In a recent interview by Krista Tippett with composer and singer Joe Henry, she was exploring how he gets his inspiration to write the content-laden lyrics of his songs and his music. You need to get bored, he said. That is when creativity kicks in.
His words stuck with me for several days. Get bored -- BORED? How surprising this sounds in the era of entertainment! Isn't everything precisely about avoiding boredom, about seeking entertainment? Movies are available on portable devices; music became video clips, news became "breaking News"; the walls of high rises have become projection screens in downtown Hong Kong, Shanghai or in Times Square. Concerts are as much light and sound shows as they are music; plain lives of ordinary people became reality shows viewed from the voyeuristic seat of our living room; things people do have become self-videos on YouTube, pets became cute animal postings on FB; we are offered glimpses into the private and pubic lives of politicians, American Idols, royal families or actresses (this has always been so) -- but now also business people, gurus and moguls. Even in family vans there is a screen for the passengers in the back seat, and in some cars, even a screen for the passenger in the front seat -- or the driver in the event of traffic jams!
There are TV screens in cabs to entertain the passenger, as if self-absorption or looking at the "movie" outside of the window would not be enough. And more recently, gas stations have a TV screen next to the "select your payment method" device -- not to mention the (to me) strange presence in bars, diners, restaurants and dance clubs of several TV screens affixed to the walls, featuring shows, sporting events or other. Because it may not be entertaining enough for us to listen to music, have a glass or a meal with friends. Just in case we get bored, entertainment is offered from the walls.
Even so, sometimes all this is still not exciting enough, so we dive into the small screen of our cell phones to text, check emails, browse or surf the net, watch a soccer game in another country while sitting on the beach or while sharing a table with friends or -- why not? -- dates. Apparently we need to be entertained the 17 hours we are awake.
Joe Henry's comment hit me front and center. I had been so busy with new projects and "important things" for the past 90 days, that I stopped blogging, posting quotes and writing poetry. Occasionally I asked myself what happened, questioned if I, a self-styled writer, had lost the golden thread of inspiration. It doesn't matter, I comforted myself. Writing is not my profession, nor a duty or obligation -- so nothing happens if I switch from writing about life -- to doing life!
However a part of me was not fully at ease with that rationale.
A core goal of my classes is creating a space where students can slow down, pause, reflect, and connect with their personal wisdom. Something that doesn't happen when we -- well, are busy doing stuff.
How can we review the values expressed in our un-sustainable habits, if we don't step off the dance floor for a moment? How can we explore if there is a gap between what we treasure and what we do, between what we say makes us happy, and what we actually do every day? How can we even change anything, if we are constantly on the run? To notice where we wanted to go in relation to the road we've taken, requires a pause. To notice, to check the mental map, the destination, to identify the wrong turns that brought us where we are. Yet when we are on the move, we need just keep moving. The more we do, the more we have left to do, paradoxically. And then when we stand still for a moment, everything around us keeps advancing - and as the saying goes, if you don't move, you are actually going backwards! So move... move.
It's clear this is what happened to me. Too busy. I didn't create the space to stop and smell the roses, to even search to see if there are roses, and what they may have to teach.
I dare you -- get bored, and see what happens.