Early alchemical ouroboros illustration with the words ἓν τὸ πᾶν (“The All is One“) from the work of Cleopatra the Alchemist in MS Marciana gr. Z. 299. (10th Century)

The all is one.

From Wikipedia, on the ouroboros:  “Swiss psychologist Carl Jung saw the ouroboros as an archetype and the basic mandala of alchemy. Jung also defined the relationship of the ouroboros to alchemy:[21]

The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. “

The ouroboros sprang to mind this evening as I have contemplated an intriguing looping of my creative processes over the past year.  I have been part of Toastmasters now for over 12 years, and have always used my many, many interests as fodder for speeches. My clubs have learned a great deal about various Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, Toronto’s architecture, the music of Rush, various places I have visited, interesting words and their history, volcanoes, ruins, poetry, how to tune a violin, raising kittens, oddball Christmas gifts, the Olympics, and much, much more.  I have in that time given literally hundreds of speeches, and until recently the process has been one way, with the speech its terminus.  But since my competition speech of last year (“The Muses Were Not Silent”, which I shared here at the beginning of January), the process has increasingly coiled back on itself into a continuity of thought.  There is something about putting speech into writing, and writing into speech, that is having an immensely positive impact on both.  Thus the oroboros.

My next Toastmasters project is a 20 minute keynote speech.  I have never had problems finding ideas for my speeches, but which one for this project?

But of course! I have spoken several times before about the ruins of Detroit, which then fed into the series I recently wrote here.  I have refined those ideas, originally presented as speeches, into writing. I have revisited and revised, adding in new material. Once more through the refining fire they will go again, and emerge transformed once again. And so around the loop we go again.

Feed music into that loop, and what the result is that my listening skills are also taking a decided leap.  I feel I am more attuned to cadence, rhythm, the play of sound and silence, listening for what is not there as much as what is there.  Last night, I competed in a Toastmasters evaluation context, where each entrant competes against others to give the most effective evaluation of a test speech in just three minutes.  Not only did I feel better equipped to observe and comment, I was struck at how succinct and focused those comments became. Gone was the desire to cram too much into the three minutes. I am thinking that I have learned something.  And good thing, too–last year, I almost certainly lost one of these contests by going over time.  Last night I won.

The all is won.

(Well, maybe not yet all. But I am still in the game.)