Life is full of mystery. I sometimes wonder if we don’t try to forget this or at least try to ignore it. Admittedly, mystery can be difficult. It’s really not understood and it often undermines our sense of control. While probably any normal person would admit that it is impossible to maintain total control of one’s life at all times; this is not necessarily our modus operandi. We like feeling in control; like we have a say. But this is where our discomfort begins. In our present age of science, technology and reason we have gained control over our lives to an amazing degree. So much so that mystery, the mysterious and even faith often becomes unwelcome. There are many ways to approach mystery in our lives and being the men of Set in Stone that we are, it is most natural for us to talk about mystery in terms of the creative process. We speak of the creative process a lot. We tout its value to us as individuals and as a society. We often talk about it in vague, esoteric and abstract ways. But the truth is the creative process is visceral, tangible and difficult. Sometimes I would even call it brutal. But my point is that it is real and it is full of mystery. Perhaps that is why it can be so brutal. It is the mystery that is difficult to manage, to predict and maybe even to rely upon. But that is what we do as creative professionals. We learn to be comfortable with the unsure, unreliable process of creation. We set our reputations, our futures on something that we do not fully understand or control. We are paid to wrestle with the unseen; the nonexistent. A few weeks back we posted an article on John Clease’s lecture on creativity. He gives some fantastic insight into the conditions of creativity, and speaks with much experience. But he did not or could not speak to controlling creativity. (You can see that here.)We can set the stage for creative activity, but in the end we wait and hope. We do not wait passively or lazily; inspiration comes most readily through action and work. As a matter of fact, we often do more work while waiting than we do actually bringing some “genius” idea to fruition.
We also speak a lot about the richness and depth of life. And at the heart of it I think mystery has a lot to do with this also. Those things that we wrestle with; those things that give us a sense of awe; these are what we call rich and deep. And all of these things have an element of mystery, a touch of the mysterious. Fundamentally, being human and living life is full of the mysterious. All we have to do is acknowledge this and dive in. We need to practice being comfortable with not knowing, walking in places we have not been before. I encourage you to get in over your head and figure it out. The very antithesis of mystery, richness and life is consumption. It is too easy to collect and consume. The consumption of things and ideas can rot our minds and souls. I know because I fight this all the time. For me, it is too easy to sit on the web or look through magazines and “consume” what everyone else is doing, critique it, file it away and feel like I have done something. When the truth is I have done nothing but stroke my fragile ego. It takes nothing to critique others work or pass my impudent judgment on someone else’s sweat and tears. But this is the very trap I fall into instead of forging my own way. For me, to be a critic is to be a sorry excuse for a creative. ( I would like to say that there is a huge difference in being a critic and being critical. We must have the skill to be critical; to see not only what is wrong but how to fix it. This is the only way to improve.)I go through seasons of not being inspired or floundering on some idea that just doesn’t want to come, but instead of putting my head down and working I lay back and surf. It truly would be shaming to show my web/Tumblr habits during these times. Lots of collecting; lots of judging; very little progress. Guard yourselves against the easy (and dare I say hollow) satisfaction of consumption. The habit of consumption is diametrically opposed to the habit of creation. I for one want to be a creator, a fighter, one who can push forward in spite of myself. In the end I want my legacy, my life to be so much more than just an awesome Tumblr. (which I do have an awesome Tumblr by the way) So let us all agree to try harder. To make something, fix something, or just push deeper into life’s mystery. It is there and it is abundant; let us not just ignore it.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt