The Baffled Mind, the Impeded Stream
January 2, 2013
The Real Work
by Wendell Berry
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
I get a bit anxious with the year-end reviews and resolutions, the tug between looking back (and feeling discouraged about lack of accomplishments and growth) and looking forward (and feeling hopeful about doing better this year). Progress, if any, feels so slow, and I tell myself to be patient. After all, it’s the journey that counts, and not so much the destination. All of my little musings, struggles to draw and paint, wishes to take better photographs and to write better, flaws in my roles as wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend . . . everything all the time. Yes, my mind is often baffled.
And that is why I find so much solace in today’s poem. “The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” Thank you, Wendell Berry. Finding my purpose, figuring out what is important in my days — this is my real work — even when I don’t know what I’m doing or which way to go.
“The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
“It is in the doldrums that our talents are most needed. The best training for desperation is to know early the feeling of no guidance. In photography the squeak of intention destroys serendipity.”
– Dan Torop, Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment
“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.”
– Edgar Degas
“Sometimes confidence is overrated! Questions and uncertainty are the stuff of artists! . . . You need enough confidence to hold your paintbrushes, and to show up in the studio, knowing that you are not wasting your time — but after that, I would say uncertainty should prevail. We can never be too sure.”
– Anna Deavere Smith, Letters to a Young Artist