I'm half mindless again and feeling chopped at the knees.
I'm using my phone too much recently and it leaves me wondering - what am I trying so desperately not to look at? What hidden affliction threatens to pull me into an unsightly black morass, what undertow is threatening to pull my feet from under me and surge the waterline above my sight? There's always a reason I find. Validation. Vanity. Insecurity. Perfectionism. Hesitation. Fear. These words flutter to the foreground like passing butterflies, absolute stillness is needed for them to land.
My spirit has felt crippled by sentiment lately, too much exposure to the head and perhaps not enough to the heart, or perhaps too much of both. The world has been deep, rich, and layered... but it's loud, and the decibels are threatening to clip. My intention moment to moment has been shrinking slowly, subtly, but surely. I know from experience that without intervention it will shrivel completely until my agency over the situation has been reduced to that of a slaughterhouse animal.
This is nothing new to me, I've had to deliberately manage my relationship with over stimulation many times over the last half-decade. This has taken the shape of social media detoxes, full blown sabbaticals, device lockboxes, and every app based solution you could stumble across. These strategies are valid, shit, I'm starting a new sabbatical tomorrow, but all of these solutions misdirect the attention from the true nature of the dilemma. We foolishly believe the source of this addiction is external, a result of nefarious manipulation.
It's the phone. It's Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Elon Musk! Have you seen The Social Dilemma?
Limiting exposure to the digital world is not enough by itself. A root needs to be pulled. I theorize that our screen time likely goes up in direct correlation with the level of existential anxiety that we harbor.
This time around my reliance on my smart device has become brutally transactional. I have been catching myself navigating mindlessly to my Instagram activity feed and desperately pulling the screen downward like I would a slot-machine lever. I wait with bated breath for what lies on the other side, the result never being anything momentous. The whole ordeal, lasting 7 seconds in length kills you little by little, your brain fires all the pleasure chemicals in anticipation of a drop of honey, and whether the honey falls or not is irrelevant, the brain is hooked on the suspense. It tires from this process as it repeats it at a nauseating clip day after day, seemingly accelerating as the underlying cause remains unaddressed.
What I've gotten good at (I think) is seeing my behavior as a symptom and not the problem itself. Since returning to social media in February of 2022 I've had a large uptick in personal projects - publishing and posting work that I deem personally valuable. Newsletters, podcasts, creative writing, film photos, and now most recently, a foray into digital photography. This uptick in creativity has led my brain to a faulty conclusion:
Since I'm having more fun - my content, words, photos, ideas should resonate with more people and attract more validation than ever before, right?
Imagine my surprise upon discovering that people seem to care less than ever, and its no ones fault. We're likely all in a similar boat, over stimulated and correspondingly disaffected. The days of being on social media to see what your friends are up to are long gone. We're medicating at this point. We're all half mindless and chopped at the knees.
I have never felt more creatively fulfilled. So why do I feel worse every time I share that creativity with people?
Perhaps at its simplest, I've yet to divorce the act of creation from the final product. I shouldn't create for anyone besides myself, I shouldn't create with the intention of it being seen but god, a foolish part of me too believes that I'm one sentence or photo away from the good life, what a uniquely Western illusion. Obviously, that notion creates an unsteady foundation for creative endeavor.
Oh god, I hate these words. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
I want validation. I like validation.
There it is, the thorn in my side. Validation feels good until you realize that in the pursuit of it, you will poison all of your words, creations, and thoughts to reverse engineer that same type of pleasure. The kicker is, once you receive it - it will feel worse, it will no longer be enough. Hedonic adaptation. Your artistic integrity will atomize as you pervert it for a temporary high.
My words are jammed. I'm caught between the last and the next. There's so much I've been wanting to say and share but my words can't match my thoughts. The more I read great prose the less I feel capable of producing it, but that doesn't keep the words I read from spawning new and more enticing thoughts. My mind is outclassing itself. Thoughts are moving faster than words. Words - I'm hanging off every one these days - unfurling them, doing my best to understand how they're being used. What's the underlying form, what is really being said? What does it look like and why do I see it as such? How would someone else interpret this same sentence? I'm doing my best to step out of myself while reading, and perhaps I'm doing the same while I'm writing. What a disaster. Stepping out of myself while writing is to strip myself of singular perspective, it turns my medicine into a commodity for feel-good consumption. Safe words for a generation too easily bothered. A concern of mine.
It seems I'm also afraid of revision, I feel if I miss the mark with my first attempt, or haven't captured the general shape of what I'd hope to say than the whole exercise is moot, worthless of further exploration. That's ridiculous, I'm not Ernest Hemingway. That's even more ridiculous, Ernest Hemingway had to revise, rewrite, and try again. Why would I be exempt? I'm nobody.
Why do I hold myself to such a high standard? Who actually cares about the quality of my words? Why is there a dam where I remember there being a river?
I don't have a way to tie this up. I need to stew on it more perhaps. Good news, I feel a little less jammed.
Until next time.
🎧 A Song to Study
🏡 An Album to Live In
📚 What I'm Reading
The Myth of Sisyphus is Albert Camus' handbook on Absurdism and his take on what it means to be The Absurd Man. Absurdism is defined as: a philosophy based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order brings the individual into conflict with the universe.
Enjoy this passage that stood out to me recently:
At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise. The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia. For a second we cease to understand it because for centuries we have understood it in solely the images and designs that we had attributed to it beforehand, because henceforth we lack the power to make use of that artifice. The world evades us because it becomes itself again. That stage scenery masked by habit becomes again what it is. It withdraws at a distance from us... that denseness and that strangeness of the world is the absurd.
👋 Until next time...
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