Thursday, January 27, 2011

All that clarity and yet so little clarity

Never Done: Broke up with a film project

I haven't yet had a chance this week to write about this week's mide (middah): Calmness: Words of the wise are stated gently. As a new blanket of new snow covers the city (or at least my block, as can be seen out my windows) in calm, I have my chance.

I broke up with a film project, by calm and thoughtful email exchange. It was a mutual break up. It was the first film project I ever broke up with. I am surprised to notice that I don't feel upset about it.

The challenging nature of the project required me to repeatedly clarify what I wanted for myself, and what I wanted for each of the other collaborators, and what I thought the other collaborators wanted for themselves. The mussar practice and va'ad (council) helped me enormously to continually think about the others, their legitimate concerns, and their likely burdens, while also doing the same for myself. And while things were difficult from the start, I was also clear why I was committed to sticking with it, and I was clear about what I could contribute and why I was valuable to the project, and I was clear about what I couldn't contribute. All that clarity! And yet, so little clarity. It's amazing how sometimes we think we are communicating so well, only to find out that we've remained a mystery.

Each week, the mides (middot) have helped me act ethically, each coming from sometimes radically new angles to give surprisingly consistent perspective. (Surprisingly in context of how different it is to approach one situation by considering the ethics of, say, frugality and cleanliness.) But last week's mide -- Silence: Reflect before speaking -- turns out to be an invaluable component of and precursor to Calmness: Words of the wise are stated gently. Because I don't think you can be wise without reflection, and I don't think you can state things gently without first having gone through a period of silence and reflection.

And so with the help of this practice, I was able to think this through, talk it over, listen carefully, gain perspective, and ultimately feel confident that we all made a thoughtful and calm decision. Do I wish it could have been different? Absolutely. Do I regret any of the time we spent together? Not at all. Do I still have the benefit of my clarity? I do, actually, and I hope I can use it to support the project, and the people involved in the project, from outside the project.

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