Form and Freedom

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One thing I have grown to appreciate and absolutely love about learning Chinese language is the structure.

Today, I learned that Chinese traditional painting has an equally useful structural starting point.

Take a look at the picture above. What do you see in each of these elements?

From top to bottom these traditional Chinese artistic building blocks represent the most basic patterns in nature – waves, tree leaves, rivers/streams, pine needles, clouds, mountains, rocks…

No, they are not all perfect, this is just practice.

But it’s by practicing these basic patterns, with a healthy amount of consulting the dictionary of brush strokes, that early students learn to follow the rules.

And the next step? Painting a classic landscape with all the important elements.

So what makes me so excited about this?

First, I think the elements are beautiful. And the color is quite nice, too.

But, what I love even more is the idea that structure gives way to focus. And focus means freedom.

Though we may start with a full set of constraints, slowly and ever so surely, a mastery of these brush strokes, these elements, these rules, will allow the artist to ultimately find their own voice and style.

Welcome to the ultimate form of freedom.

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Moments

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We’ve returned to a familiar juncture. It’s almost as if we’ve circled the block, or taken a joy ride around the city, only to come back to something we know so well. I needed to get back into the public arena and face this problem of perfectionism.

I find myself circling back to the question, what would it be like if I really dedicated myself to daily writing? Whether it manifests itself in blog form or not, what is holding me back from this particular habit of reflection? The easy excuse is that the days are long and my energy is limited, and we have covered quite a bit of content in the past couple weeks since my last post.

But the real reason is something closer to that I am bounded by the need to write brilliance. For what I write to make sense. To connect it to some greater idea, lesson, or takeaway.

Is this getting boring? Maybe.

Am I writing about this idea a bit too much? Maybe.

Have I moved on? Not yet.

For the last two days I have written with ferocity. Much of it has been on paper, rather than electronic. One thing I have yet to share is that I participated in a writing workshop yesterday. It was fascinating. Short five minute spurts of writing intermixed with sharing among a group of 20. Profound. Powerful. Emotional. Interesting. An incredible session that invited sides of each of us to join the discussion that had not been present during the last seven weeks of getting to know each other through daily sharing and reflection. There were moments of great laughter and others where tears burned my eyelids. What the medium of writing can do as a form of reflection and expression is a powerful thing. Funny that we often deny ourselves the opportunity to think differently by speaking to paper.

But we don’t need to. Life is made up of moments. They can’t make sense at every stop along the way. But they do make up the journey and will lead somewhere. And it’s okay to wait for whatever is meant to be. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Note: I’m back-dating this post to October 4th when I originally wrote it. Now more than three weeks later and after I already wrote a post earlier this evening, I’m wondering what the blog will start to look like if I back-date the posts I wrote while on the road in China.

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One of the most fruitful Google image searches in quite a while, “Moments” brought out so many interesting images to choose from. I decided on the one above, which I had found through a blog post entitled, “Taking a Trip, but Enjoying the Journey,” by Tobi Fairley, an interior designer from Arkansas, with Oprah-to-be aspirations. This connected back to her resolution for the year, “Collect Moments, Not Things.”