Reflection as a Pastime: Strolling in nature, sitting in gardens, reposing with a cup of tea, people allowed time for entertaining their own thoughts in the nineteenth century. Reflection was almost an art form in certain circles in this era. With no television or computers, nature became a primary focus for reflection. Witness the art of Asher B. Durand where two gentlemen stand reflecting on the beauty of nature in Kindred Spirits.
Reflection as Art: The grandeur of nature is being glorified in this painting. The artist is also, however, framing the two gentlemen who stand taking in the vistas, so their act of awareness itself becomes paramount in the painting (pardon the pun). The artist is recognizing the grandeur of nature but also the grandeur of human awareness in its ability to respond to towering cliffs and rushing rivers. As the pace of life in the twentieth century sped up, time for reflection began to disappear. In today’s age of instant communication, reflection is virtually a lost art. Instead, we are more likely to receive a bombardment of images, either visual or textual, with virtually no time to consider them.
Reflection as a Part of Cognition: Yet reflection remains an essential component of thought, of art, and of writing even now. The relationship between reflection and writing intrigues me in my own process as a writer. I enjoy giving my thoughts time to meander. I discover nooks and crannies of thought I hadn’t noticed before. It is perhaps, self-evident that any time we sit to write, we turn back upon our own thoughts. Even if prompted by a deadline, a question, or an assignment, we turn inward to our own thought processes to write. Still, we ask ourselves: Do we have to time to just sit and think? Even when we write, the push is usually to see how quickly we can get it written.
Freewriting as a Form of Reflection: I am grateful to writing theorist Peter Elbow, who in the 1980s pioneered the concept of freewriting, allowing the reflective spirit to step back into the process of writing. When we freewrite, we move into that state of intentional awareness that allows our thoughts to flow unimpeded. If a thought that isn’t useful comes along, we don’t mind. Another thought will be along soon. The flow of thought is the important factor.
Reflection is Infinite: When we honor that flow of ideas and give the mind time to ruminate and reflect, we begin to appreciate how infinite the capacity of our mind is. Thoughts just keep on coming—one right after another—from that infinite reservoir of thought that is human consciousness. In a way, we can rely on the nature of our minds to write for us; we just have to be willing to sit at the keyboard.
Lets watch the ideas emerge. Let them be. Honor the creativity of our own minds. Revision can come later.
Image (in the public domain) retrieved on November 24, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Asher_Durand_Kindred_Spirits.jpg