Moments of speed and urgency but dependent on a felt perception of the larger pattern. The ability to close on something and then let it go. The key seems to be to a find a restful yet attentive presence in the midst of our work, to open up spaciousness even in the centre of responsibility. To find some source of energy other than our constant applications of effort and will. If we attempt to engage the will continually, it exhausts us and prevents us from creating something with a pattern that endures. A well-built, dry stone wall such as Allen constructs, free of cement, can settle, move, adapt to temperature, and function as a good wall for hundreds of years. In the limestone areas of Yorkshire, there are walls dating to the twelfth century; in Ireland, the remains of some dry stone field walls are 4,000 years old.


As Finkel remarks, ‘cement walls do not reach old age. Cement walls do not move. The crack and then they fall. ‘Cement’, Allen says, ‘is a sin.’


We might say, as we attempt to construct something enduring in our own lives, that speed is a sin as constraining as cement. Speed seems to speak of movement but it actually glues us into whatever immobile, unattending identity we have constructed. The moment we stop the constant willful building, the edifice of our work falls down.

Crossing the Unknown Sea

Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

David White

Riverhead Books 2001


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