It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.
- Seneca, Moral Epistles, 104.26
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Aphorisms can be maddening. They tend to be turns of phrase, clever word play to reveal a supposed truth. They simplify what is otherwise convoluted, complicated and thorny with contradictions. But they endure and attach themselves because of this selfsame madness. We call them memes these days, but once they were the work of philosophers, not trolls, and they helped explain our human nature, however imperfectly.
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I have been taken with this idea lately: creativity is motion. For anyone who is fucked and stuck and going nowhere, the idea of motion, of being able to move again is as a glass of cool water to a thirsty man: the promise of relief. But if you're stuck, if the gears are mucked with sand, the notion of movement is more mirage than relief. How to move again? How to overcome the inertia and gravity bearing down on you and stretch your legs? The weight of our troubles makes it difficult to imagine. Despair and fear compound the merely difficult and make it impossible.
As real as that is in its effects, it is, in truth, an illusion: a trick of the mind deployed to protect ourselves. That's not to say our circumstances can't be dire, or tragic, or filled with stupifying loss. What it does say is that our response to those losses (our defensive crouch, the fetal ball, the dolor of inaction) is based on the past - where we've been hurt, rather than what comes next - where who and what we are is yet to be determined. We look at the past and project the difficulties into the future as if there can be no change and so find we cannot move. We are mired, stuck, unmoving. In a word: fucked. We add to our difficulties when we do so and we do so because the pain is familiar and we know a response: defend the illusion that we are victims, or are helpless, or somehow incapable of meeting the moment.
It is wildly human of us to do so, even though it adds a further weight and pain to our circumstance.
The tonic, the get-out-of-hell-free-card is found in any act of creation, creativity or making.
But, but, but, didn't I just say we're stuck and unable to move? Yes. But that was a lie.
It is impossible to be stuck. It is impossible to be inert. Your thoughts can grind to a halt and you can convince yourself you can't move, but the truth is you are an on-going act of creation and re-creation that is without end. Here's the idea I've been playing with: everything in the universe is in motion, from the sub-atomic to the vastness of the visible universe, everything moves, hums, vibrates, changes, morphs, dies and is re-used in other forms. Now I know this not as a physicist would but as a poet. It is a metaphor that happens to be actual. When we cease to participate in the dongs of our lives, our times because we've lost the thread of our soul or had it yanked from us by chance or neglect, we do not cease to be. We remain verbs though our spirit is freighted with confusion and therein lies the escape route. We, despite ourselves, continue to feed ourselves, to bathe and clothe ourselves. There may be no joy in it, but we continue in these basic forms. Surely, you have felt the odd wonder of cleaning the dishes in your sink as a vast accomplishment. Why would that be so? Because we are of the universe, the carbon in our bodies the gift of dead stars, and the universe is in motion. When we move, we are met by further motion. It may seem reciprocal or not, but when you can recognize that despite your suffering you are in motion still then you have a template for extending that idea: create.
It doesn't have to be art, though that's cool. It can be the creation of a clean sink or flossed teeth. But there is an objection to define creation down to include such mundane things. Yes, if you only think of creation as works of fine art. That is utterly limiting and misses the point: you are creation itself because you live. You are here and regardless of what has held you in its grasp, you are still contributing to the further creation of your life despite feeling lost. It is impossible not to. It is however, possible to not believe it and to act on that non-belief in such a way that the world does pass you by like a rock in a stream: over, under and around.
What's gotten fucked is your sense of movement. Stagnation is easy. Daring to test the strength in your legs is hard. But Seneca was right: it is hard because there is no daring. Fear of failing, of embarrassment ride high in the mind. But there is also this: the fear of losing what is known, even if it is difficult, can be the most powerful force in play. Without your losses, who are you? What will you be responsible for? Inertia keeps those questions at bay.
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Mihaly Csikszentmihaly wrote in Flow: "It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were."
We become more when we take action for no reason other than to be in motion. No other reward, no motive, no nothing other than the will to take action. If you are fucked and stuck any action will do (see "clean dishes" above). It is re-orients you to the basic truth of being alive: you are in motion as everything around you is in motion and the most flexible muscle is not found in your body, but in your mind and is your consciousness.
Unfucking your life is unfucking your mind. It takes the habit of being open to what's next to get there. The way to instill that habit is to move.
I found this note among some older writings of mine:
Why do I seek God?
Because you refuse to see that God is already here, immanent, in motion, part of you.
The mystery: you and it are one - though you don't trust that. That is why you PRETEND TO SEARCH.
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You're not stuck, love. You are pretending to be because you fear what happens next. But happens next is unwritten. You get to create it and with every breath you already are.
I wish you well.