I’m in the process of revamping the blog a little. Got tired of the old theme and the like. I want to start writing again. Maybe a little less ‘existentialist-crisis-*sob*’ posts and more fun stories and cool ideas I come across. Of course, that’s if I ever get out of photoshop trying to come up with a cool background.
More and more I feel like I’m losing myself. As if there is… something… stamping… something… out of me. That’s the problem isn’t it? Everything feels so vague, and so uncertain. Nothing tangible within reach, and no tangible description of what’s happening to me. These words here are different, for I’ve been looking for them. I don’t think I’ve found them, but I know they hold some kind of clue to the… something… I’m looking for. Words make things a little more tangible, they do form a description.
Patience, I tell myself. Do I just keep waiting? That isn’t patience, that’s nothing more than passively looking at the world around you and expecting something to happen. Patience is different, more peaceful. Allow time to pass, and be ready for when the right queue comes. And if it doesn’t come? Can I make my own queues? My own oppurtunities?
They say you control your life, because its all just a ride, and you can change it whenever you want; it’s only a choice. But it isn’t ‘only’ a choice, because behind every choice is will. A choice cannot exist without a will to make it.
That’s the thing, I’ve found it! The will, my will, stamped out of me. The Will to discover, to learn, to explore, to live, to be; a Will that grows ever weary, sleepy, lazy, complacent. A side of me screams and screams in a gasping but searing voice, angry at some times, desperate at others, but ignored, or entertained for but a few moments at the best of times. Reverting to the cage of simple patterns and routines I’m stuck inside is just so easy, and without a will, why shouldn’t I do what’s easy? Why is it so easy to ignore that side of me, the voice that screams?
That voice is always being pushed away, further and further; quiet! shut up! shut it up!
I often wonder whether we lose creativity as we grow older. I remember days when imagining entire worlds was as natural as living in this one. I remember the days when dreams made such beautiful contrasts with the world of the day. It was that strange quality of being able to simply let something flow from the mind and onto the paper in a single elegant act. The universe opens up to you in those moments, and you can feel the power of it all coursing through you in a spectacular glimpse of awareness. It simply is, and evaluating it destroys it. Just try to place it on some arbitrary scale or try to give it a score out of ten; it’s like asking your imagination ‘why are you here?’ and offended, or ashamed, or self-conscious, perhaps embarrassed, it closes itself off. Refusing to be evaluated, it destroys itself. Or maybe the creativity chooses to exist somewhere else. I can hear something, its getting louder.
The original problem returns. Creativity feels like an empty concept, just another intangible wisp, and I try and try to give it some sort of description. I turn to words, and they fail to capture the idea. So creativity remains intangible, remains without description. Still, I remember the days, the days where a universe larger than the billions of light-years and fuller than the trillions of stars of this one was accessible with a mere thought, created purely and simply out of the ability to imagine that universe. Words, words are not the only way to dredge up something tangible. Some things you just feel, and they are felt so powerfully that you can more than just know it.
Evaluate me and I am destroyed. Appraising the value — value being a vague, arbitrary, and ephemeral (yet ever-present), idea — of the invaluable is only possible by saying the invaluable does not exist. Since that made no sense, to say it in a simpler way, what something is is infinitely more important than what it is not. This applies to ideas, to works of art, to people, and to all that exists. How do you use this idea? Create, or leave those who do, be. Criticism is empty and irrelevant if it does not inspire a creative act.
Still, I scream.
I’m gonna go grab some ice cream.
“Shut up and enjoy the Music!”
“Once it’s no longer accepted that something is wrong, all the laws in the world will avail you nought [sic].”
– ‘When it’s no country for old men’ : Mark Steyn, Maclean’s December 10, 2007
In the article by Mark Steyn, he states the idea that people’s actions are based on a deeper aspect of society other than the laws of that society. If something is understood to be wrong, whether it is codified in law or not, it is frowned upon by the world. Likewise, if something is not accepted to be wrong, even if it is considered illegal by law, then that law will little as a preventative measure. I agree in the sentiment that people don’t really consult the law everytime they want to do something, but rather than people infer judgments based on the culture and spirit of the times. Law in turn, must conform to this prevalent sentiment.
There are plenty of examples throughout history of law coming into conflict with the mood of a society. In the 1930’s, the United States tried to prohibit the consumption of alcohol (aptly named the Prohibition), much to the general discontent of the people. Did people follow the strict laws? Nope. Perhaps on the surface, yes, but the widespread result of the Prohibition was the era of the underground alcohol trade and speakeasys all over the place. The law disagreed with the people, and the people fought. It takes more than law to change a dominating notion or belief held in a society. Prohibition was so inefficient that it eventually just fell apart. The people fought and the people won.
