Sunday, February 17, 2008

Take Your Inspiration Where You Find It

If you spend too much time thinking about the goal, you miss the journey. The goal is only as important as you think it is. The life you are given doesn't have to be the life you stay with. If you lose everything, what's lost? Nothing.

I find inspiration comes from all directions, at all times. It's almost never what you expect it to be. There are things I figure will probably be inspirational, and often they are. But it's not because they are inherently inspirational: it's because you have to be open to the possibility that they might be. Nothing stops the journey like thinking you have the goal figured out.

We're usually too sure of ourselves. The first thing to learn is that you don't have control over anything. The first thing to learn is uncertainty. The first thing to learn is that you don't know anything. It's only when you don't know anything that you can learn something. Experts have it all figured out; beginners know nothing. So beginners don't know that they're not supposed to be able to do something, so they just go ahead and do it anyway.

I find inspirations don't come when I call, but only when I stop calling. That means: shut up and listen. Stop talking, start hearing. When I don't care about them, they are endless. When I cling to them, they dissolve into nothing. Mist. Wraiths.

We go looking for inspiration when all that's needed is to look around, and there it is. "There are no ordinary moments. There is never nothing going on." That's a perennial teaching that we spend a lot of time forgetting or ignoring, when nothing could be simpler.

I find inspiration in simply stopping thinking about whatever I'm thinking about, and looking at what's around, and hearing what's around. You can only do that if you shut off the noise: not just the TV or radio, but that noise we all generate between our ears, a lot of the time. Put the grocery bag down and go to the window, and look out. Don't say anything. Don't even tell me what you're seeing.

Until you can spend a lot of time in this complete and utter silence, you will never be able to write a single word that's worth anything.

If you want something to write about, stop and look and listen. I find that moments last forever when I give them my full attention, and go by so fast when I care too much about them going by too fast. People often wish they could recapture the freshness of the world they perceived as children. They often wish the day could last as long as it did, back then. It can. "Lose your mind to come to your senses." Have you lost your mind lately? No? Then you're probably thinking too hard. You need to stop that.

How do you recapture that sense of long afternoons and slow summer days you remember experiencing as a kid? Simple: Throw away everything you don't need. We all carry around too much. The past is as malleable and as changeable as the future. It's perfectly possible to take the worst memory I have, and make it never happened. Some things I don't even remember any more: they've been discarded, and forgotten.

There are words that are toxic, and need to be banished from your personal lexicon. These are a few of the words that I have banished from my vocabulary: hope, should, try. These words are toxic to me; they keep me from seeing what's really there, because they get me caught up in my thinking, they eat up my attention and take me away from this moment, right here. Try is a word that really means I already know I'm going to fail, so I'm letting myself off the hook beforehand. The word should is always coercive: it's a word we beat ourselves up with; it's a word we use to tell ourselves that we suck, that we're not worth it, that we should be able to do more, and do it better, than we can. Should is a word that causes people to hate themselves, and each other. It is a violent, pain-giving word. Should is a word that is always judging something or someone; it is an inherently and deliberately judgmental word.

Hope seems innocuous enough; it seems harmless, because hope is a good thing, right? It keeps you focused on the future, on getting out of the mess you're in right now. It's supposed to give you faith in the midst of the darkest days, it's supposed to give you strength to endure the worst suffering. Right? Hope is by far the most toxic of these three words. It is a word that takes me out of the present moment and into an illusory future or past that doesn't exist. It is a word that allows me to collapse into fantasy, then sets me up for a fall into painful disillusionment as my expectations are never met, and the illusions I had evaporate. Again and again, it has been a word that sets me up for a fall. Hope takes me directly to an abyss of suffering. Does that seem harsh? In my experience, it's actually something of an understatement.

I find inspirations don't have to be hoped for, or gone looking for. All I have to do is stop and look and listen. The world comes to a halt, and the day lasts forever—a moment is a very long time indeed—and I have all the time in the world. When I accept the world just as it is, without hope: then hopeless acceptance lays a table for the ease of all suffering. I have to start and end with what the world is, not what I want it to be.

I don't have to try to find inspirations, either inside myself or outside of myself. They're always there: put your hand into the river, and your hand will get wet. Who does the water droplet running off your hand belong to? You?

There is no should-do, as there is no try-to. The minute I stop thinking I really should be doing something, anything, other than what I am doing right now, I find that I have given up all judgment about what there is to do, whether it's the right or wrong thing to do, right now. I have no idea what I'm doing—isn't it wonderful? Do you think kids playing are thinking about what they're doing? They're just doing it. Should I do this? or not? Shouldn't I really be doing something more responsible and adult and productive with my time? Something other than what I'm doing right now, which is writing this down? How pointless is that? Completely, wonderfully pointless. Now go play!

If you don't think you can do any of this, you're right, you can't. You've already prevented yourself from being able to do any of it. "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours."

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Blogger Will said...

Hugely inspiring, just when I need it. Thanks Arthur.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Excellent! You're most welcome.

8:07 PM  

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