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Why You Need to Dive Deep into Duende

By: Pamela Slim


I just spent three days in a hotel on a lake in Georgia, in a room filled with creative people, art, inspiration and poetry. I was at Patti Digh’s first annual Design Your Life Camp.

One of the participants shared that the event was like a “Three day Duende-fest.” So I looked up “duende” on Wikipedia:
El duende is the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive. Folk music in general, especially flamenco, tends to embody an authenticity that comes from a people whose culture is enriched by diaspora and hardship; vox populi, the human condition of joys and sorrows. Drawing on popular usage and Spanish folklore, Federico García Lorca first developed the aesthetics of Duende in a lecture he gave in Buenos Aires in 1933, “Juego y teoria del duende” (“Play and Theory of the Duende”).
I am sure that el duende was with us.
I longed for my Mom and missed my grandma when Glenis Redmond shared a rousing poem about the magic of her mother. I remembered what a powerful gift I have in my children.
I looked at art and books created by participants, and remembered the satisfaction that comes from bringing a creative vision to life.
And when Shane Koyczan spent thirty minutes telling stories and sharing poems about his childhood, and bullies, and love, my heart felt like it would burst in my chest.
Creation of any sort—writing, coding, speaking, leading—needs duende as fuel. You cannot create from an empty pot of emotion.
And you certainly will not get it from doing more PowerPoint slides, or reading more business books.
The roots of your work feed on duende.
“Lorca writes: “everything that has black sounds in it, has duende. [i.e. emotional ‘darkness’] […] This ‘mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains’ is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched the heart of Nietzsche, who searched in vain for its external forms on the Rialto Bridge and in the music of Bizet, without knowing that the duende he was pursuing had leaped straight from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz or the beheaded, Dionysian scream of Silverio’s siguiriya.” […] “The duende’s arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm.”
If you are feeling less than enthusiastic about your job, blocked from writing your book, tepid in your relationship with your loved one, uninspired in your brainstorming or dissatisfied in your life, I suggest one thing:
Dive head first in a deep pool of duende.
Watch some live poetry.
Go to a concert.
Go to a favorite museum.
Walk in nature and look at its perfect bumps and curves.
 Remember why it is fun to be alive.
This article was originally published by Escape from Cubicle Nation
Published: October 14, 2013

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Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, speaker and leader in the new world of work. She spent the first 10 years of her solo practice as a consultant to large corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab and Cisco Systems. In 2005, she started the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, now one of the top career and business sites on the web. She has coached thousands of budding entrepreneurs, in businesses ranging from martial art studios to software startups. She is the author of the award winning book Escape from Cubicle Nation and is working on her second book Body of Work, due to be published in December, 2013.

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