You don’t have to be a linguist to look at this word and recognize it as foreign, and rolling it over your tongue to figure out it comes from that family of languages which lilt their ways into clearings of white-washed sky over Mediterranean waters. Latin, we call it, and memories of dead dusty tomes piled up in libraries we see in movies are all we may have. And yet it wasn’t always so, and that language was spoken freely over many lands, and my land was one, too. Which I miss, and perhaps even more keenly now that I have just re-read The Lord of the Rings. Mortal I am, and yet immigrants will identify with the elves’ yearning for the oldest lands across the Sundering Seas….
But I digress, or maybe I needed these words to come first before the mind can pay attention to more specific things.
Anyway, the word “spontaneous” came up in conversation with a friend, and I have explored it with others as well. In the controlled routine of most of our settled lives, something that translates as “of one’s own accord” may not always be welcome, we may even think it is dangerous and belongs to the very young and be sometimes regretful at its perceived lack in us.
But definitions are interesting sometimes… something spontaneous is said not to have any trigger, and that got me thinking about it. Spontaneous applause may not seem to have any trigger and yet is happens rarely in a forest but mostly in places where applause would be appropriate, like in a place of performance (be it a hall, or a square) and where there is more than one person… so the context is shaping even the unpredictable, which is a synonim. Context? Prediction? We have some knowledge of this at least.
We temper our actions within the pool of our responsibilities. Spontaneity seems therefore a thing of the past, when responsibilities were not the marking of our identity as adults. We sometimes wish for those times. But what do we put in the place where spontaneity once dwelt? What follows is my way.
By nature and by nurture combined I try to think of consequences. These are rarely discrete objects, mostly they are pathways one could tread. I try to follow each pathway as far as my mind can see, exploring on the way the side roads as they appear. This happens in quiet moments, when my body paces steadily in a confined space, and sometimes the moon shines its silvery trail at the crossroads. Once my mind has exhausted the pathways it can see, real life may present others which can then be added. So now I am reasonably confident (not fully, as you know, life is spontaneous!) that whichever pathway opens before me I can stand and walk at least as far as the next night with a few moments of peace for my mind to wander.
So in the daytime, when life does happen and pathways do open, I do not have to hesitate at the crossroads, for I have thought about what I can live with and what I can leave without. When we have the security we expect, we can be brave, and assertive, and fast.
It is not spontaneity. It is not, I believe, detachment (although that plays a role). But it is a way. And, if our minds and hearts lean towards one of the pathways, I have found that sooner or later, as a main road or a side road or just a trail disappearing into the forest, that path will one day be open to us, so that we may tread it until the end of our journey.