I lean into chaos.

There are times when I’m completely focused on a particular phrase or task but generally I live in an immense stewpot of images, impressions, questions, doubts, emotions and aphorisms. I had one teacher in grade school that understood it – unable to control me and my constant questions, curiosities, and general class interruptions, she offered me a gold star for every day that I sat quietly and did my lessons without disturbing the rest of the class. If I felt I behaved properly, I would walk up to her desk with my black and white composition notebook and ask for my star. She never refused me. But I also knew when there were days that I didn’t ask and understood why.

What this teacher did was give me a way to control my chaos – the star was a container to put it in. I understand now that it was a way of creating self-reflection in a very curious young boy who these days would be branded ADHD and given drugs and counseling.

Yesterday I was emailing back and forth with an exec at a publishing firm. She was frustrated with a particular editor who, although was tops at her job, always communicated in a hyperactive and disjointed style both in person and in her emails. I mentioned that what she was probably looking for was somebody to help organize her thoughts, to put things in a linear logical fashion. To take her energy and put it in a proper container. She later told me it worked and what I said had made sense. At the time, I didn’t realize my own personal connection to it.

This morning I was thinking about a comment I had made on a marketing forum. It was a friendly debate about self-reflection at the end of the business day. That’s not when I do it though – my energy is too depleted and scattered. But I may start thinking about my day the moment I pack up and head for home. It rests in the back seat, while I listen to online radio or just driving along the highway. I’ll think about the day while watching a film, or reading a book, or picking out a particular passage in a magazine. It simmers during breakfast and the drive back. But it remains in the background, never interfering, just absorbing.

When I arrive at my office in the morning, I would sit with a plain spiral notebook on the side of my desk. Many years ago, a manager I worked with taught me the technique of listing things I had to do during the day and, as I finished them, cross them off the list. The next day, I carried over what I hadn’t completed and added the new tasks that needed my attention. The simple act of putting pen to paper slows me down, to think about the previous day, the hows and whys of what I did and the responses of those who I work with. And why they responded that way. Just the act of putting things into a container.

Maybe this is why I enjoy poetry. Small containers with single thoughts, like fireflies caught in a jar. Or particular paragraphs in a book that I turn to over and over again.

It’s not the high winds that matter – only what they carry. What we can put in those small bottles and jars that we can easily hold in our hands…

Crewdson.FIrelfiesfireflies
photo by Gregory Crewdson

Except from the statement by Crewdson on Artnet:

…in all my pictures what I am ultimately interested in is that moment of transcendence or transportation, where one is transported into another place, into a perfect, still world. Despite my compulsion to create this still world, it always meets up against the impossibility of doing so. So, I like the collision between this need for order and perfection and how it collides with a sense of the impossible. I like where possibility and impossibly meet.

Advertisements