Getting Tedious

Part of my quest to keep good digital hygiene—which is frequently less than successful—is to continually re-examine my habits and compulsions with my devices and the stuff I use them to do. I finished reading an intense, stirring interview with Jaron Lanier about the state of social media (and the internet in general). That’s not unusual, his interviews are usually dense like that, and have been since the 90s. His forthcoming book will argue for ditching social media accounts entirely.

One other thought-provoking interview I came across was from backtracking through previous episodes of Jocelyn Glei’s podcast Hurry Slowly. In episode 15, Oliver Burkeman talks about the difficulty we have of doing anything for its own sake. Not for a goal, not for a higher purpose, not to make us better and faster at doing other things. It’s extremely hard not to ascribe a benefit to it, but sometimes we should get bored just to experience it.

Boredom is now a scarce commodity—at least for most of the digitally-networked. We have endless distractions available, many for free, so why let an unpleasant state like being bored get any foothold in our day? There are some distinct creative benefits to becoming bored. But, as hard as it is to avoid selling this idea using some, I’m advocating for becoming bored despite those benefits.

It’s good for us as people to do a little nothing every so often. If our predominant state is to be on-the-move, working, being productive, getting distracted, filling idle moments catching up on The Latest—then activity has become a monolith. It’s good to have perspective and also to experience different states of mind and being. It’s like an inverse meditation, putting aside every amusing distraction and indulging in stultification.

I prescribe 20 minutes, at first. Do it today or tonight, see how different it feels to have nothing to do. There’s no restriction on what you think about, but I’m trying to get into the same mindset I had as a kid. Kids are often experts at getting bored. They usually have fewer things they’re supposed to do, fewer responsibilities, fewer pressures churning our minds into a constant fret.

Go. You’re 10 years old. Nothing on TV, no friends available to play, internet a distant dream. Twenty minutes. This feels different. Good.

Where We Look When

There are limits that we should place on our own nostalgia. Referencing our past can be a powerful element of our current world view, and therefore, work. But indulge that natural desire too much and we lose the connection to the present that makes looking ahead effective.

And there’s nothing explicitly wrong about making one’s work an examination of nostalgia, but I think it’s limited, a narrower box. You need some spark of the future to kick the work above the memory exercise alone.

Returning to our own past tickles some powerful neurons. But I’ve noticed that I crave reliving the original experience, and that isn’t possible. I’m not the same person I was. I have more experience, more understanding. More life.

We need to move with life, not spend so much time in the past or future. Here is all we have.

Home Is Where the Home Is

One thing about finding the passage back to the place I was before: it’s made me very tired.

Traveling is exhilarating, but it usually shreds your creative schedule. On the other hand, you’re feeding your mind, your heart, your soul with an overabundance of newness or—if you’re lucky—strangeness. The flood of sights sounds smells feelings ideas isn’t just intoxicating, it’s positively hangover-inducing. Once drunk on the new stuff, the return to home feels like the morning after.

It is worth it, though. Changing your point of view by completely changing your location has always been a fantastic source of new material, new blood, almost.

You awaken exhausted but renewed, disoriented but with a pack of vibrant memories. It all needs to be sorted through and labeled, but you can feel it: you’re changed, there’s more of you than there was before.

Memory-Correcting Error

Update on yesterday’s post waxing rhapsodic about the respect for public art here in Portland. It’s not a repudiation of that stance, but there are some rectifying observations I should make.

Art isn’t perfect. Writing, music, dance, the same. What we’re told, what we tell others, can and maybe should be subject to a kind of scientific method: if new information comes to light, the thing you said yesterday will be modified in its light.

And looking at the same thing from different perspectives can lead us closer to the truth. Whatever that is.

And so I noticed things aren’t pristine. But public art places itself in the world, exposed. It makes itself vulnerable. It’s open to change, from the elements, if nothing else. I’m left with more questions than answers.

Do the things we make and put into the world belong to us, or to everyone? The people who buy it—is it theirs to do with as they wish, or do they have an obligation as caretaker until whomever they sell it to takes over? If it’s sold as copies, does it belong to anyone at all?

If art is public, is it an object? Or is it a new piece of its environment?

Road Tripping III: Home It Is

The end of any journey comes with mixed feelings. Ask Joseph Campbell. It also comes with new knowledge. We’ve learned things about our companions we never knew, maybe good things, maybe not, but more. If we’re lucky, we know ourselves better.

Mentally, we’re abuzz with information and ideas and experience to process. Emotionally and physically, we’re drained. This internal tussle can leave us befuddled and even quiet. We reflect. We look at our familiar things with new eyes.

Apply these things to the artist’s journey, making a new piece. I’m kinda too tired to do it.

Road Tripping

I’m in the desert, on the way to Las Vegas. It looks like my childhood. The sun stark in an electric cyan sky, the green scrub threadbare in the dust of the baked clay floor.

I wouldn’t want to move back to it, but I did miss it, the serene minimalist repetition of it. We need to change our point of view now and again.

Wheel Spinning

Almost 50 years ago, Blood, Sweat & Tears released a song about how culture goes in cycles like a wheel, swinging left to right and back again. It’s natural to feel stuck, sometimes. It’s harder to know at those dark moments that I won’t be there forever. It’s a big picture perspective that serves me well, when I can remember it.

Another idea I’ve tried to keep in mind is that of Taoist or Zen balance, that what may seem good or bad or fortunate or tragic today can easily become the opposite tomorrow. So it isn’t worth the emotional capital it takes to dwell too intensely on any particular event in our lives.

Of course, we’re only human, and not very good at a wide or long perspective on existence. It’s easy to become roiled by life, politics, and customers.

We need these little reminders that life is never on rails, nor traveling in one direction, forever.