A more modern example is the widespread prohibition of marijuana in virtually every North American and European country (go Amsterdam?!). Despite the money that goes into enforcing weed prohibition, it can hardly be said that the law has limited the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Like the 1930’s, there’s a whole science to the illicit weed trade, and you could argue that it’s in fact easier to get your hands on some weed as a minor than cigarettes or alcohol, which are legal, but regulated. Because of the massive sub-culture constantly driving marijuana, the law is just a speed bump in an activity that is completely driven by the will of the people to keep smoking it.
Laws, to be obeyed, must reflect the people within a society. Those that attempt to prescribe a culture rather than describe that culture inevitably fade away.
“We all forget many of the things we do, especially when they do not fit into the character we have chosen for ourselves.”
– Fifth Business, p. 262
Davies is telling us that we pick and choose from the experiences of our lives to create the kind of person we chose to be. The assumption that people choose a certain character is hardly universal, and I can’t help but feel that there is at least some segment of humanity that simply allows itself to be, and that a group of people, be it massive or tiny, accepts the character he or she develops into.
If there exists a decision to be a certain character, then there must exist a desire to be that sort of person, an “I want to be…” statement if you will. Thus the suppression of painful memories just for the sake of fulfilling that desire can be likened to that of an infant throwing a tantrum for not getting what they wanted. It is quite conceivable to me that in the lack of an inflated ego and an ideal character that a person arbitrarily prescribes to him or herself, a person is able to accept whatever they might become. In this flexible state, painful memories are not easily forgotten, and, though a difficult process, these memories can be reconciled with a new and developing character that isn’t limited by some sort of ideal.
Letting go of who I wanted to be had encouraging effects. High school has been filled with various specimens of stress and pressure, be it the pressure to have good grades, the stress of finishing all the homework, or the social pressure that seems to dictate how one should act, stress and pain seemed ubiquitous. It all seemed so incredibly complex and the problems loomed large and far from any sort of solution. They seemed to block out the sunlight as I ran to catch the bus every morning.
One day my eight year old brother came into my room and started talking about the ipod he was determined to add to his drawer of dusty electronics. For a couple of weeks he had been lobbying my parents to buy it for him, and though he was met with a firm ‘no’ each time, he was so utterly convinced that he was going to get it, and talked endlessly about the apps he was going to put on it (I blame his friends who’s parents apparently caved to their kids desires). “Do you need the ipod?” I asked him, “I want the ipod,” he’d reply, after hesitating. “Why do you want it?” I’d say, “… I just want it!” he’d exclaim. And soon it began to dawn that the things we need are different from the things we want, that the things we need are needed for a clear reason, while the things we want are wanted for no reason, only because we covet them. He left my room giggling, still telling me that he wanted the ipod, albeit in a more unsure voice. I haven’t really heard him mention it since.
As I showed my brother the difference between needs and wants, I had shown myself that all my inflated and complex issues stemmed from a person I was forcing myself to become, because I wanted to be that person. Schoolwork burdened me because I wanted to be smart, and was afraid of not being smart. Talking to people other than close friends burdened me because I wanted to be dynamic, and was afraid of being awkward. I despaired at my future because I wanted to reach high ideals, and was afraid that they were too high. I already knew all this, but for the first time I noticed the word ‘want’. I decided that I did not ‘need’ to be that person. I came, at least relatively, to accept whatever I would become, and that the stress I imposed on myself for not being who I wanted to be is quite similar to a tantrum thrown for not getting something that I wanted. The sun was brighter that day.
TL;DR – Existentialist crises are marvellous fun.
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur”
(NOT) COMING SOON
“Humanity’s true divinity lies in its ability to create,”
– Peter Joseph, Zeitgest
We, as a species, are relatively weak. The lack of impressive claws or savage teeth might make some people wonder as to how in the world we evolved to build the civilizations we so cherish today. But the human mind is graced with the ability to do something so incredible, and yet so taken for granted, we barely acknowledge it as the miracle it is. Indeed, as we acknowledge it less and less, we’re less inclined to tap into this ability of ours and as a result we lose sense of the universe around us. In the end, we’re left with an existence so devoid of spirit and color that we, in all regards, lose our humanity.
Put simply, the mind has the ability to imagine, and to create. But we’ve all heard these flashy words before, from well-meaning famous quotes like Einstein’s “Imagination is more important than knowledge” to ambiguous descriptions from artists trying to tap into their “creative” side. What in the world does it mean though? “Imagination” is one of those words that describes something in an abstract sort of way, an intangible sort of way. A useless sort of way. Especially when understanding what imagination means is the difference between using it and not at all.
