Transcendent Moments

3 May

I call these little predawn writing exercises Morning Pages. I borrowed that term from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.

Julia recommends this practice as a way of retrieving your creativity. In Cameron’s books, Morning Pages are 3 pages of longhand, stream of consciousness, writing done first thing in the morning.

Julia warns that this is not “high art” and “more often than not Morning Pages are negative, fragmented. repetitive or bland.”

Julia doesn’t want you to write Morning Pages with an eye toward publication. It is a creative exercise.

I borrowed Julia’s concept and then cheated. I don’t write these morning blogs in longhand. I type them on my computer’s Notepad and eventually copy and paste them into my WordPress account.

Sometimes I sit down with something in mind that I want to write about. Yesterday’s blog about the North Carolina minister who advocates child abuse to end gayness in kids is an example. I just took that one and ran with it. The pastor provided the best material. You can not make up stuff that crazy.

This morning I have nothing much going on upstairs. So I am doing what Julia tells us to do, just start writing.

And somehow I have now written about writing and Julia Cameron.

I once saw Julia Cameron speak at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. It was a wonderful evening, though I can’t tell you specifically what Julia said. I know it was about creativity and she talked about how she had written a musical even though she can’t write music.  Songs come to her and she sings them to someone else who translates them into notes. I also remember she mentioned having an assistant and I thought, “I want to be Julia Cameron’s assistant!”

It was April in Washington, so the weather was gorgeous. The National Cathedral is awe inspiring, no matter what your belief system, and is even  more beautiful inside after dark. It was one of life’s many transcendent moments. Like the first time I went to New York and visited the Museum of Modern Art, turned a corner and found myself face to face with Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Transcendent moment.

Stream of consciousness writing is no way to do justice to transcendent moments. To recall and describe the transcendent moments in life requires the careful selection and arrangement of words. A bit of poetry is called for. A topic to consider, roll around, and then spend some time  selecting just the right words and phrases.

But you know what I’m talking about. Life is full of those rich “be here now” moments in time that you remember forever. Not necessarily the milestones (having a baby, getting married–those are a lot bigger than what I’m talking about) but often surprising and even brief events–a particularly breathtaking sunset, the moment when a casual conversation turns into a connection that signals the beginning of a friendship, that one time of day when a certain place is illuminated just perfectly, a soft breeze that comes at just the perfect moment, a passage in a book that seems to speak directly to you.

Spaulding Gray in “Swimming to Cambodia” talked about the fact that when he traveled somewhere, he had to have “A Perfect Moment” before he could leave. He always set out to create that perfect moment.

Transcendent moments can’t be forced, but you can certainly increase the likelihood that one will occur. If you love music, odds are you’ll have a transcendent moment if you attend the symphony. You can increase the odds, but you still can’t force it.

Mostly you just have to pay attention.

When my 17 year old self came face to face with Starry Night, all other thoughts faded away. In that moment, my hormones, which held too much sway under most circumstances, didn’t weigh in. My concerns about graduating from high school, going to college, getting away from my parent’s house, etc.–all my teenage angst, just wasn’t there anymore. I was just there, fully there, with Van Gogh’s night sky and its swirling celestial bodies and that astounding crescent moon.  I was awestruck. I was transfixed. And I wasn’t even stoned. (I’m not sure transcendent moments count if you’re using drugs at the time.)

I still haven’t done justice to the transcendent moment, but I am glad I thought about it. It reminds me to pay attention more and think less. Life is full of transcendent moments and I don’t want to miss a single one.

I wish you lots of transcendent moments today and every day.

Happy Thursday

One Response to “Transcendent Moments”

  1. Mary Atwood May 3, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    You and I were together when I had one of those moments – at the National Cathedral. And like you, one of my other ones was when first faced with a piece of great art. Mine was in London, at the National Museum, standing in front of a Monet and weeping openly. Happened again recently at the Cummer Gallery – different work but still Monet. And I expect it to happen often this summer … in Paris.

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