Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heighten Five Senses: Hearing

I'm continuing the series on developing the five senses, based on "The How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook" by Michael Gelb. Try this sense of hearing self-assessment:
-- Friends describe me as a good listener.
-- I am sensitive to noise.
-- I can tell when someone is singing off-key.
-- I can sing on-key.
-- I listen to jazz or classical music regularly.
-- I can distinguish the melody from the bassline in a piece of music.
-- I know what all the controls on my stereo system are for and can hear the difference when I adjust them.
-- I enjoy silence.
-- I am attuned to subtle changes in a speaker's voice tone, volume and inflection.

However, I personally wouldn't agree that you have to proficient in all of the above to be considered attuned to the sense of hearing. I can't sing, but I consider myself a good dancer. I took dance lessons, not music lessons, as a child for seven years, and subsequent Irish, Brazilian, Zumba and Group Groove dance classes as an adult, not to mention flat-out dance induction on the disco floor back when.

I think being aware of rhythm is essential to my poetry as well as song lyric writing, though you wouldn't want to hear me personally sing any of the songs I've written. I've never been good with the bass or treble controls on either my car or home stereo (is this really a guy thing?), but am acutely aware when a spoken word performer, whether reciting poetry, prose or drama, is just missing the emotional points and high and low subtleties of the piece. This is particularly sad when he or she is the actual author.

Stretch your hearing awareness. If you do like to listen to jazz and/or classical music, you might want to play a game of "guess the composer" with your friends and family that we enjoy at my house. ◦

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heighten Five Senses: Vision

To continue this mini-series on the five senses, which is both inspired and adapted from the book "The How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook" by Michael Gelb -- let's now take a look at what we see -- with impressions on the mind's eye leading to true vision. Can you identify with the following:
-- I am sensitive to color harmonies and clashes.
-- I know the color of all my friends' eyes.
-- I look out into the far horizon and up to the sky at least once a day.
-- I am good at describing a scene in detail.
-- I like doodling and drawing.
-- Friends would describe me as alert.
-- I am sensitive to subtle changes in lighting.
-- I can picture things clearly in my mind's eye.

Don't think that journaling or even drawing, for that matter, needs to end up as finished works of art for all to admire. Look at Leonardo da Vinci's methods -- he didn't necessarily draw to please others but because he loved to draw. Most of his drawings are contained in his "unpublished" notebooks. He valued process more than product. By first observing, followed by writing or drawing, we can enhance our capacity for "saper vedere" or knowing how to see. ◦

Let Wabi-Sabi Happen in Your Journal

Wabi-sabi, the quintessential Japanese aesthetic, can be applied to journaling and is, in fact, an integral part of true journaling, whether we realize it or not. Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest, humble and unconventional.

Published writing is usually rewritten, edited and polished writing, set in symmetrical fonts and printed in uniform order and quality.

Journaling, most often, is composed of our raw thoughts or emotions, scribbled down in an unsteady hand on a commuter train or a dimly-lit kitchen. Perhaps the pages are occasionally smudged with ink or stained by drops of coffee. Entries may be heartfelt and passionate, but can simultaneously be random, incomplete, unconventional and bold, without need to please an audience.

In the long run, the journaling process may add up to a complete picture or an epiphany of revelation, but tracing any single journal's pages, one-by -one, can render a modest journey, the humbleness of following a foggy path with no promise of reaching a clearing.

Most distilled, the Wabi-Sabi of journaling embraces a sense of faith -- in yourself, in life, and in the promise of a future. ◦