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Call it 'poetically pragmatic,' perhaps

A biography describes Anton Chekhov as being both practical and poetic. To me, this seems a desirable balance in life.

Being practical is a necessity. The monthly rent must be paid, along with gas and electric bills. (I recall two blackouts at home when I was growing up. Mother, with all her other responsibilities, had forgotten to pay the electric bill. On those occasions we dined by candlelight.)

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Our lives need a degree of organization. Like living within our means. Completing tasks. Punctuality.

But there is more to life than paying bills and being organized. A poetic element is desirable. It can take different forms. Enjoying literature, music, art. Writing. Daydreaming. Being open to nature. "Look, look old mole! There, straight up before you, is the magnificent sun. If only for the instant, you see it." (Emerson)

Each day I combine the practical and the poetic.

Setting the alarm clock and rising when it rings is the essence of practicality.

Listening to the birds sing outside my window while lying in bed is poetic.

Dressing for work and walking to the subway is practical.

But taking a route to the subway through New York's Central Park is poetic, as is sitting on a park bench to write and to enjoy the blossoming trees.

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At the conclusion of my day, the mix continues. In the evening I read legal documents for meetings the next day. (Ugh, too practical.)

But the poetic slips in. I listen to an opera as I review documents, and then - in the last waking hour of my day - I read from a play, novel, or biography.

The poetic gains the upper hand. That is, until the alarm clock goes off seven hours later, and a new day begins.

A life without being practical can be chaos. A life without poetry is half a life. "If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches...." (Ranier Maria Rilke) Combine the two, and you have a varied and satisfying life.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor


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