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Underbelly: 10 Things - Composition

Wendy Kelly
Wendy Kelly
#134 in a series of wild and precious meditations on composition and decomposition

This week I contemplated composition. The process where we are all, at all times, both composing our life and decomposing at the same time. Editing, if you will.
For anyone who writes for a living, I think the metaphor is apt: it takes great discipline to edit — rip out those parts which feel essential, beautiful, necessary and set them aside (or “kill” them) knowing, even through the pain, that you are doing the right thing, that the false surface glitter of the word or passage’s beauty is fleeting and not serving your composition at this time. Maybe later. Likely never. New, better words will come.
Composing a life is like this but — due to the complexity of life, and its organic quality — much more challenging and painful.
Ripping out a part of your life composition can feel like you are ripping off an appendage. Like you are dying.
How dramatic —
I am *not* making this up — this actual opening has been rewritten 4 times so far :)
I am noticing that there are two apparent kinds of composition that take place, and they are quite different:
This summer, our 3 young adults plus their intensely amazing girlfriends came home and now they are slowly leaving over the month of August for appropriate young adult adventures. There is a gorgeous mix of happiness and a bit of grief because they will be missed.
This type of composing and decomposing and recomposing takes time to process.
And then there is the composition we do as we grow and mature and notice those bits that no longer serve us, those parts of our lives that are not needed anymore. A habit, perhaps. A way of thinking. A rumination that started out as a helpful thought and has remained too long so that it has really become that drunk 1950s uncle with the lampshade on his head, blathering on. It’s time for him to go, but how to do it gracefully?
“Antoine de Saint-Exupéry captures this well: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
“Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow.”
“Learning” virtue—becoming virtuous—is more like practicing scales on the piano than learning music theory: the goal is, in a sense, for your fingers to learn the scales so they can then play “naturally,” as it were. Learning here isn’t just information acquisition; it’s more like inscribing something into the very fiber of your being. Thus”
3. Prompt
What do you long for? Does it jibe with what you practice?
Do you have a blathering drunk uncle (sry if offensive to uncles, not intended. nb: I do not actually have *any* blathering drunk uncles irl) who has stayed too long in the corner of you mind?
That beginning part of learning, where you gather new information, is the very very first part of learning.
Learning takes place through practice. Diligent practice. So, for example, if I am learning compassion for people I feel anger toward, the first baby step is learning about this.
The hard, excruciating learning comes from sitting still and practicing compassion toward them. Then, slowly, the new learning is inscribed in my heart and mind.
I can learn about the piano until the cows come home — I can’t play the piano because I have never practiced. Etc.
It’s the actual things we choose to do each day, including the thoughts we choose to have, that slowly, over time, inscribe themselves in our hearts and minds and form us, compose us.
4. Quest
Perhaps notice this week what you practice. Does it jibe with who you aspire to be, with who you see yourself as?
5. Level up
And, you know, if you’re anything like me :) perhaps every time you think to notice how someone else is behaving, turn gently toward yourself this week. Observe yourself from a bit of distance and just notice is you are minding yourself? If you are quietly practicing your scales? And maybe keep gently turning yourself toward your own work, your own scales.
6. Song — my dear sister let me know that the Macy Gray link didn't work last week, so here it is!
Macy Gray - Beauty In The World
Macy Gray - Beauty In The World
7. App
8. Poem
9. Hero
Branford Marsalis - Wikipedia
10. Connect
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Wendy Kelly
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Wendy Kelly
Wendy Kelly @wendykkelly

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