Writers’ propensity for introspection often directly conflicts with narcissism. Often when encountering a given philosophy or reality, they first hold up their own life to its claims, using personal experience as a tool for determining whether to validate or dismantle a worldview. This is exactly where this essay is headed.
Despite a concerted effort over the past week to seek a subway seat and channel the angst of the day into a triumphant and eloquent artistic expression, nothing of the sort has transpired. I’ve come face to face with some of my tritest writing, clunky with forced sentimentality (blame it on three birthdays of close friends) and an irritatingly amount of hype as I’ve been estranged for several months from blogging. I’ve suffered, seemingly from a lack of anecdote, dearth of purpose, and absence of charm. Has my reporter’s mentality hijacked my inner essayist, I’ve mused, though much more despairingly than the verb suggests.
With all gravity, however, I’m more than a little bothered that I’m perpetually exposed to 4,000 word exposés on Zac Efron’s heartthrob plight, 700 word essays updating me on the Tea Party’s Republican Party frustrations, and longreads about Monica Lewinsky and Hilary Clinton’s lives post-coitus say more about society’s scruples than their moral backbone. I’ve entered a reality where I’m overstimulated by perceptions, persuasions and opinions, that I fear have suffocated my ability to generate my own.
Maybe this is how apathy starts. I’ve assumed all my life that the root of indifference is ignorance: that is, if we could educate others, others might give a damn. But right now, I worry that at the other end of the spectrum lies saturation. Somewhere along the way, too much of anything robs one’s desire, one’s curiosity, one’s ability to articulate an ethos at a solo level. College helps mitigate this phenomena due to its learning infrastructure–one may dump learnings (oh Higher Ed lexicons) into a seminar or early morning caffeine-driven existential crisis. But that dialectic may be a $40,000 a year luxury.
Instead, the bleak process of adulthood which often vanquishes generalists revolves far more around pragmatism, than disinterest. It isn’t a fact that we want to retire to our sofas and veg nightly; it’s that making art on top of making money may be impossible. Maslow’s pyramid, y’all.
But how does one move past perpetual inundation with speculations, responses, and reports with a healthy dose of reflection on the side? How ought one use stimulus to enlighten, not shrink?
(I’m not a fan of the notion I’m about to advance.)
Let’s establish a spectrum which places creativity on one end and let’s define that as the ability to think meaningful thoughts and react to them practically, uniquely and timely. Because our society so cherishes creativity, we must be honest that in order to be in such a state, it’s more than likely we must sacrifice something beautiful and often fulfilling to practice this. I posit that something is spontaneity.
Spontaneity’s a bohemian word for freedom; it’s the ability to be brilliant on-the-spot in a way in which one will later recount bedazzled stories. It invokes a sense of instantaneous awe from those who are grounded because it mandates audacity and recklessness.
But spontaneity and shallowness may be closely linked. After all, while there’s something majestic about flying standby to Paris on Thursday night because one can, there’s also a truth that the voyager will be dismissing commitments as a consequence of their flight. It’s all the chatter of staying up till 4:33 a.m. and kissing under the streetlights at the end but none of the actual manifestation of the aspirations laid out in the meandering banter. Creativity, on the other hand, is continually building ritual and purpose into one’s live. Creativity is a discipline.
As someone frequently described as spontaneous, I’m well aware of how that attribute has both served me–and where because of it I’ve fallen short. I picked up and moved to Philadelphia on a 12 hours’ notice in July, in the midst of which hauled all my belongings into a three-bedroom apartment masquerading as an old time boarding home. Two weekends ago I slummed in Elena’s Carrboro apartment, jaunted to Connecticut last Saturday, bummed in Boston on Thursday and Friday, and will arrive in Pennsylvania on Friday night. My weekend zumba schedule died a year ago this month. My commitment to my junior high girls questionable after I will miss my third Sunday in less than eight weeks
I’m wondering if when we say spontaneity, but what we actually crave is enlightenment in routines–and a Sabbath. Maybe, we’ve misunderstood what the words “break” and “downtown”and “rest” denote–interpreting them as ones where we must abstain from (worldly) pleasures and uproarious laughter and the buzz of life. But most of our lives don’t routinely buzz–they drone. Most of the times we reside square in the helter-skelter that looks awfully like a schedule, a rat-race that’s as steady as a treadmill.
Six days let us endeavor to maximize our creativity. We’ll ground ourselves in incremental work that inevitably has elements of tedium but that has the opportunity to be potent. And on the seventh day, we’ll soar.