There is more to life than increasing its speed. – Mahatma Gandhi
I think this post is going to be an angsty one so I’m not sure how useful it’s going to be. Feel free to stop reading unless you’re intrigued by the idea of working out a conundrum in public. A blog is, I suppose, a form of therapy for the writer and every once in a while it makes sense to take advantage of that opportunity.
I suppose the general question I have, which repeats again and again, is what’s the point of it all. What are we trying to do here.
The first answer that comes to me is a cultural one – the approach taken in the part of the world that I come from can be taken to be essentially nihilistic. The world is an illusion, and everything in it a distraction. But, in such a pointless existence the answer is anything but nihilistic, anything but negative. The ultimate aim is to be free from the illusion and that comes through doing your thing, whatever that thing is. Do your thing and whatever happens you will be fulfilled.
The second answer comes from the culture in which I have spent more of my adult life. One of materialism and innovation and technology and deprivation. A world where you can do anything but where you can also be stuck forever. I’m not entirely sure what the point is here but it has something to do with growth and economics and prosperity and stuff like that.
What makes all this complicated is when you think about why you do anything and when you start to confuse cause and effect and I think that’s happening a bit in various places and I don’t know quite what to make of it all.
For example, I went to listen to a philosopher talk about work and I remember her saying that she had looked through all the definitions of what “work” was and had come to the conclusion that work was something you did that you didn’t want to do. I think that’s what she said anyway – this is from a decade or so ago. The reason this matters, she said, is because you have to figure out whether you work for work’s sake or you work for money. After all, if work something you do that you don’t want to do then you are probably not doing it for the sake of doing the work. If you’re doing it for the money then before you ask what you want out of work you have to ask what you want out of money – what is the money going to get you that is going to make up for the pain of having to do work you don’t want to do?
It’s at this point that I start to wonder what the point of it all is and then I draw a deep well and climb down to the bottom and practice drawing deep black with crayon and realizing just how hard it is to work with crayon. But its rewarding in its own way as a pointless activity that has nothing to do with work or money and everything to do with meaning. Because the well is a symbol of isolation and the kind of place introverts like me who like writing are very comfortable and the world outside is bright and distracting and even if we don’t want to we have to engage with it if only to get more thoughts in than just the ones that spiral around inside our heads.
And then I remember that there is no point – there is only practice. Things like points and purpose and money are emergent properties – they happen if you do something else with dedication and discipline or sporadically and with angst because as long as you “do” something will happen.
So, with my projects, which involve making sense of things through writing and drawing what I need to “do” is get better at that, better at working out what works and doesn’t work and practicing when I don’t know what else to do. And that means that my latest book project, which is at nearly 60,000 words and pretty hopelessly adrift, needs to be put to one side, perhaps abandoned, while I go back and figure out what the heck I should be doing and I don’t know this yet.
I’m going to have to slow down, I think, to make sense of it all – So we’ll see what happens then.
Anyway, if you’re still with me, I did warn you that this was an angsty post. But if you want to take something away here it is. However pointless it may all be, you will always have the practice – the thing you do. And you can get on with doing it.