define

Incomplete

This past Friday, I hosted a coloring party at my office. It’s part of my role as a member of the Professional Development Group – a small contingent of employees who take on the challenge of connecting staff throughout the various Institute offices through programming (i.e. guest speakers, seminars and the like). When joining the group back in December of last year, I brought to light my professional – and personal – goal of introducing more creativity into one’s daily routine. And, when a colleague shared a recent article in the NY Times about coloring for grown-ups, I thought… bingo.

So, come Friday, 10 or so of us – all “grown ups” in various stages of our professional careers – took seats around a wide, round table and began to color. The pages and postcards from our chosen book, the Secret Garden, were no easy task. The intricacies and teeny-tiny lines made the design fairly challenging – the levels of concentration and precision (if you’re into that) trumped most of the conversation at the table; although there were a few strands of chatter that emerged once someone took their eyes off of the task at hand. After several hours, there were a few completed postcards… but for about half of the group, there was still work to do. Their work was incomplete.

Which was 100% okay. There were no rules, I said. Color outside the lines, leave white space and of course you can come back to it later, when you have a spare second to shade in a spot or two. Simply leave it in my mailbox whenever you’re done. I myself hadn’t finished my design. So, like the others, I packed up my spot and tucked my page into my bag, where it has sat since Friday morning. Untouched. Unfinished.

All in all the event was a success. After all, it did bring people together – on a different level than that of a weekly meeting or even a professional brainstorm. But, I couldn’t help but feel like a disappointment to myself. Here is one more “piece” that I’ve started and have yet to finish. Sure, it’s only been a few days (and, in my defense, I did scour the desk drawers for some rogue colored pencils or fine-point markers that I had stashed away, turning up nothing) but it’s been a few years for some of my other creative saplings. Essays abandoned. Memoirs suspended. And it’s not just pieces of writing. There are three blank canvases and a set of oil paints tucked in a dark corner. A clarinet in my childhood bedroom. Will my poor little coloring page be left hanging with the rest of my creative pursuits? I realize it’s a question that only I can answer, or better yet, determine.

But, is that was this is about? The results? Or is it more about the method? Bringing to light my lack of discipline and inventory of unfinished work was not the intention of the coloring party. It wasn’t a competition or a race. It was supposed to be fun, a way to exercise a different part of the brain, alleviate stress, remind us that life isn’t always about work. Creativity itself is constantly touted as a method for stress reduction, for an increase in productivity, for success. Grown-ups across the world are clamoring for these books, the latest and greatest antioxidants of the mind. When complete, the design is a reminder of the pathway it took to get there, proof that they can discover a creative side of themselves that might be hidden far beneath professional goals, skill sets and proficiencies.

My essays, canvases, even the clarinet. Those pathways are still there, waiting for me to pick back up where I left off. And perhaps my biggest road block is where my concentration lies: the finish line. Results. By looking so far ahead, squinting into the horizon for that infinitesimal line to cross, I forget all about the beauty of the present, the wonder uncovered in every step forward (or sideways and backwards), and the benefit in taking one’s time, even if it means pausing for one moment – or many – to gather my thoughts.

Lotus with Bee

zwieback • \SWEE-back\ • noun
: a usually sweetened bread enriched with eggs that is baked and then sliced and toasted until dry and crisp

Hmm. I don’t even know what to do with this word, except to look up a baking recipe! Even then, we all know how I sometimes fare in the kitchen – and this might be a bit too ambitious. Besides, I have said “ta ta” to carbs…

Instead I will share with you the story of Lotus with Bee, which is actually a photo taken by my father at Longwood Gardens, a botanical estate in Kennett Square, PA. For the past several years, my parents have frequented the grounds, atriums, and greenhouses – my Dad snapping pictures of the flora – orchids, tulips, and the like. The most recent trip to Longwood included a view of the water botanicals – lilies and lotus abound.

I always enjoy receiving the links to his photo albums – especially the ones from Longwood. The closeness of his pictures evoking what I often aim to do with my writing – find the complexity, the extraordinary, in something that seems so simple… so, well, ordinary. What Longwood does with Botany is not ordinary in any means – but flowers themselves are mainstream. You find them everywhere – roses on every city street corner. This year, at the Global Spa Summit in Istanbul we had to import tulips from Amsterdam even though the flower itself originated in Turkey.


I am mildly obsessed with this picture, Lotus with Bee. The striking elegance of the symbiosis reminiscent ever so slightly of my own relationship with New York; smothered and overtaken; a wee worker feeding off of an energy source which is stark and sufficient, surrounded by an environment which proves dangerous, daunting, and debilitating at times.

In 25 days I begin my time as a graduate student, and I am so incredibly excited to begin anew my creative writing craft. This note brings me back to Dad. He’s a smart man. “Find your passion” he said to me, when I headed to undergraduate school, when I headed to New York. He didn’t need to say it this time when I applied to the master’s program at the New School. I think what makes this photograph so special isn’t the lotus or the bee, but my Dad’s understanding, and respect for the creative craft of the camera and his passion for what the lens captures.

Cyberpunk

So I finally came up with an idea that will bring glorious continuity and connectivity to my blog: Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day. It is perfect. I will start out [each day] with the word of the day, and then elaborate in one way or another – surreptitiously using the word to connect to my subject, thoughts, life, what-have-you.

What is today’s word of the day? Cyberpunk. Oh dear. May I hear that in a sentence please?

Cyberpunk — with its androids and cyborgs and human-electronic networks — almost turns reading into a computer game.

Geez. I would have been far better off with “droid”. If I were to have been the dictionary this Monday morning, I would have at least endeavored to present a word that had been added to the dictionary before the 1980’s. Cyberpunk was officially added to the dictionary one year before I was born – 1983 – the year my parents were married. It refers to a specific genre of science fiction that deals with future urban societies dominated by computer technology…

or an opportunistic computer hacker. Since I have not had the distinct privilege of being a computer hacker (just an honorary member of the tech team) nor have I lived in a future world when Dell and Apple are vicious dictators, I am left with much to connect with. I wonder if Will Smith felt that way when filming iRobot. Although he does have a history with Aliens – which are probably the friends, or maybe distant cousins, of the robots who bullied Wall-e and left him to clean-up trash and befriend a cockroach. Those cyberpunks are not to be confused with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee – who are very, very cool.

MW’s word of the day is delivered right to my inbox. Twice. Same goes for Banana Republic emails. Although I’m not quite sure how it got to be so, I am fairly confident that one day my computer (which will inevitably become smarter than me) may automatically fix this for me. In any case, I digress.

Since I am, many a times, viewing this word of the day on my Blackberry, I have to scroll through a bunch of tags and image links to get to the actual text. Today I made up my own definition before I got to the real one:

Cyberpunk: \ˈsī-bər-ˌpəŋk\
Noun
1) a practical joke administered through the internet

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