Saturday, January 16, 2010


I've recently been asked by a fascinating acquaintance to facilitate the upcoming discussion of the
University of the Streets Cafe around Beginnings.

For those who are interested and don't know what the University of the Streets program is all about, it's basically a classroom-away-from-a-classroom, minus the teacher and (potentially) all things academic. So maybe not so much like a classroom at all, actually. Picture an informal gathering of people who are all interested in jammin' on a certain topic together, and you have a fairly concrete idea of what I am talking about here.

When I was first approached to engage with the notion of beginnings, I felt a little pitter patter in my rib-cage, and yet didn't know quite why. Said friend who had initially contacted me mentioned how hard he finds beginnings to be. He touched on grappling with the slothfulness and inaction within to get into 'doing stuff'. Questions arose around how we find stuff to do, or why trips away from home feel so gut-wrenchingly overwhelming? Why do we feel weird about telling someone we have a crush on them? Etc...

And at first, these were the questions I found myself interested in too, and they certainly are worthwhile to think about. How do inertia, fear, indecisiveness all play into my ability to take risks and keep going? I thought about focusing on this active component of beginnings, the part where the train starts getting pushed down the tracks, the pen bleeds onto paper, the dreaded but exciting phone call is made.

Because in a way, I feel like that's where many people I know are stuck. Myself included in heaps of ways. The overwhelming concern around being rejected, or of looking foolish, or of being wrong equals resting on the laurels of the places-I'm-comfortable-but-don't-really-want-to-be.

Yet at the same time, this is also one arena that I have had plenty of experience in. For better or worse, I am someone who tends to be risky in certain ways - be it by making the first move, emailing a stranger, asking for a job I am completely unqualified for, chipping away at the stone wall first.

So my relationship to beginnings is very particular to this component of my little narrative over here. And while I am electrified at the ways these impulses and actions have made me feel alive and truly, truly humble at times, through years of initiation I have begun to look at beginnings as more of a serious responsibility towards my own desires, expectations and needs in relation to the creatures that surround me.

This perhaps is slightly unclear. What I mean is that what we often see as beginnings are often more a middle-piece, or end, to a process of deliberation and decision making concerning a beginning. Consider TS Eliot's musings on the subject:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

Or, a visual analogy - when a seed is planted, it is not evident as a THING persay, or anything at all except to the person who did the planting. After a certain amount of necessary care-taking (watering, monitoring, patience) the seed pushes through soil to appear as a plant, a living creature, a being. Suddenly its existence is known not only to its gardener but also to anyone else who should happen to run into it. Due to this physical manifestation it achieves a type of validity of existence that it couldn't possibly have appreciated prior to this time.

In many ways, beginnings are very similar to this plant. If asked when a plant becomes a living thing, it would be very understandable to consider it as such when it breaks ground. But, in reality, in its gestation period, it is as much alive as it is when 2 feet tall, surrounded by wild birds. Beginnings aren't really manifested when I-ask-you-out or on the first-day-of-the-job, but when they first appear in my mind as possibilities, and then I choose to care for them or not.

Phew. This is getting really wordy. I could go on, but perhaps I will save the rest for the discussion. Needless to say, I am not suggesting that the breaking-through-soil is easy, or that it's not a truly important action to collectively muse upon. But I do allude to the point that perhaps a deeper challenge is to know what beginnings to give water and time to, and what ones to let go. That's where a responsibility for mindfulness of self and others comes into play. More on the subject live in a month's time!

No comments:

Post a Comment