Entering into the spirit
Surrendering the need to be good
We were carving pumpkins a few nights ago and I started thinking about getting into the spirit.
Getting into something somehow feels a little grabby to me. I like the more formal, older expression, entering into the spirit. To enter is to step into something inside or outside of yourself.
Thomas Troward (1847–1916) wrote in his book The Hidden Power:
“ENTERING into the spirit of it." What a common expression! And yet how much it really means, how absolutely everything! We enter into the spirit of an undertaking, into the spirit of a movement, into the spirit of an author, even into the spirit of a game; and it makes all the difference both to us and to that into which we enter. A game without any spirit is a poor affair; and association in which there is no spirit falls to pieces; and a spiritless undertaking is sure to be a failure. On the other hand, the book which is meaningless to the unsympathising reader is full of life and suggestion to the one who enters into, the spirit of the writer; the man who enters into the spirit of the music finds a spring of refreshment in some fine recital which is entirely missed by the cold critic who comes only to judge according to the standard of a rigid rule; and so on in every case that we can think of. If we do not enter the spirit of a thing, it has no invigorating effect upon us, and we regard it as dull, insipid and worthless. This is our everyday experience, and these are the words in which we express it.
There is a great tension in life between surrender and control. To enter into the spirit of something is to surrender to it.
I recently read two good books about jazz and improvisation. The writers both emphasized the importance of surrender to the artist’s work.
In Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Stephen Nachmanovitch devotes an entire chapter to “Surrender.” His idea is that creative blocks are “the price of avoiding surrender.” Paradoxically, the way to get out of a creative block is not to clamp down and take control, but to let go.
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