Sacred Space (or “Executive Time”?)

In The Gallery at Redlands

A man should keep for himself a little back shop, all his own, quite unadulterated, in which he establishes his true freedom and chief place of seclusion and solitude.

Michel de Montaigne

I am laughing at my gallery desk this morning as I write this. Having just spent a week at the old country store I was afforded the time and space for quiet reflection and writing, a habit ingrained in me since the mid 1980s. Recently, much has been published about “executive time,” a practice of some famous CEOs who find ways to carve out space during the work day to be alone, allowing them to engage in creative efforts important to them, and to reflect over life and what they genuinely want to make of it.

Over the years, I have watched and re-watched “Mad Men” on TV, starring Jon Hamm. Recently, I got a kick out of the episode involving Ida Blankenship (played by Randee Heller), an aging executive secretary who had been with the advertising firm for decades. She passed away at her desk, and one of the senior partners, Bert Cooper (played by Robert Morse) was tied in knots, trying to write an obituary for this loved one who had been so close to the team for so many years. In a moment of frustration, unable to organize his thoughts, he complained loudly:

“And I have no office in which to ruminate!”

I still laugh when I recall those words. How many times have I shouted these words in my mind when caught in a situation where I needed time, quiet and space–and none of it was available to me. My friends laugh with me over this notion of “executive time.” I recall from my college days, when affiliated with the Baptist Student Union, we called it “Quiet Time”, dedicating a portion of our daily schedule to Bible study and meditation and prayer. Sometime in the midst of my graduate education, I began keeping a journal–not a diary of personal, emotional stories, but more of a daily digest of what I was reading and thinking. That journal now occupies about 200 volumes in my personal library, and I love dipping back into many of those tomes and read hastily scribbled thoughts I don’t recall thinking!

My daily habits remain largely unchanged–I collage the opening of each new day, like a new chapter, then take off, scribbling out ideas either popping up spontaneously in my imagination or spawned by something I’m reading at the moment. Today I’ve been writing about “sacred spaces”, recalling all those years I stopped in special places to think, to reflect, to write, to plan. I recall with warmth the 100-year-old house where I lived in rural Whitesboro, Texas where I wrote out most of my doctoral dissertation by the light of kerosene lamps at night (those journal pages resonate with me much more than my dissertation ever has). I still recall the sanctity of my doctoral carrell in the seminary library, of the study carrels on the third floor of the Texas Wesleyan University library during twenty-two years of my adjunct work there. My current Studio Eidolons in my own home in Arlington, Texas, of park benches, coffee shops, hotel lobbies. Next week I’ll savor the sanctity of the porch deck of Brookie Cabin in South Fork, Colorado, where I have filled many watercolor journals and writing journals with my thoughts while gazing out at the mountain stream whispering down below.

Sometimes while engaged in “executive time” I appreciate the quiet or the white noise of my surroundings; other times I pull up YouTube on my laptop and play something similar to the New York City ambience (pictured at the top of this blog), and listen to the sounds of traffic far below. I also appreciate the many, many YouTube videos of cafes either with jazz music playing or the white noise of espresso machines and customers in conversations. These kinds of sounds aid my concentration during such times.

Perhaps executive time isn’t for everyone. But it has been my life’s blood for four decades now, and I see no reason to reject this gift.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Sacred Space (or “Executive Time”?)”

  1. Dian Says:

    Loved this one! Icouldn’t survive without it!!


  2. alethakuschan Says:

    Less Madmen and more Numb3rs, for me. I cannot do a lick of math, but I loved Charlie’s blackboards and white boards. My dream is to have an empty room with abundant light from windows, its only furniture being a chair, a table for sitting the teacup and whiteboards. I call it not surprisingly “the white board room.”

    I like to imagine sitting in that light, being able to plot out thoughts on white surfaces which are also reflecting light and being able to erase all words when I leave. Not having such a room, notebooks take its place. They aren’t erased. But the white of the paper still offers some of the sensation of light.


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