Charlie's Blog: Spontaneous Combustion


Spontaneous Combustion

Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.

I don't like the spontaeous. If I only went in to work when I felt like it, I would never go into work. Similarly, good writers learn early that writing is less creativity and more work. If you want to succeed as a writer, you have to get up each day, punch the clock, and get down to work. Never wait until you feel like writing because you will never write.

This lesson applies to realms beyond the written word. There are essentially two paths you can go down. The first path is the spontaneous path, but it doesn't go anywhere. This is where you indulge your feelings until you have lost the feeling to do anything. I call this spontaneous combustion. The spontaneous suggests some sort of effervescent lifeforce bubbling forth, but it is really inertia and death in the end. This brings us to the second path.

The second path is the disciplined path. Discipline brings life and freedom even though it may not look like it at the time. Discipline can be painful. Discipline is not self-indulgence but self-denial. There is suffering involved, but you move down the path and actually get somewhere.

I'm not sure where the spontaneous triumphed over the disciplined in the minds of people. I think forms of Protestantism that reject liturgical worship may have something to do with it. If you follow an order of worship and recite prayers, somehow, this is not authentic worship. So, chaotic worship is preferred because it is always from the heart. Likewise, classical music took a beating from jazz and rock with their jams and improvisations. Yet, I don't see either jazz or rock reaching the sublime heights of beauty or majesty that the classical composers achieved.

The path of discipline is the way to go in virtually all things. This applies to writing, but it also applies to your spiritual life. I am indebted to St. Josemaria Escriva and the spirituality of Opus Dei in teaching me the Plan of Life or the norms as a daily practice. Here is a description from Wikipedia:
Morning Offering
Mental prayer, also known as meditation
Daily Mass, Communion, and Thanksgiving after Communion
Rosary, a set of prayers which are typically said with the aid of prayer beads. A saying of the rosary consists (in total) of 53 recitations of the Hail Mary, six recitations of the Our Father, six instances of the Glory Be to the Father, one saying of the Apostles' Creed, and one saying of the Hail Holy Queen. Additionally, each saying of the rosary involved a private meditation upon one of the Mysteries. The Plan of Life calls for members of Opus Dei to say the rosary once each day.
Spiritual reading. Reading of the Gospel and some spiritual book
Penance. Some small act of penance or mortification.
A short visit to the tabernacle.
The Preces, a prayer which is specific to Opus Dei. It is said in Latin once each day by members.
Angelus, a prayer in memory of the Incarnation. Members of Opus Dei say the Angelus each day at noon (or as close to noon as possible). During the Easter season, the Catholic Church replaces the Angelus with the Regina Coeli.
Examination of Conscience. According to the Plan of Life, members of Opus Dei should take time out of their day to examine their conscience and reflect upon the day's events, where the members asks themselves questions such as "Did I treat anyone badly? Did I work hard?"
Three Hail Marys at bedtime
The Sign of the Cross with holy water
This Plan of Life seems daunting, but it is able to be done except perhaps for Daily Communion since most working people don't have the opportunity to attend Mass during the day. But I can say that even a modified version of this plan will yield huge spiritual dividends. It will go far in making a saint out of you.

Discipline is also needed in other areas such as an exercise program. I think disciplined reading is also a great idea. People who complain about the internet sucking up all their time from more serious reading should consider reading a few chapters from the Bible in the morning and at least a chapter from a real book in the evening. Just those two things will have the Bible read in a year and approximately book read each week. If the rest of your time is spent looking at cat pictures on Facebook, you won't feel so guilty.

Discipline is definitely a hard thing, but it is worth it even if you aren't perfect at it. Spontaneous action rapidly turns into inaction. Basically, most people are able to consistently do their jobs but not much else in their lives. It is sad that we have to turn ourselves over to some taskmaster to do what we should do. We should be our own taskmasters beating ourselves into submission to our plans for life. It is only then that we will ever achieve anything in this life. Greatness in anything does not come by accident.

This tying of one's life to a plan, to a timetable, you tell me, is so monotonous! And I answer: there is monotony because there is little Love.