A Creative’s Struggle to Feel Human
by Phillip Le
I am amazed at the situations I find myself in, sometimes extravagant, other times surprising, and from time to time, enlightening. Mundanity sets in, for sure, and I think that this feeling grows as we find ourselves more capable of escaping it. Ever read a book and wish that you were doing what they were? Or watch a movie and find an instant twinge of nostalgia as the music cues and the credits start to scroll? Part escapism, part actualization of a dream to move, to explore, to inquire, the adventurous in us were clever enough to invent ways to accentuate the experience, or, with a sprit of genius, create one.
Even then, once that moment is done, that last leaf turned, or the last spin on the merry-go-round rounds, people like us crave ever so slightly the next moment that brings us out of our normalcy. Book, film, playground architecture, small hamlet along the coast, guest to a laird, sitting on a dock with friends; amazing moments once wrung lay dripping with memories.
Finality inspires. It asks of us, what have we taken for granted? What have we done, or more importantly, what have we yet to do and what will we never be able to experience again. How many more times will we sit by that window sipping coffee? Or run alongside the river, losing the day’s trials as we do so? How many more opportunities will we have to dance upon rooftops like kings upon their thrones?
Are all these hopeless grasps at unsustainable pleasures? Or mere stepping stones to a higher plane of existence? Collingwood warned of looking at practical life with disdain, that the disatisfaction of those linking moments between fortuity be an illness to our humanistic fiber:
Amusement becomes a danger to practical life when the debit it imposes on these stores of energy is too great to be paid off in the ordinary course of living. When this reaches a point of crisis, practical life or ‘real’ life, becomes emotionally bankrupt; a state of things which we describe by speaking of its intolerable dullness or calling it a drudgery. A moral disease has set it, whose symptoms are a constant craving for amusement and an inability to take any interest in the affairs of ordinary life, the necessary work of livelihood and social routine. A person in whom the disease has become chronic is a person with a more or less settled conviction that amusement is the only thing that makes life worth living. A society in which the disease is endemic is one in which most people feel some such conviction most of the time.1 (R.G. Collingwood)
R.G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958), p. 95
An alarming consideration at the very least. To be addicted to what we consider the essential consistency of our resolve—the “stuff” that makes life worth living—would be a crime. But I believe there is a clear distinction between the stargazer and the sleuth. Perhaps in our pursuit of mental and spiritual satisfaction, we use those rare moments, exploiting them as linking points, cues to connect our memories to the less memorable—though no less essential—chapters of our greater narrative. That is what makes working hard and working smart as satisfactory as traveling fast and traveling far. And while the repetitious routine may seem to wear away our resolution, we must remember that those instances, whether impressive or seemingly inconsequential, are only a part of the greater awe. It is, after all, in those quiet moments where we are able to synthesize all those great experiences to create the great work, our magnum opus.
And so it is that on a Friday night, quite an un-extraordinary one, we find ourselves in a restaurant discussing the mundane.
“When you start feeling that way, it’s always good to take a moment and step back. That way you can look at yourself as a character in you own narrative. You can remove yourself from that moment of frustration.”
Wise words from a friend who, at the moment, is taking a giant bite out of his brick-oven pizza.
”That’s why it’s called ‘The Struggle,’ Phil. Because it’s a struggle.”
And as I’m now taking my turn to take a bite out of my pizza, I think about what Matt had to say. All that comes to mind is: How clever.