ECSTATIC SELF-FORGETFULNESS

“In self-forgetfulness, one draws closer to God.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. “Childlikeness” has to be restored with long years of training in the art of self-forgetfulness. When this is attained, man thinks yet he does not think. He thinks like the showers coming down from the sky; he thinks like the waves rolling on the ocean; he thinks like the stars illuminating the nightly heavens; he thinks like the green foliage shooting forth in the relaxing spring breeze. Indeed, he is the showers, the ocean, the stars, the foliage” ~D.T. Suzuki

Flow is a state of self-forgetfulness, the opposite of rumination and worry: instead of being lost in nervous preoccupation, people in flow are so absorbed in the task at hand that they lose all self-consciousness, dropping the small preoccupations—health, bills, even doing well—of daily life. In this sense moments of flow are egoless. Paradoxically, people in flow exhibit a masterly control of what they are doing, their responses perfectly attuned to the changing demands of the task. And although people perform at their peak while in flow, they are unconcerned with how they are doing, with thought of success or failure—the sheer pleasure of the act itself is what motivates them.

“Billy Elliot” is a movie about a boy of about ten years old from a poor Irish family who learns how to dance. He practices incessantly, on the roof, in the alleys, everywhere in his small Irish village. His teacher suggests that he apply for a scholarship at a distinguished arts academy. The most poignant scene in the movie shows him auditioning for the scholarship. In front of a long desk of five stolid judges, the music is turned on and everyone waits for Billy Elliot to dance. At first his nervousness betrays him and he’s uncertain of his steps. But he slowly gives way to the rhythm that he hears. In minutes, Billy Elliot is leaping across the floor, doing the most fantastic numbers. After the audition, amazed by Billy’s prowess, one of the judges asks the boy the question, “What is it that you enjoy about dancing?” And his response: “I disappear. I forget myself completely.”

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