This past weekend I was privileged to catch a National Public Radio interview in Krista Tippet’s OnBeing program. The interview was with Poetry Foundation director (and poet) Chris Wiman, a wayward fellow who was brought up within the southern Christian religious tradition, fell away, fell farther away and then with some worldly living, spiraled back toward Christianity. It was a whopper of an interview. I follow it up with a quick search and uncovered a NYT article on Wiman.
My take away from both the NYT article and the OnBeing interview is from the NYT article:
“Get off your mystified ass and do something.”
These both are considerably long interviews (see the links), but in my candid opinion, are highly worth it.
I will make an attempt to expand this idea (do something) outside of religion for a moment: The challenge for creative types, idea people, conceptioneers, is to actually achieve one (or more) of those ideas. In earlier blog entries I have relayed the story of my pal Henry Huston who for years has told me of the ancient Vedic concepts of the formation of all human ideas… that all ideas exist in a virtual ether — free for any member of humanity enlightened enough to see and grab them.
Henry’s long standing truth is that success only comes to the person that not only recognized the idea, but has the fortitude to see it through to success, through almost certain heartbreak, setbacks, poverty and sorry.
In my experience, Henry is completely correct.
In western society it seems like Necessity is no longer the Mother of Invention because of our ridiculously high standard of living (compared to just about anywhere else on earth). “Necessity” has now become in many ways an equivalent to “appetite.” (Hence the continued bloating of the population. Perhaps we all need to physically work a bit harder to grow and nurture our food.) So, if you buy this idea for a moment… that necessity is no longer the driving impetus behind ideas, what is? Greed? Self Love? Insecurity?
For me, creativity has visited me often and almost always spontaneously. Mostly while I am otherwise incapacitated with something: like driving somewhere, on a plane or stuck in some sort of “have to wait here” situation. I keep a memo recorder near me at all times. It’s getting pretty full of files. At the time of each idea, I think I am experiencing the Second Coming, or a similar otherworldly miracle. Over time, I play back the ideas and chuck out the clunkers. There are many clunkers. But, even with the ideas I feel are pretty good and have some real merit, I am still having trouble “getting of my mystified ass…” and moving forward.
Of course, Wiman was referring to religion in general, Christianity specifically and having been brought up Presbyterian and protestant, I get it. Having never been too much a fan of organized religion, but deeply loving the work done by my family pastors (Maternal Grandfather, Maternal Uncle, younger Brother), pairing an unfair sense of creativity with moral and ethical duty becomes even more of a challenge. There’s guilt!
But, I digress, again.
My point in this textual exercise is to explore the nature of ideas that fly vs ideas that fall—or more to expose the reality of the treacherous, obstacle strewn pathways that define ideas that fly vs fall. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone can doubt the reality of raw luck in the aspect of any type of success, the simple random reality of being in the right place at the right time. Consider the recent “PowerBall” lottery winner in Florida. $590,000,000. We bought a couple of tickets here in Vermont, along with 180 million others. But this individual won in Florida, on a number chosen at random by the lottery’s computer. Go figure.
But luck favors the prepared.
Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.
“In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
I have written before in this blog about Edison vs. Tesla and others. Behind every legendary idea, every renown individual, lies a container ship full of extremely hard work and toil.
And sacrifice. I remember a conversation lead by Billy Joel’s long time drummer, Liberty DeVito at a KoSA workshop not to many years back. He said that his dedication to being “the drummer” cost a lot. Marriages, relationships with children, more. He stated his commitment always being to “the gig” was not without extreme collateral damage. It was a eye opening, open soul characterization of the darker reality aspects of celebrity.
Personally speaking, I have long realized I am not worthy of many of the ideas I come up with, simply because I won’t make the commitment to making them happen. I won’t sacrifice my relationships with my family and children, and I won’t risk losing the income (primary provider) that making the time to pursue these ideas would take.
And here lies one of my own identified ironies: those with the means (inherited wealth) to actually pursue great ideas 1.) rarely seem to come up with their own and 2.) rarely seem to get behind another’s idea unless there is some stellar guarantee of a terrific payout.
(Research the true story of John Sylvan, the inventor of the Keurig instant coffee maker and you’ll see not only sacrifice, but full-on fiscal evisceration.)
In the creative fields, being honest to the muse and to completely submit to an idea until it succeeds leaves most individuals far away from perfect.
I have to wonder if the next wave of epic sized, great ideas will come because of a collective and desperate need to survive on this planet due to the excesses of our own hand. Perhaps Disney animator and children’s author Bill Peet is onto something… maybe Necessity is the True Mother of Invention.