September 11, 2005

Flow

From Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Yet we have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, master of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like.

This is what we mean by optimal experience. It is what the sailor holding a tight course feels when the wind whips through her hair, when the boat lunges through the waves like a colt - sails, hull, wind and sea humming a harmony that vibrates in the sailor's veins. It is what a painter feels when the colors on the canvas begin to set up a magnetic tension with each other, and a new thing, a living form, takes shape in front of the astonished creator. Or it is the feeling a father has when his child for the first time responds to his smile.

Such events do not occur only when the external conditions are favourable, however: people who have survived concentration cams or who have lived through near fatal physical dangers often recall that in the midst of their ordeal they experienced extraordinary epiphanies in response to such simple events as hearing the song of a bird in the forest, completing a hard task, or sharing a crust of bread with a friend.

Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments of our lives are not passive, receptive, relaxing times - although such experiences can also be enjoyable if we worked hard to attain them.
Beautifully put! The ideas mentioned in Flow have quite a bit of resonance with what Scott M. Peck discusses in The Road Less Travelled.

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