Hold it still

Imagine trying to describe a brook. A running brook is never the same. New water flows past, working away, little by little, at the banks. From moment to moment it is a different brook. To talk about a brook we have to find a constant aspect of it. To perform any rational operation concerning the brook we must consider it unchanging, treat it as if it were the same.

Language and rational processes both hold experience constant. To behave rationally, one uses categories formed in the past. "I'll meet you at the brook we went to yesterday." We can map its course as of today, measure its acidity at a certain point. Each time we treat it as the very same brook.

An artist or writer, however, might choose not to hold it but simply to experience the dynamic nature of the brook, to sit by it and become open to its "brookness." We call this approach mindful or intuitive; it bypasses old categories and rational thinking. The dancer Isadora Duncan, whose art is by definition motion and change, said, "If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it."

Out of an intuitive experience of the world comes a continuous flow of novel distinctions. Purely rational understanding, on the other hand, serves to confirm old mindsets, rigid categories.

"It is by logic that we prove. It is by intuition that we discover," said the mathematician Henri Poincaré. In dealing with the world rationally, we hold it constant, by means of categories formed in the past. Through intuition, on the other hand, we grasp the world as a whole, in flux.

[Ellen Langer]
Mindfulness, p.116, 117

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