I am trying very hard.
They say that one only rises to the level of his or her expectations. That you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. That you are what you eat. I am trying very hard to keep my head out of the muck, because I know that doing so is the only way to envision an elevated future.
Where does inspiration come from? How do ideas form? What strikes a human being and spurs them into action? Empirical philosophy says that all arises from sensory data, that there is no truly new idea created in the mind. A child may have seen a red ball, and yet can envision a blue ball without ever having held one, but this blue ball is nothing but a combination of other impressions—the concept of “ball” taken from the red one, the experience of “blue” taken from the blue of the sky, or a blue tablecloth. Even fantasy creatures, the chimera or the griffin, are amalgamations of other animals. Every invention, every dreamed-up notion in this sense is a sort of re-hashing or blending.
I think of strikingly creative images, the artwork of H.R. Giger or Salvador Dali, those works which are so well-constructed that they seem to us to be totally original. The subconscious minds of these men are master assemblers of nightmares and surreal dreams, of horses and reptiles and machines, so finely kneaded and combined that they stop us cold. Here appears to be something completely new—but of course, every artist has his inspirations. Perhaps the most creative individuals are merely the most eclectic.
I’ve found, unquestionably, that whatever I expose myself to is what I’ll want to do. I watch Youtube videos on my downtime: videogames, gymnastics, diving, extreme sports, calisthenics, cooking, rock climbing, spearfishing, racing, music, weightlifting, travelling, piano. . . . Without fail, as I watch these videos, I will gravitate towards one specific topic and end up wanting to do that thing. Who could stare at a plate of food and not want to taste? Curiosity implores us to seek out inspiration; once we find those objects, the beating heart demands we take action. All media, in fact, works over us in this way. Whatever we surround ourselves with, we become.
It’s worth noting that technology has made instantly accessible and unbelievably vivid those images which catalyze the search for inspiration. It just jumps straight to the finished product: here is a video of an enormous whale. Not pictured is the search for the whale, the diving techniques which require mastering, the wetness of the ocean and all the times you jumped in but didn’t wind up in the middle of an orca pod. The anticipation is removed, the puzzle-piecing carried out by the subconscious, the processing and daydreaming and effort that makes us want it more every step along the way. There’s no sense of “I wonder what this would be like.” After watching the video, all we can do is compare real life to a preconceived expectation.
And this is a best-case scenario of sorts, assuming that we turn towards our smartphones entirely and exclusively when we want some new joie de vivre. More likely and infinitely more common we will fill our heads up with drivel, think about drivel, fabricate cheap dreams out of recycled parts. How can you build a skyscraper out of scrap metal? How to cook a three-star meal out of rotten ingredients? It’s impossible. These things that are so easily accessible, these are other people’s dreams. If you want to construct your own, you can’t go digging where everyone else is digging, just because they’re digging there.
I can only speak from experience, and my voice only represents itself. My dreams have long been lofty, and as of late the edifices built on landfill have come crashing precipitously down. I have been avoiding all things that seem hollow, and this feels right. No comment, no justification is necessary. There are expenses, but it’s worth it. I’ve tried before to build my towers out of sand and driftwood, and I’ve been amazed by my efforts, but by and large it didn’t shake me when they fell; I knew I’d not gone out of my way to gather the best materials.
I am trying really, really hard to be meticulous about the sort of media I ingest—the kind of thinking and behavior that enters my life, because there is a faint vision of the future forming inside my mind. The temperament, the passion, the comportment; the daily ablutions, the rituals. I look around for something to match the depth I feel in myself and see mostly movie-sets, paper thin and unreal. . . or green screens, to be filled entirely with the most recent manufactured content, those already-stale and anachronistic reformulations that serve to nourish only those without taste.
I am trying to make books my main form of media consumption, those expanders of imagination and champions of lateral thinking. A book will expose you to a thousand new experiences, a dozen new paradigms of thought, and a totality of experience integrated into your own which is infinitely more nuanced and rewarding than that which you can build from the sordid pieces scattered about your social media presence.
I am trying really hard to do this. Time will be the one who approves my efforts—vindicates me, or not.