There is an incredible amount of examples for what imagination is, but that’s only because imagination is really just a word for something else, something inherently fundamental in the way the human brain works. Our ability to comprehend things like symbols and metaphors (one object or idea representing another object or idea, for example the way the sun is used as a symbol for happiness, truth, rebirth and various other things that are seemingly unrelated) is actually the exact same mechanism used to associate the things we perceive on a much simpler level, for example the way we can associate speed with a car. In the example with the sun, the things it symbolizes are associated to it in an abstract method. In the example with the car, the speed is associated to the car as an base characteristic of that object.
I’m coming to realize that examples aren’t my thing. Let me try again.
The ultimate point being made can be understood when we think about the “role” of originality and creativity in today’s society. In the world of today’s media, literature and art, we have writers, graphic designers, artists, authors and various other professions that make it their goal to produce some sort of creation that embodies a unique and “original” idea. When these people fail, the masses are ruthless and relentless on their criticism of the said creation.
Here’s an example I’m more confident of. Recently the over-hyped movie Avatar directed by James Cameron came out, and the box office results were historical. For all those who had the mental capacity and attention span to look past the incredible CGI and effects realized something very unsatisfactory. For the minority of today’s population that appreciates a storyline more than fancy effects, Avatar was a huge disappointment. Why? Because Pocahontas and The Last Samurai pulled off the exact same story, except better. The story in Avatar was said to be “unoriginal”.
Now let’s stop there for a moment. This was an expensive movie, and hours upon hours of work went into it, we would therefore assume we’d have a public reaction proportional to the amount of work. Hard work pays off! They say. That obviously was not the case.
I would argue that this dissatisfaction is fundamentally rooted in the human mind’s passionate drive to form new connections with the world around it and to create a new perception or interpretation. The Unoriginal Story, offering nothing new or of value that the brain can build off of, does not satisfy this primal instinct. And while I call it a “primal instinct”, I use the term loosely. We’ve become disassociated from it, since the society we live in finds ways to keep us entertained and never bored, and we no longer feel the need to think on our own. A problem, therefore, takes root.
Creativity is often considered to be first and foremost a tool for artistic endeavors, and only artistic endeavors. This under-represents the miracle that is our mind. Creativity and imagination are fundamental aspects of the way we think and can be used just as impressively in every area of human understanding. The mathematician devises a simpler way to reach a solution by forming a new connection between two relationships. A programmer can take a 20 line function and reduce it to 3 lines in a way that would surprise the programmer himself. A chemist will, in the right mood of course, come up with an ingenious new way of creating a compound. All these are just as good examples of Creativity as an application in art, or literature.
The problem is that we don’t seem to understand that. We limit where we think we should apply creativity.
We do the world a disservice when we memorize a piece of information. Memorization, like the unoriginal story, is the bane of the human mind. In the same way, by memorizing something we give the brain nothing to work with, nothing to build off of. That piece of information will just be floating aimlessly in the cloud of neurons, disconnected and alone, incapable of merging with another tidbit of information to form a more complex web of relationships.
You can really understand what I’m getting at if you’ve ever sat in a highschool science class. Fluorine has a higher electronegativity than Rubidium, they tell us. The students scribble down this seemingly irrelevant piece of information, storing it on a piece of paper just so that they can re-memorize it later on when the test-date comes around. Even when we do formulate an explanation, it’s often devoid of a true fundamental understanding of the atom as a piece of the universe and of nature, and instead is an understanding that represents the atom as a term limited to the science room. The fact of the matter is, if students, when presented with a fact, tried to establish it within their minds by relating it to all the other pieces of information up there, this new fact would become a part of the aforementioned neural web. This would explain that odd phenomenon of students studying (memorizing) for hours upon hours only to do horribly on a test when the kid next to you who skimmed through his notes ten minutes before the test managed to get a grade embarrassingly higher.
Reaching out with the mind in the areas of science and math is no different than imagining a design when in art or a character when writing a story. They use the same mechanism of connections and relations. That is what the flashy word “Imagination” really represents. It represents the building of a network as the universe feeds us perceptions and sensations, a network that grows more and more complex and that evolves to staggeringly higher levels of understanding, allowing us to contemplate and accommodate even more facets of the universe that it is simply waiting to reveal to those that possess the miraculous driving force of a curious mind.
It’s time we reconnect to the most incredible thing we as a species are capable of, and that is quite simply the power to connect.