a case against logic and reason
Funny how a mood - like, say, a slow, creeping malaise and lethargy - can be a question if you stay open and wait for the answer.
A question like, "Where has my enthusiasm, my creative spark disappeared to?"
For me, more specifically, why was I no longer finding myself lost for hours - in neglect of my home and family and hygiene - in writing and designing projects like I used to be?
I truly did not expect to find such a seed, a nugget of truth speaking to my very condition, embedded so deeply within a totally random film recommendation documenting the history and resurgence of synthesizers.
** Synthesizers: (for those who don't know, which, while I knew 'of' them, didn't really know what they were... exactly...): "Any of various electronic, sometimes portable consoles or modules, usually computerized, for creating, modifying, and combining tones or reproducing the sounds of musical instruments by controlling voltage patterns, operated by means of keyboards, joysticks, sliders, or knobs**
If you find that concept completely enthralling, here's the film. If not, bear with me. I do have a point.
The film - mostly geared to synth geeks who could understand the jargon - followed the rise and decline from the massive room-filling machines of the 60's to the keyboards of the 80's found in every rec room to the virtual synth programs simulated on personal laptops, bearing names like ProTools and Reason.
The commentary by purists and aficionados regarding how the cheapening and mass marketing of the 'instrument' had destroyed the art for true musicians (um, we are talking about electronic sounds, right..?) was, well, curious to me.
But then, two observations were made which totally changed the trajectory of my weekend, and - had I gone to the bathroom at that moment - I would have totally missed.
The first, by a guy listed as Cyrus Rex:
"I started using, like Logic and Reason and ProTools and doing everything in the box. Then I started doing a lot of Excel work on the computer, and that's when I decided that I never wanted to touch a computer when I'm writing music again."
The second, by a guy whose name was not listed (hope he wasn't offended...):
"Sitting at that thing that you do everything else in your life on, you know it just becomes a blur of, "Alright, I'm bored, I'm not going anywhere with this track, or whatever, I'm gonna stop and go on Facebook and see what my friends are doing…" you know it's like, it's just always there…"
I looked up at my own workspace. It's lovely. It's (often) uncluttered. It's made more uncluttered by the fact that I can keep everything on this slim, shiny metal box that I can take everywhere with me, rather than clumped into a disorganized heap of papers, scraps, receipts, catalogs, that I have to wade through if I want to create something.
Open up the shiny magical box, ready to write something brilliant. The world is right there. At my fingertips. The whole dang world. Alluring. Compelling. Beckoning for attention.
Here's the thing about the creative process. It needs to be fed. Stimulated. Engaged. But it does not like to compete.
And, it takes its sweet time time. Often at a pace that can be uncomfortable for us mortals.
Struggling with a word? Or the sound of a phrase? Or where to lead this germinating idea?
I'll tell you this, those answers are not found on Facebook. But, the temptation to click that tab with the honest intention to 'just check in for a minute while I collect my thoughts' is nearly irresistible.
The discomfort of the creative roadblock is relieved temporarily. The feeling passes. So, too, does the desire to complete the project.
And round and round the self-fulfilling feedback loop goes, until the creative process practically preempts itself before it begins.
Before you remind me that I can just turn off all the distractions until I'm done (or snarkily point out that I wrote this blog on a computer) there's a much larger lesson in this.
For me, and I'm sure, others, this little box had ceased to become just a tool. It's become a central geographic location, the base that I return to time and again to organize and from which to command my world.
Sure, I can move the box around to other surfaces, other locations - a cafe, my office, the deck. But my body, my fingers, my eyes, my head, my neck, my breathing, are all doing the same thing in relation to this box.
I am assuming the same positioning, the same posture, the same specific and minimal set of motor skills and same limited and sedentary posture for creating a thoughtful piece of writing, or a design for my business cards, as I am for balancing my bank register.
My body/mind goes into kinda of a dull funk the moment I assume that posture.
Another thing about creativity. It needs to be fed more than just ideas and images coming off a two-dimensional screen, the 'blue light' of which suppresses melatonin, by the way...
It craves sensory input. A wide variety of sounds, smells, touch, light, stimulation to the orthosympathetic nervous system through unexpected experiences.... and... stepping away from the canvas to do something completely different and seemingly unrelated, allowing the ideas to percolate, process, while the conscious mind is on something else (besides spreadsheets and your high school friend's latest drama...)
Is this just about creativity...? Or computer usage?
It's not our creativity that needs diverse stimulation. It's our very cellular activity (which I can say are pretty much the same thing...).
I fear for the loss of something very essential and very human when we diminish our physical interaction with the world to just screens and buttons. The difference between cooking an instant meal in the microwave or preparing it from scratch. The motor skills needed to slice and dice, distinguishing fresh from not-so-much with sight, smell, touch, the coordination of bringing together multiple ingredients that arrive at the table together, ideally pulling off an arrangement that is pleasing to the eye and the palate.... do you see the difference?
At the risk of trotting out a tired platitude, it really is all about the journey, not just the destination.
Our cells need the very stimulation brought about by many, MANY increments of movement and engagement, large and small, that they receive from getting from one place to another. Otherwise, they languish and die.
I recently saw a video which included an observation that our brains process and retain information differently when we write by hand as opposed to when we type. (Here is that beautiful video... I actually cried a little...)
Every technological advance, intended to make our worlds more safe, more efficient, more comfortable seems to kill off yet one more entire repertoire of mind-body interaction.
Synthesizers may be a weird example, but I got what these guys were saying, how a loss was felt when boxing this gimormous mechanism that required hands-on manipulation of plugs and knobs into a keyboard with pre-programmed sounds, leaving little to the vast plane of imagination and potential.
In a world where more and more of our physical involvement is being deemed as inefficient, time-consuming. and therefore, replaced by technology, I have to ask, in favor of what?
What exactly are we doing of value to the well-being of the world and to our own lives with all this extra time we're supposedly freeing up (besides trying to get our broken technology fixed, or hitting the gym so we can get in our exercise...)?
Think about that while you go out and play.