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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment

This is a recent homework assignment that had immense value for me. I'll tell you about my results later.
1. Make a list of your top 10-12 values, characteristics, or ideals.
2. Narrow that list down to the top three.
3. Further narrow the list down to your Number One Value. Use it as a guiding principle for each day.

7 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

This was fun.

Here's my #1: I'm calling it Practicability of Purpose. Do the thing that can actually be done.

I addressed something like this in a Float post once before, after Marlon Brando died. Stanislavsky's method, as corrupted and bastardized by Strasberg,
emphasizes the impossible; a direction requiring an actor to do anything less practicable than "go over there and open the door" is meaningless. The work of acting is figuring out how to combine practicable behavior with uninflected speech to give the illusion of character. That's something that can be done.

Likewise in life: I can't do my job every day in order to "get ahead at the organization." That's not up to me. I can't give my opinions on the issues of the day in order to "effect change." These aren't doable things. These outcomes may emerge from doable things, but so might other outcomes. The only thing to set one's mind on, in activity, is the activity.

I am writing a play. Why am I writing a play? To tell a story. To say something truthful. To make people laugh. To make me feel good about writing a play. To get better at writing plays. To participate in an important tradition.

I am not writing a play to "change people's minds," to "have an impact on the way people behave," to "make it to Broadway," to "teach people a lesson," to "make women swoon." Though that last one would be nice.

Examples abound, but it boils down to "do the thing that can be done." All the eventual outcomes, all unpredictable and dependent on abstract factors beyond our ken and control, come from the performance of performable action.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

My number one value: Nuance

All my other values are so intertwined. I thought, "Live and let live" was a pretty good summary of my beliefs, but it's too passive. I don't think we should tolerate some things, either in a legal or a social sense.

So I added my "Do no harm" and "Help those who can't help themselves" beliefs, but since the former is nearly impossible if you look at indirect consequences, and the latter is great on an individual level but far too obstacle-laden if you get any more broad than that, I didn't think they were quite right, either.

So I tacked on, "Take it on a case-by-case basis," but we must generalize sometimes, because that's the only way we can make collective decisions about things.

And then there are the ideals for which I strive personally, and in which I fail so often that I'm not even going to bring them up. I should probably just stop holding them altogether.

The world is irreducibly big. In the end, it's all about complexity; it's all about complication; it's all about thoughtfulness. Thus, nuance.

2:16 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

My #1 value turns out to be something I've valued very much since I was about 17 or 18 years old. I was surprised that it's still top o' the list, especially as it wasn't one of the first things I wrote down when brainstorming the top 12 values; it popped into my head at #9, in fact. I most of all value balance. As Aristotle said, Virtue lies in the mean. As Buddhists call it: the middle path.

And it's made me very happy to realize this, because I've been
struggling with some of the more, shall we say, "estoteric" aspects of holistic medicine lately. At the same time, many people assume that because I study shiatsu, yoga, and tai ch'i, I'm a vegetarian who keeps a large collection of healing crystals. (Not true.)

It's hard place to be sometimes, this middle path. It often feels the
world is full of extremists and I'm the crazy one for seeing both sides of an issue. But it's a good thing to have one's grounding in, I think, as well as something the world needs.

I've chosen Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, as my patron secular saint.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

I love the idea of a secular patron saint. I'll have to come up with one of my own...

3:01 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Nuance and poetry: how about Robert Frost for you?

11:18 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Eh... I'm not the biggest Frost fan in the world.

I wonder if there could possibly be a patron saint of nuance. Wouldn't it be an oxymoron?

3:16 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

I don't think that's an oxymoron...Who is known for appreciating nuance? Hell, if I can find someone known for *moderation*, you can find someone known for nuance.

4:03 PM  

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