Ensō

enso

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

–Lao Tzu

I admire the sagely writings of the Eastern prophets and thinkers – Lao Tzu, Confucius, Rumi; I believe that their ancient wisdom can help us navigate the complexity and clamour of our technologically driven world today.

Whilst not a part of the aforementioned writers’ canon, there is a Zen concept that emerges from the meditative act of Japanese calligraphy: the beautiful, minimalist circles that are in themselves symbols of lucidity. It is called Ensō.

Ensō is symbolic of staying in the present, detaching the mind from the body, where the body or spirit is free to create. It is, in a way, a record of the moment of pure creation.

It is cyclic, it is honest, it is at once incredibly intricate and surprisingly simple, capturing the Moment in a single movement.

This idea of the “moment” has always compelled me. Creative work is a difficult beast to tame, especially in this Age of Distraction. Being mindful, calming the mind, focussing on the pure act of just creating, is essential to being content, is essential in taming that seemingly unwieldy monster.

I think Ensō is such a beautiful idea, it’s result so lucid, so pure and honest. It is a reminder to us busy souls of what it means to create and to centre oneself in this chaotic universe through the simple yet powerful act of conscious creation.

Staying in the present, living in the moment and fading the world out so that it’s just you and the work to be created before yourself: this is Ensō.

Why we do what we do

This notion of questioning why we – as people who create things, imagine things, build things and dream things – do what we do, has been playing around in my mind for a while now. Why is it that we push ourselves in this way, warp our minds into the worlds we dream up, stay up late into the early hours of the cold morning still toiling away at our keyboards, drawing boards, tablets and canvases?

Indeed, there is a fire that burns within the creator, the maker of art and literature and poetry and those things that make life worth living for. A burning desire to shape reality to the whims of our imaginations, to concretise the wisps of thought. We’re compelled to see our ideas through to their ends; we’re driven by passion, I guess you could say.

This quote from one of my favourite movies, Dead Poets Society, is perhaps the best way to capture the essence of why some of us prefer to stay up in the solitude of the night, not dreaming but gently luring those dreams into the cool air of this world.

… the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

– John Keating (Robin Williams), Dead Poets Society (1989)

Blank Slate

A new year brings with it so many possibilities. The idea of a blank slate offers the notion that things start afresh, that there’s the possibility of setting a framework to live by that will add richness to your life. Whilst resolutions have become quite a contentious issue in recent times, I think it’s still nice to have a set of endeavors, a list of sorts that one should aim to live by over the next 365 days.

Here’s some things to strive by, things that I hope to live by in 2014:

  • Read more
  • Write more
  • Be curious; learn more
  • Accept change
  • Be like water – in fact, give this article from Brain Pickings (one of my favourite blogs) about Bruce Lee, Artist of Life, and his philosophy of being like water, a read. It’s both inspiring and intriguing.

I wish you well for the new year; here’s to more words, ideas and adventures.