In the midst of starting 26 different drafts and chastising myself for not posting each week and having that cycle of self-hatred and subsequent inaction snowball into 4 months, I was thinking about the reason for my insanity, and it hit me. I haven’t been able to post because I’ve been making the website too much about me when it was never really about me to begin with. It was about what I wanted to share from the wisdom of those who I read, watched, and listened to, who have had different experiences and viewpoints than me, who expand my own. Self absorption is one of the most critical errors one can make in one’s own life. And it is very easy to do. When most of us first come into the world, everyone is focused on us and everything is about us. All of our experiences are colored by our own perspective, as we truly know only our own emotions and experiences. Growing up we had to be taught how to empathize with others, and to put ourselves in their shoes. It’s hard to imagine the lives of others who live differently than we do. It’s only until we are in a similar situation can we truly understand the weight another has to bear.
It is exactly this reason why it is important to create, because everyone colors ideas differently and through showing everybody our colors, we create a rich rainbow of meaningful knowledge in society, across time, across geography, across any kind of boundary. I can read letters written by a Roman philosopher in 65 AD in 2020 on my iPad. We have no idea who our words may touch, or who may touch our words. That uncertainty is part of the reason why we become extremely self-focused when we work on our creative pursuits. We have no idea who may be consuming our creation or what it makes them think of us and our colors. We are so afraid to reveal our dark underbelly, when really this was the very thing which was the cause to our effect of creation to begin with. Creating something and putting it out in the world, especially in the age of the internet, can feel like you’re on a stage and there’s a huge crowd that you can’t see because you’re blinded by the bright stage lights.
It’s the spotlight effect — feeling like you’re being paid attention to more than you really are. How many times have we thought something really awful about somebody and then moved on with our day, and proceeded to think a bunch of shitty things about ourselves before and after that? Everyone else is thinking about themselves as much as we are. What people think of us matters exponentially less than what we think about ourselves, because it’s our incessant thoughts that we hear the most. Sure, there are certain people whose thoughts we care about more than others, like our significant others, our parents, our children, or our peers. What if there was something about us, that if we revealed it, we would completely destroy any or all of these relationships we hold so dear (and accidentally and unconsciously at that! — like Christopher Moltisanti and his movie Cleaver in The Sopranos)? Or, what if our relationships actually became healthier? Annoying, right? To think we have to be vulnerable to create stronger relationships! If somebody cannot handle the most honest version of you, then they probably can’t handle the most honest version of themselves either, which means they haven’t been their fullest self either, and the relationship never had much authentic relating to begin with.
Creating requires honesty. It’s funny how something we refer to as “imagination” actually requires somebody to be strongly grounded in reality, or at least a reality. Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist, author, and professor, once said that fiction is more real than reality, because of its ability to condense experiences and ideas into a linear “story” that magnifies them. Creation is the ordering of chaos. It’s making something out of nothing. It’s God’s work, literally. It is life, what we do as human beings everyday, create our selves, our values, our experiences, our relationships. We are also constantly taking part in other’s creations. Everything is somebody’s creation. It’s what kids learn about for the first time in school –how our systems were put in place by people, and how these systems we all follow so unwittingly can be just as flawed as the humans who created them. These so-called pioneers weren’t worried about how they would look — and it can definitely look dark, just read about anything from history — they just wanted to put forth their intention, in any way they could.
We get too comfortable in these systems we partake in. Even with all the complaints we have about them, we don’t do anything differently because we know that would require us to actually think about what a better system would look like, how to create it, and put it into action. We know that it would challenge us — reveal all of our flaws through the creation of something inevitably imperfect. So instead of doing anything, with the underlying threat of challenge (and potential growth), we become complacent to the mediocrity of life.
It’s the same reason I was stalled in my posts. I was wanting to create something perfect, a post about something definitive, but that goes against the whole point of this blog to begin with, and even of life itself — to always be learning and exploring, and that cannot be done in definitiveness of ideas and beliefs. I had to learn to be okay with being confused and posting in spite of that. The purpose of the blog was to share my journey and growth and be able to look back on it in the future to see how far I’ve truly come (or reverted back).
I couldn’t be honest enough with myself to write anything worth posting, as being a beginner writer, I always told myself that if I can’t write as beautifully or expressively as I wanted, I can at least always be honest. Perhaps I wasn’t seeking truth to begin with. I would see other people who seemed perfectly contented living life within the bounds of the previously created systems and I envied them. I hated my desire to create because of the pain, strife, and uncertainty it caused me. But I didn’t realize that sometimes you can only be as content as you are ignorant. The striving for something more is what the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche describes as the very essence of life, the pull of the bow, the aiming of the arrow. Yet my desire for attaining the highest truth and being able to communicate that and share that with others paralyzed me. Our desires can sometimes feel overbearing on our spirit, especially when they feel unachievable.
What matters is that we are trying at all. It can be so tempting to just stop trying sometimes, and give in to the numbing mediocrity. But once we do that, the chance of us getting what we want by sheer chance falls to essentially zero. At least when we are trying, we might actually make something great out of it, something completely different from what we were imagining but yet somehow still aligned with our intention.
If you can’t already tell, I recently watched the HBO series, The Sopranos, for the first time, and I unequivocally agree it is a feat of writing and a must watch show. Taken by the intricacies of the show, I watched interviews with the creator, David Chase. Let me tell you, only this type of guy could create this type of show. He said how he always despised television and only wanted to make movies. He was given an opportunity he didn’t want to create a tv show and he took it and ran with it and showed people what could be done with tv and completely changed the trajectory of television as we knew it. He made it clear how he never let anybody mess with the vision he had. He wasn’t necessarily trying to be groundbreaking. He was just trying to create something he respected, or liked at all. This is a man who understood the fickleness of the opinions of others.
Nobody can really see what you see. Your vision is all you really have. So go make something of it. Stop allowing yourself to be stopped by others, and even more so by your self. Don’t be scared to look within to see how you truly feel and be open to receiving that without judgment or fear and then seek something in the arts that grounds that, an anchor for your subjective feelings, something to make sense of it. People have done the self reflection for you. Partake in the honest creation of others.
I’ve found the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, another 19th century German philosopher, to help settle my uncertainty with his deep insights about life in his works The Wisdom of Life and On Human Nature. With all the wisdom packed into his writing, there was also a bit of intellectual superiority and some racism… This goes to show, not one soul can ever reach perfection or attain ultimate wisdom no matter how hard they try, but in the process we can share whatever slight portion of truth we have been able to touch upon with others, and that is why we try, why we create. I may lose sight of that time to time as I take care of my seemingly mundane daily responsibilities, but I take inspiration from David Chase to never lose sight of my vision, and from Schopenhauer to know I’ll never be perfect and I hope to bring forth something of value to others through the expression of my self and through the vicissitudes of my being.
“Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman–a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an OVER-GOING and a DOWN-GOING… I love him who lives in order to know, and seeks to know in order that the Superman may hereafter live… I love him who labors and invents, that he may build the house for the Superman, and prepare for him earth, animal, and plant: for thus seeks he his own down-going… I love him who reserves no share of spirit for himself, but wants to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus walks he as spirit over the bridge… I love him who scatters golden words in advance of his deeds, and always does more than he promises: for he seeks his own down-going. I love him who justifies the future ones, and redeems the past ones: for he is willing to succumb through the present ones. I love him who chastens his God, because he loves his God: for he must succumb through the wrath of his God. I love him whose soul is deep even in the wounding, and may succumb through a small matter: thus goes he willingly over the bridge. I love him whose soul is so overfull that he forgets himself, and all things that are in him: thus all things become his down-going.”Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra