Though I've never attended a TED conference, I've long been in love with the idea of an event at which visionaries from many different disciplines gather to exchange thoughts, dreams, travelogues and stories. When the TED crew began to post the conference talks online, I was beside myself with excitement. Since then, I've spent many enjoyable hours watching and listening to the talks.
This morning I discovered another gem: Maira Kalman. Maira is an incredibly talented illustrator and creative thinker who gives herself permission to be fully... herself. She makes up words, admits to numerous idiosyncrasies, doesn't have a specific narrative arc to her talk, seems totally at ease in her skin. She describes starting a company based on the premise of knowing nothing.
"Good things come out of incomprehension," she says, and I find myself wishing I could invite her to tea.
As a writer, I struggle to balance careful planning with letting go and allowing things to unfold around me. I realize that being open to life's serendipities requires a sense of trust that the ideas and projects and people I need will appear at exactly the right moment. Even knowing that, I often find it difficult to consciously release my expectations and open myself to the unknown. Watching people like Maira strengthens my sense that the effort to be effortless (does that make sense in some kind of crazy way?) is worthwhile.
"I daydreamed through my life," she says, with complete confidence.
I won't try to distill it further; you can watch it yourself:
One last thought on this topic: over the summer, I kept an audio CD set in my car of a talk given by Thich Nhat Hahn, in which he described a conversation with a friend about his poetry. The friend told him that she greatly admired his poetry, only there wasn't enough of it.
"If you would spend less time gardening," the friend said, "you could write more poems."
To which Thich Nhat Hahn replied: "The time I spend growing lettuce is indistinguishable from the time I spend writing poetry. You cannot have one without the other."
This is a loose paraphrase from memory, as I finally had to return the CD set to the library, but I'm still thinking about it, reminding myself that the time I spend aimlessly wandering or taking an afternoon nap will in fact make my work better, that my conscious mind is but a small part of what I know, and that surrendering to the mystery is a form of intelligence.
Here's to dawdling and daydreaming and humming when you can't remember the words. Here's to not knowing what is going to happen in the end.