Have you ever had that feeling, like some weight has been lifted from your shoulders?
I’m sure most of us have. There’s that famous John Mulaney’s quote, “in terms of like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.” There is something beautiful about being released from something you’ve been dreading doing.
On the same coin there is a beautiful sense of freedom and weightlessness which comes when in a place where things are just flowing. Those moments where you feel at one with your imagination and playfulness, and have no other agenda or motive hanging over your head.
So much of the stuff in the world around us can weigh heavy. Both in our personal lives and in society more generally. Pressures, strains, and quantity of confusing and conflicting information.
The past few years have felt especially heavy and you can feel a very real sense that this is taking its toll. The news is full of people trying to understand what’s going on, make sense of it all, and work our what’s real and what’s not. While at the same time trying to obfuscate and cast doubt on other perspectives. It can all get pretty heavy.
Weighing Heavy on the Good Stuff
This kind of time can weigh down the shoulders of creativity, playfulness, and imagination as well. They push the acceptability of these things down the priority list. You know, because things are “too real” and “too serious” at the moment to be messing around with that kind of stuff.
In this week’s episode of the podcast I want to explore where and why I believe we’ve got ourselves bogged down. We have weighed ourselves into the ground with the right to understanding, chronically paralysing analysis, and demands to know. I want to talk about how we create this burdensome weight, under which our legs buckle. Our heads have dropped under the strain, so we no longer feel the breeze or dance with the clouds in our imagination.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. And it’s time for Gentle Rebels to re-ignite the good stuff that makes life worth living.
Re-Awakening With Mystery and Wonder
I’m going through some kind of creative unravelling (the good kind) right now. It happens from time to time; cycling around every few years or so. I feel like it’s been a long while since I had one like this. I can’t describe it very well. It’s as if I’ve had that unknown weight lifted from my shoulders and a greyscale tint filter being removed from my eyes.
I am plugged back into that inner child who is in awe of the mystery and wonder of both the inner and outer worlds. Even the most mundane moments, I am freely floating in a realm of connected ideas and senses. I can tell because my dreams have suddenly got a whole lot more vivid and weird. Some bizarre stuff goes on in my unconscious brain.
There are two recent events among other things, which have played a specifically significant part in igniting my imagination:
- Seeing Mulholland Drive at the cinema
- Attending a celebration of the life and works of Delia Derbyshire at Coventry Cathedral
I’ve always been fascinated by the way ideas work. How they dance with what has gone before and pave the way for what is possible in the future.
David Lynch speaks about them a lot. The notion of ideas being things we catch glimpses of when we’re open to see them. They play with us and invite us to play with them. Happy accidents that show up unintentionally and serendipitously in the process of writing a song for example. They ask us to run with them so they can show us what they want/need to do.
These moments are bridges from the mysterious world of what isn’t but could be, and into some more tangible sensory encounter. Aha moments and creative mistakes. Seeing the world in a different way, from an angle that is starkly different from the one you believe to be right. Feeling something within.
The Search for Meaning
However, when dealing with the fragility of ideas we face a danger. The risk that we clarify them to death. Suffocate the mystery and nuance out of them. Get in the way of them, forcing ideas to fit into our own pre-fabricated boxes of meaning and understanding.
We fear mystery, and demand that everything has a clear and definable purpose that sits within our frameworks and constructs. We call them “OUR” ideas in an effort to own and colonise the uncontainable mysteries.
Mystery is something we both love and fear.
I was given The Secret Life of Twin Peaks for my birthday last year, which is a book compiled by Mark Frost. It’s an archive of classified documents and recordings painting a rich and detailed history of Twin Peaks and it’s many mysteries. The book starts with a note from “The Archivist”:
“A wise man once told me that mystery is the most essential ingredient of life, for the following reason: mystery creates wonder, which leads to curiosity, which in turn provides the ground for our desire to understand who and what we truly are.
The search for meaning at the heart of life brings us to the contemplation of an eternal enigma. Mysteries are the stories we tell ourselves to contend with life’s resistance to our longing for answers. Mysteries abound.”
There is a difference between mysteries and secrets. Mysteries are the unknown quantities that create awe and wonder deep within. Secrets are truths kept by humans, from humans.
Secrets can take the guise of mystery when shrouded in conspiracy and myth.
But what about true mystery and wonder? How do we hold onto it? With distrust? Like it’s some secret to expose.
Analysis Can Become Paralysis
We often like to chase our tails in the pursuit of meaning. We need logical explanations that we can hang things on and understand why things are as they are. We’re become trained skeptics and scientists, which don’t get me wrong, is a wonderful thing.
But it has a downside.
It’s a mindset that leads art and creativity to become sanitised, spoon-fed, and clarified to death. Because we want nice neat explanations that provide us with meaningful ways to understand the worlds presented to us.
We want to know why, and what everything means. We need neat resolutions, certainties and clarified meaning so that everything makes sense. When watching a “whodunnit” TV show or film all you want to know is, well “who was the killer?” All the while you know deep down that you don’t want to know, because the moment you find out the whole pursuit becomes meaningless and it’s game over.
Is it possible to live at peace with the mystery of life, imagination, and the grey nuance, at the same time as having this drive to uncover meaning and understanding? How can we embrace the wonder and beauty of the world when it doesn’t make sense (in the best possible way)?
We live in a very analytical and diagnostic age – everyone has answers to everything and we are in a constant effort to label people, things, situations etc. We want to define our behaviour, our personality, our tastes; to know what kind of person we are (or THEY are).
We are often so desperately searching for meaning that we miss all sense of mystery that is playfully moving all around us.
In this episode I explore these ideas, and ponder whether we’re missing something, what that something is, and how we might be able to reconnect with it, feeling like the weight of not understanding is no longer so heavy on your shoulders…Oh and you will get a whole load of my uncontainable excitement about the return of Twin Peaks. Sorry, I can’t help it!
Over to You
Do you ever have moments where you feel at peace with mystery and wonder, and the need to understand abates (for a while at least)? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave you response in the comments below.