June 25, 2010

Want Not

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Jedi Master, as written by George Lucas and voiced by Frank Oz

As sometimes occurs when I begin to write, I was looking for something. And as sometimes also happens while I draw the amorphous tendrils of a persistent problem into words, a solution emerges like a ship cutting through the fog, the first clear sight of something within miles, weeks, even years of nothing. Sometimes it is an ahha! moment, sometimes a well, duh moment. And occasionally, like today, the ship is just there and it is up to me whether I choose to board.

I am two weeks behind in rewriting my thesis narrative. Since the first of June, I have struggled to complete this task I manifestly do not want to do, and all the mental whining and nagging that entails. I have turned away time and again in favor of more immediate, more easily accomplished tasks. But the time for “thinking about how I want to do it” is long past and the time of “doing it” is swiftly slipping away as my June 30th deadline approaches.

The anger still simmers and all the reasons I “shouldn’t have to” fester in my mind like an evil. All of this is weighted down by a to-do list that only grows with the urgency of moving and other projects for other professors yet left undone. Yes! I tell myself I want that diploma. I want to be free of this sword of Damocles and move forward into my new life without these burdens. But the angry bit, the resentful bit, the whining bit incessantly whispers “what’s the point?” A Master of Architecture isn’t exactly a prerequisite for chaplaincy. All the while I pin my hopes on the stubborn in me being stronger than the “don’t wanna” and “shouldn’t halfta.”

As my mind spins on thoughts of samsara and suffering and desire, a wheel turned by a engine whose gears are labeled “thesis” and “expectation” and “packing” and “frustration” and “motivation” (or maybe that one’s missing), I realize that all this want and don’t want amounts to nothing at all. There’s nothing that says I have to do what I want to do or don’t have to do what I don’t want to do. I am free to act irrespective of my own desires. They are not bullies in a schoolyard to push me around with sheer brute force.

The ship has arrived. In my mind it takes the form of the Zeitgeist, a two-mast sailboat with a dark red hull we saw in the fog of San Diego harbor during vacation there last September. It made me laugh. Zeitgeist, or “spirit of the age” is an oft heard word in the architecture history classrooms. It was a catalyst for German modernism and the Bauhaus, the school which set the stage for this modern architectural education I am now enjoying (tongue in cheek) so well. Truly, she makes a better ship than pedagogy or architectural concept.

And it is up to me whether or not I will board her, with Master Yoda’s words ringing in my ears. Yoda was, of course, referring to Luke Skywalker’s will, that he couldn’t lift the x-wing only because he thought he couldn’t lift the x-wing. I can’t write my thesis not because I think I can’t. Quite the contrary. I know I can. I just don’t want to. But, similarly, wanting need not correlate with doing.

Want not. Do or do not. There is no want.

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