I’m not making this stuff up... Many have said it before... Being open and connected to the moment-to-moment spontaneous unfoldment of life is essential to creative growth.
We get stuck when we just sit and stagnate in our heads. And more of us today are doing ‘thought work’ where we spend large swaths of time doing just this.
I live on a slow street in Chicago. At a glance, it might look like a normal, workaday scene at any one moment — parents and nannies walking kids to school. People parallel parking (badly). Those annoying advertisement newspapers in pink plastic wrap being thrown onto porches like mass drive-by litterings.
Most of it, I don’t even notice. I might peek out every once in a while. Check on the weather (from inside — which is peculiar). And then it’s back to work.
But when I mentally step out of my self-obsession — if I can just press pause on my incessant and endless inner Netflix drama of, “How am I and how is my brilliant career going?” — long enough, I can see that there’s more going on right here than meets the eye.
There always is.
Kids are growing up. Parents are proud but terrified at the same time. The newspaper delivery folks are doing what they can so they can go home and hug their kids over a warm meal knowing their bills are paid for another month.
When we’re in adulting-mode, yeah, we see this stuff. We notice it. But we don’t allow ourselves to be swept away by the rich depth and density of life. We neuter our enthusiastic connection with it and keep focus stayed on our ambitions. We put the fearful, insecure ego in charge of telling us how our lives SHOULD unfold. And all the while, we miss the way they ARE unfolding (or are trying to if we’d just let them).
In our digital world, it’s more important than ever to get out of our self-absorbed patterns and admire the physical life happening around us.
When I think that this apartment is over 200 years old, I’m blown away of how many baby diapers have been changed, deaths have been grieved, job raises have been celebrated, and Christmas trees have been erected. Suddenly, I’m taken out of the littleness of my life and tossed into the largeness of ALL of life.
“Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself…”
— Henry Miller
This is where the good stuff comes from. Not from scanning through Instagram. Again. (Much love, Insta, you’re still my favorite.)
I mean, think of how many shortcuts you take. You take the highway when you could cruise through that really interesting, diverse, and quirky neighborhood you’ve been wanting to explore. Yeah, it saved you seven minutes, but what did it rob from your experience?
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!”
— Charles Dickens; A Tale of Two Cities
(And here we have an administration turning higher education into vocational career training — ugh…)
It’s when you forget yourself that you discover yourself.