Tag Archives: experimentation

Experimentation or dedication?

As we go through life, we need space to change our minds and explore new directions. This is true of jobs, romantic attachments, friendships, politics, spirituality, where we live, how we live – everything. There is no magic formula to tell us how much we should experiment, or when we should dig in.

Experimentation brings the excitement of new experience and possibility. It may take us towards what we most need and desire. On the other hand, we may be so hooked on novelty that we can’t commit to anything. We may use changes of direction as a way of avoiding ever finishing anything or doing it properly. We may flit and skim, never making much of anything and never finding anything truly satisfying.

Dedication brings depth of insight, continuity and a feeling of rootedness. It can take courage and emotional investment to stay with anything for the long term, and because that asks more of us, it can also give us more. On the downside, dedication can become the empty repetition of habit, it can mean stasis, lack of inspiration. It may not offer real depth at all if we no longer have any passion for it but can’t be bothered to change.

I think it’s as well to have some areas of life that are open to experimentation, and some areas of life that offer stability. These might get swapped round over time, but feeling either that everything is still, or everything is in motion isn’t good.

I experimented once with a change of landscape and it taught me that I need to be on the edge of the Cotswolds, in sighting distance of the Severn. I need that to be a constant in my life. I need creativity to be a constant, but I also need there to be plenty of room for experiment there. Something similar happens with Druidry – it is a constant, but within it I am always exploring. I think dedication works best when it isn’t stasis, when you are involved in something that holds you but also allows you to grow and change within it.

It can take time and a lot of experimenting to find the things you want to dedicate to. My default position is not to judge anyone else over this. A private journey is only my business if it directly impacts on me. But I do wonder sometimes, when I see people who are presenting as experts, and who are suddenly experts in a new thing that’s more fashionable, or who had stopped being centre stage with the old thing. Again, there are natural shifts and progressions in anyone’s life, but certain kinds of shifting about will always look like marketing strategies, to me.

The quest for happy accidents

I’ve been making a lot of changes to how I work and live, and also trying to shift how I think about things. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to do the work that is meaningful to me, and if I can’t make that pay the bills, I have to find some other stuff to fill in with. (Probably tutoring, but we’ll see what comes.) Alongside that, I’ve also come to the conclusion that time off for rest and play is essential. To which end we went to the pub last night. A man walked into the bar carrying a banjo. This is not the opening of a banjo joke, bear with me…

A bunch of other guys turned up with guitars, and as we were in their corner, asked if we minded and set up around us. We didn’t mind, and they didn’t seem to mind us, either. I haven’t had much live music in my life recently, so this felt like a treat. They kicked off with ‘Ride on’ and it boded well. Between the musicians, sat a box, of rather distinctive shape, which nobody opened. Now, I haven’t had the violin out all winter, and I haven’t played a viola in about two years. When they played REM’s ‘Losing my Religion’ – a song I used to do with my good friends Dave and Andy Simpson, I realised I had to ask. Fear of failure became outweighed by need to try. I asked what was in the box. Yes, it was a viola, and the guy who owned it had only been playing a year and was mostly sticking to his guitar. Yes, I could borrow it.

It took me a moment or two to figure out where my fingers needed to be, and then it all came back, and we jammed and it was good, and I now know where else they meet up to play and have an invitation to go along. Apparently they’d been hankering after getting a fiddler for some time.
Happy accidents. They seem to turn up more when I’m looking for them, and when I’m already doing the right things for the right reasons. Right place, right time, right people. If I’m in the wrong place doing the wrong things, there’s little chance of that happening. This morning we had a lie in, and as a result missed the rain, and moved the boat in sunshine. Win. The running hard, pushing hard, has not worked much, and mostly wears me out. The time spent on curiosity, exploration, play, experimentation, pays off. Almost always. I can feel a perceptible difference between pushing, and flowing with what is. The flowing only works when I invest care, creativity, and my very best work. It’s not a sloth option, but it calls for being more attuned to the whole right place, right time vibe. Turning up, doing, daring. The more I rethink how I go about my life, the more convinced I become that taking risks, doing what speaks to my soul, and trying to be the very best that I can, (not merely the most marketable that I can) is where the good stuff lies.

How I work has changed so much in the last few months. Including how I think about my work and what I actually produce, and how I feel about it. More on that tomorrow.