportunities. At the same time, I have been able to recognize the ways in which my job has pushed me, and what areas and skills my job has helped me build.

Dallesandro’s quote speaks to the importance of growth and being in a position where you can maximize your potential and grow.  Finding that place and being aware of when you are in that position is important, and according to Dallesandro, when we leave that position to try and impress others, we risk ending up in a place where our skills do not fit.  Korgan would add to this idea saying that we need to be fully present in the life we currently live. For him, if we cannot be confident in the person we currently are or the position we are currently in, we will not grow and strengthen ourselves to find the change we want in life.