I talked a few blogs back about the difference between the raw material of inspiration, and the connections and sense of flow – the awen – which turns that raw material into something new. I’m reading Darryl Reamey at the moment, who talks about how the habituations of seeing or experiencing something makes it normal, and we cease to experience wonder. When all is normal and mundane to us, we are unlikely to feel inspired by it. This is, I think, one reason a great many people see inspiration as mysterious. Real life, everyday life is not inspiring. It is normal, humdrum, familiar.
There are many things that coax us towards not thinking. Repetitive patters of living, the brain blanket of media, the material cocoons we voluntarily wrap about ourselves the better to sleepwalk through everything. We expend a lot of energy, collectively, making the world safe and predictable. Then we settle down into the assumption that we know what we’ve got, and can stop bothering with that nasty business of thinking about things.
Every morning, the sun rises, bringing light back after the hours of darkness. And every morning the birds sing their response – levels of enthusiasm depending a lot on the weather conditions. Every day features small miracles and wonders. If you are going through life assuming it to be banal and predictable, you won’t even see them. We learn not to look, not to think, not to wonder and not to feel. We take each other for granted, along with the sunrise.
Predictability and freedom from thinking creates a kind of comfort. It’s an easy sort of life, but ultimately not all that satisfying. Rather than tackle the underlying issues, it’s easier to drown that discomfort in alcohol, or bury it under hours of television, or computer games, or whatever your current poison happens to be. We’ve spent millions of years evolving to be thinking, feeling, creative creatures. Our ancestors depended a great deal on their brains and ingenuity. We are squishy things with lousy teeth, no claws, no natural armour, no camouflage, and barely the capacity to remain warm. We’ve evolved to think, but somewhere in our more recent history, we got into the habit of not thinking. It doesn’t suit us.
Not thinking helps to keep us docile and biddable. Therefore encouraging people not to think is in the interests of anyone who wishes to control others. Thinking, if you make a habit of it, will turn you into a radical and a revolutionary with very little help from anyone else. All it takes is casting of the habit of banality, and the assumption of familiarity. We hear a tragedy on the news. The news is full of tragedies. We shrug. Someone points out that our postal voting system would shame a banana republic. We think corruption is normal and inevitable, so we do nothing. The government takes away a few more rights and essential resources, but we’ve been told we are powerless, so we lie down and take it. Umm….
Inspiration is not just about recognising all that is wrong in the world and finding the courage to do something about it. Inspiration is the experience of opening your eyes all over again, like a child, a puppy, any new creature that still knows how to be surprised. Finding inspiration is easy as soon as you throw off the shackles of taking things for granted. All around you, there is life. Right in front of you, there is something beautiful. It may be small. It may be a dust mote caught in a sunbeam. But it is there, and as soon as you start looking, you will see it. Casting off assumption about relationship and seeing what is good, and what needs more care and attention, brings inspiration into how we live.
I look at the patterns of cloud across the sky. I listen to the birds. Today, the rain was wild, and that was intoxicating. Now I revel in experiencing warmth and comfort, safely out of the rain. I have no idea what this afternoon will bring. Inspiration is part of my everyday life in no small part because I know how to be surprised. There is far less mystery in inspiration than people imagine, and far more mystery in all of life than many people would dream of.