Quotes from “Composing a Life” by Mary Catherine Bateson

Thank you Elizabeth Corcoran for reciting us this beautiful quote.

In a stable society, composing a life is somewhat like throwing a pot or building a house in a traditional form: the materials are known, the hands move skillfully in tasks familiar from thousands of performances, the fit of the completed whole in the common life is understood. …
Today, the materials and skills from which a life is composed are no longer clear. It is no longer possible to follow the paths of previous generations. …
Many of the most basic concepts we use to construct a sense of self or the design of a life have changed their meanings: Work. Home. Love. Commitment. …
I believe that our aesthetic sense, whether in the works of art or in lives, has overfocused on the stubborn struggle toward a single goal rather than on the fluid, the protean, the improvisatory. We see achievement as purposeful and monolithic, like the sculpting of a massive tree trunk that has first to be brought from the forest and then shaped by long labor to assert the artist’s vision, rather than something crafted from odds and ends, like a patchwork quilt, and lovingly used to warm different nights and bodies.

Bateson, Mary Catherine. “Emergent Visions.” Composing a Life. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1989. N. pag. Print.

Amazon Link: Composing a Life

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