I enjoy explaining things, which is a good thing, since I have an almost-five-year-old who likes to ask questions. I suppose this is not unusual, but I’ve always viewed it as an interesting challenge to give him answers that are clear but comprehensible. And as time goes by, his questions get more and more interesting and perceptive.
I’ve noticed a trend in our explaining-things conversations: my answers tend to inevitably progress towards more basic underlying concepts, usually with a single fundamental tenet at the end: entropy and the laws of thermal dynamics, basic evolutionary theory and genetics, or often, the idea of energy. (I realize that these are fairly abstract concepts for a small child, but my philosophy is to be honest and clear and try to give examples that relate to familiar things).
‘Energy’ is one of those words with a lot of definitions, like ‘time’ or ‘spring’ or ‘clear‘. It’s a rich and subtle concept and underlies a lot of our relationship with the world. Everything we do, indeed everything in the universe, can be expressed and understood as an exchange or a transformation of energy.
Creativity is, of course, no exception. While creating ‘something out of nothing’ is a nice turn of phrase, under the surface nothing new is ever really created, we just move things around and reorganize them into new patterns. That’s still a lot, and making new patterns is a profound and transformational thing to do! But here’s the thing: it takes energy.
And in my own life, energy has been at something of a premium for the last few months… More
I did an interview recently, focused on my compositional work and approach (I’ll post a link when it goes live) and, as often happens in these things, once we’d wrapped it up and signed off I found my brain spinning with other ideas. You know, things we didn’t touch on but could have, things I wish I’d said or wish I’d said better. So it goes. I guess I just need to do more interviews…
However, one of these ‘afterthoughts’ has stuck with me, and I’d like to try to expand on it a bit here. It has to do with authenticity. Now, this is a subject I’ve touched on here before, and of course it’s also something of a buzz word in the interwebs generally and the blogosphere more specifically. We need to be more authentic, we’re told; people like authenticity, it’s generally considered to be a Good Thing.
But, ummm, what is it? What does it mean? I suppose standard answer would probably be something like “being true to yourself” – but let’s face it, that’s basically a meaningless cliché and doesn’t tell us much of anything at all. It’s an unexamined platitude.
(Quick aside: I’m generally allergic to unexamined platitudes – ideas or terms that are bantered around without anyone ever seeming to take the time to really question and define them, or find out if in fact there’s any substance to them at all. Or perhaps allergic is not the right word; I’m actually kind of attracted to these linguistic or logical black holes. I’m driven to try to figure out what, if anything, they mean – or at least, what they mean to me.)
Give The People What They Want…
A slightly better / more complete answer, then, for me – and the one I’ve been using for a while now, in various contexts – is this: Always try to be the best, most honest version of yourself, rather than being what you think people want you to be (or saying what they want to hear, and so on). It’s still pretty vague, but at least it’s something. The key here is that in fact we can’t ever know, really, what people want us to be, so it’s best not to spend a lot of time trying to reverse-engineer it.
However, I still think there’s room for improvement. And while I don’t claim to be any kind of ultimate authority on the subject, I do seem to have stumbled on something that is serving me reasonably well – for the moment at least – as a kind of guideline to help me move towards some kind of authenticity in my own life and work.
And it has to do with stew. Or goulash, gumbo, whatever, take your pick…
Well hello there fearless friends. I know it’s been a while since our last fireside chat, and I do apologize for that. It’s been kind of a wacky time here, part of a rather strange and transformative year (and it ain’t over yet!). So, what’s been going on since our last installment?
Well, first of all I turned 40, which involved a lot more thinking and soul-searching than I really anticipated. I also went through an intense spurt of writing on the still-unfinished-but-really-actually-proceeding Cliffjump Manifesto. More on this shortly.
Then rehearsals for my big winter show started. It’s a circus/cabaret kind of thing, not my highest calling in the world but I’ve done it before and I know the terrain. Plus: the band is absolutely top-drawer, I needed to reconnect with playing, and frankly I also needed to make a bit of money for a while to stabilize things around here. There are certainly worse jobs! But the rehearsals are pretty intense and all-consuming.
Finally, I had a bike accident riding home from said rehearsals one day, and managed to dislocate my left thumb. No serious damage, nothing fractured or torn, so it’s not an outright disaster – I was able to return to playing, if a bit gingerly in the left hand parts, fairly quickly. But it was certainly a bit of a reminder that I am a vulnerable human being and need to keep that in focus even as I try to push the envelope a little, which of course is part of the goal with this site and this work.
Authority or Authenticity?
Which brings me to my point for today. During all the aforementioned soul-searching, I began to realize that I perhaps have a tendency to try to present myself here (and in life in general, for that matter) as Having It All Figured Out. You know, being a totally together, highly evolved person. I’m concerned about this.
In an attempt to make these posts helpful, informative and worthwhile I have put a lot into them, but I have also adopted a somewhat professorial tone (hey, I come by it honestly: my father’s a retired professor, and we do tend to try to emulate our role models), maintaining a detached and distant tone in the interests of authority – but at the expense, perhaps, of authenticity.
So here’s the deal. I’m not fearless at all. Not remotely. I touch on this in the About page, but I’m not sure if anyone really reads those, and I figure it’s good to get it out in the open here. I try not to let fear dominate my life, but if I’ve given the impression that I’ve conquered it entirely, or that I believe I have, I apologize… the truth, as usual, is a bit more complicated than that. More
I have spent the past week at a family reunion: my parents have been hosting their four children, four grandchildren and associated partners at their country home in Nova Scotia. It’s been a lovely, if somewhat hectic visit, and has kept me away from the writing table for the most part…
However, in pondering what aspect of creativity I might like to tackle next in these pages, it has occurred to me (as it often does) that my immediate circumstances might offer some inspiration. More precisely, I have been wondering about how my family, both immediate and extended, may have influenced my creative development, as well as the ideas and thoughts about creativity that are the subject of this blog.
And of course this isn’t just about me – as always, I don’t think I’m particularly special or unique in this and likely the same kinds of influences are operating in your life as well, whether or not you consider yourself particularly creative. I want to think about this in a more general way, starting from my own experience and extrapolating from there.