(Emily Dickinson–top pre-20th century woman poet; in reality, the first modern female poet)
The process of life, of course resembles a narrative, a story as has often been pointed out. Joseph Campbell pointed out that often when one looks back that various events begin to resemble episodes of narrative. Another way of looking at that sweep of episodes is to consider life as process–something ongoing while alive, as constantly open/subject to change and transitory possibilities.
I’ve come to believe that this larger process, which is essentially who one is and who one becomes, is microcosmically made up of many ‘smaller’ processes, what might also be termed areas and aspects–such as one’s relationship with nature, or music, or a hobby or other passion that one pursues over time. There is frequently a developmental or growth aspect to these mini-processes within one’s life. One can look at each of these processes and realize “Oh, that started then or there” or “That’s where I’m at today with this”, or “That is where I’d like to go next with this”–very much a past-present-future perspective.
As I’ve said previously in an early blog entry, pretty much all of life experience is made up of process, context, and personal choice. At any given moment, the individual is living within processess which have a context (setting, background), and one responds day to day, moment to moment, with options to choose action or how one will spend whatever free time.
Context–which includes our health, the people around us, as well as where we live–is the main limiting external factor in our lives. We are constantly responding to this context via personal choices which ultimately, and existentially, define who we are, how much personal freedom we will have. (I will just add here that there is also a large inner context which affects us, too, including heredity, memory, desire, and response to past experience.)
Often we may feel very limited by the circumstances, crises, and obstacles that are embedded within many contexts. Sometimes one may even need to change the context–as in a job, relationship, or lifestyle choice. But whatever changes in processes usually come down, again, to personal choices–it is one’s unique life, after all.
One process or limiting factor is the most basic one of presence or absence. Everything changes and as creatures of nature, we are subject to being absent, physically and consciously, down the road. The clock is always ticking, as W. H. Auden illustrated in his various classic poems to do with time (e.g., “As I Walked Out One Evening”). Process is always and essentially time-based. And if you’ve ever been seriously ill or experienced a ‘near-miss”, you likely realize the brevity and fragility of life, of process overall.
It has been said that most humans spend most of their time trying not to think. But I believe it is in consciousness and awareness that one will find which of those processes that ‘are one’ or matter to one. A person will also find self through reflection, and often this comes from dealing with inner matters or aspects, which are ultimately most central and essentially our selves. What a person comes to know and realize is the most important information that we can attain. This information defines us and how we deal with our processes and contexts. It is the information that helps us to make important , authentic, actualizing decisions, then, relative to ourselves and others.
By way of conclusion, I will say that process and life are far more satisfying and fulfilling when they are driven by the inner life and inner processes, not the other way around. This is the place of greatest spirituality, transcendence, and creative expression. This is the place where most great men and women–the geniuses and artists have traditionally lived and lived ‘out of’– Beethoven, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Mother Teresa, Emily Dickinson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, van Gogh, on and on.