Big ideas, my personal zeitgeist and the erosive power of Ego
Last night I made a start at writing this down, then faltered when I saw how late it was, realized that my mind wasn’t nearly quiet enough to go to sleep and questioned whether the first few phrases that had formed in my mind were going to lead to anywhere.
This morning I got out of my hotel bed after a fitful night of rest and thought “My mind feels like a bit-torrent stream. I’ve got to get out of the data smog.”
This hotel is part of a business traveler’s chain. The lobby has a communal space with a little cafe. The furnishings are sturdy and post-modern in the style of boutique hotels. I stopped there — am in that cafe area right now, drafting this — and found myself, after coffee and a stint with USA Today, making notes in my workbook.
I was back at the same place I had forced my mind to leave off last night.
Why aren’t you writing anything fun and simple?
I’ve been grappling with a couple of broad concepts that have got my brain tangled up and weighed down. When that happens, all of a sudden, I can feel my writing voice seize up and get arch and weighty. I start showing off words that sound like I’ve been cramming for the SATs. I write my way into corners that get lugubrious and serious: no authority because I lack expertise; little authenticity because I can’t make the idea simple; and no interest because I can’t it real.
There have been two questions rattling around in my brain.
The first is about how people experience meaning and purpose. I’ve been tying the question to an idea that floated to the surface here a few months ago, that individual lives are enriched by having conversations of substance with others. So, I wonder, what is a conversation of substance and why is it enriching? Asking that question, I believe, gives you insight into what comprises the spiritual life of a person. But framing the question and defining the answers isn’t just a matter of observing and theorizing. The definition of personal well-being touches on neuro-chemistry, evolutionary psychology, behavioral theory and the cultural study of faith and identity.
See why I’m getting weighed down? I’m not smart or well-read enough to weave the threads of image and information together, but I’m just well-informed enough to be dangerous to myself.
The second big question is about the role of faith and communication in human culture. That gets you at a foundational understanding of what people will do when they bridge between groups and cultures. I have a sense that cultural artifacts of power satisfy an immediate impulse among social groups for safety and identity, two components of meaning, but that the over-arching imperative that defines humanness is biased to large scale cooperation. (This is not a political statement, incidentally. It is an organizational statement. The era of modern technology is showing that the human organism recognizes that innovation related to survival increases in proportion to the number of people who are sharing information.)
This is a big theory of everything that has relevance to nothing except the way that I order the world. This part of my brain is like the odd, sweaty, ill-groomed autodidact who wanders deep in the stacks of the university library, lucidly obsessed with a question that he is unable to lucidly articulate.
What’s interesting is how the structure of a blog confronts these two big questions.
Here’s what I mean:
I write purposefully in several different venues: one public and professional and the other private and personal. Each of these venues is directed with a conclusion in mind. The form, the substance and the voice are driven by the function of the writing.
Still, every day other things capture my attention: a piece of information, an image, a sound, an idea. It’s the stream of my personal zeitgeist, and because it is all part of the human discourse, my zeitgeist intersects with hundreds and thousands other zeitgeists.
drmstream is a platform for sharing that part of my personal zeitgeist that doesn’t fit into the structure of my other activities.
What I find, though, is that even unstructured Form exerts pressure to create Structure.
People come by here occasionally. How do I make the experience consistent and rewarding?
Ideas take shape. How do I tease them out and find where they go?
Images build across a pattern. How do I give them a coherence so that they move from randomness to aesthetic?
That wasn’t why I started drmstream. The format was meant to give me a way to release some of the ideas that were lingering and needed room, to have a place to be creative and unaccountable.
Funny, isn’t it, how challenging the search for freedom is, how insistent the interior governor can be, how seductive and erosive our ego can be?
That’s what I wanted to remind myself: ease up and stay loose and joyful. And I wanted to put it here, where somebody might see it, so that I am challenged to follow through.
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