Provisional Gestures of Intention

Sometimes words express more than we know.

A few days ago, contemplating the status of a new novel I am working on, I realized that my fragmentary beginnings fall far short of that moment of truth when a character saddles up and hits the trail–with you, the author, scrambling to keep up.  In comparison to that decisive turning point in a narrative, my scattered beginnings remain (as I put it in my daily journal) “provisional gestures of intention”.

Vision” and “intention”–the initial steps in the Buddhist “Noble Eightfold Path”–represent the role played by understanding in life, a potentiality that will remain locked in our minds until embodied through Speech and Action, the third and fourth steps.  (There are four further steps—which integrate vision (who we want to be) and embodiment (who we are)–however it is the first four steps that have most influenced how I approach writing.)

Vision goes nowhere if we don’t form the Intention to sally forth on its behalf, at which point Speech steps up (planning, outlining, and exhorting us to write something), and then–if we are audacious enough to Act (putting words into a character’s mouth and sending him forth to confront his demons)–we may find ourselves eagerly picking up our pen each day.

Somewhere during this process of reflection, I noticed that the word “provisional” (ostensibly just a tentative blueprint that we would like to implement) carries a further connotation:

         Pro-vision-al—Pro (a supporter of) vision.

This may be obvious to many, but I find this turning-on-its-head of a common enough word personally valuable.  Instead of thinking of all those feelings of uncertainty and insufficiency as obstacles standing in the way of accomplishment, perhaps we can remind ourselves than when some dream keeps returning to our minds, we are only a step or two away from its realization.

How reassuring it is to realize that even when standing tentatively on the edge of an incomplete and provisional endeavor, the power of vision is standing on the shore, waiting patiently to ferry us to the other side.

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