Last night I sat opposite my therapist lamenting the days where I used ‘in-between time’, creatively. Where I used space in a way that saw me
…making jewellery my mum still affectionately wears
…painting images from thin air
…composing symphonies I’d try to articulate on the family piano
…reading in a way I’d miss outside sounds, too deeply immersed in the world I was creating between words.
Lately I’ve been desperately searching for ‘next’ meaning. I say next because I have had purpose before; but at 37 I am ready for something new. I am hungry.
Where I have turned to craft for searching in the past I now turn, like so many, to the internet. Sometimes two devices at a time. The internet is, after all, for searching isn’t it?
But for the first time in my life I’m not finding any solutions.
In the age where we have an overwhelming amount of sources to seek ‘answers’, this seems an almost impossibility. But never have I felt more incapable, more unsure and more anxious.
Hearing writer Mark Manson talk a couple of months ago at the Melbourne Town Hall I was reminded about the stress choice puts on our brain. Manson talked about experiments done …with cereal boxes.
Two cereal boxes. No stress. Ten cereal boxes. Anxiety.
Where it is considered ‘lucky’ if you are in the privileged position of having choice, our brains, in contrast, feel great pressure; and so when I turn to google for an answer say to a ‘next job’ question, I suddenly find myself with twenty tabs open that might stretch from ‘next job’ to …next travel opportunity, next retail therapy adrenaline rush, next social exorcism, and finally, next movie on Netflix.
Today I’m wondering…
What did I find without a phone? Without a laptop? Without the internet?
Sometimes, more questions.
Sometimes, deeper ones.
This ‘knowing’ wasn’t necessarily an answer in the way that we regard ‘answers’ in 2017. It wasn’t an immediate fix (in the form of a momentary high), a presumption that everything is black or white or that success would be born of it in a way that would see me known and recognised by many.
It was that ‘elemental’ feeling. The one Sir Ken Robinson talks about. Where I am in something that is intrinsically me. In and being and doing. Creating.
And there was simultaneous peace in that experience and great energy.
And that energy …used to carry me over into the ‘next thing’.
In my mind now I am trying to cultivate that feeling so I can investigate it more. I can sense that it’s about being present, about listening and about commitment. To one thing. Not twenty tabs.
In Krista Tippet’s ‘On Being’ podcast , where she interviews philosopher and poet John O’Donahue, she asks
‘…are we less capable of love and commitment and relationship in a mature sense, in our time than previous generations were? Or is this just a human dilemma that has different details in our time?
MR. O’DONOHUE: That’s a very interesting question. I don’t think we’re less capable at all. I think we’re more unpracticed at it and therefore more desperate for it. And I think it’s a matter of attention really, just attention.
In doing one thing I am attending to it. I am committed to it but not in a way that word seems to strike fear into the souls of many these days (those swiping left and right on Tinder, buying the next phone when there’s nothing wrong with the old one)… but intimately devoting myself to it, so I know it, so I am faithful to it.
I laugh here because I wonder if I too need to explain what I mean by faithful here. I certainly don’t mean to conjure up any notion of religion. I mean to imply – ‘true’ – in an affectionate way, and in a way that doesn’t require any effort or sense of obligation.
In looking into the etymology of the word attention I find that it stems from the late 14th century meaning ‘ a giving heed, active direction of the mind upon some object or topic’. It is the ‘giving’ and ‘active’ part I am so deeply excited by. Bubbling thinking to the words I used earlier – ‘energy’ and ‘peace’. For giving, hands over something. An exhalation. A kneeling. Peace.
And ‘active’ implies action. Doing something. Creating. Which of course we need and use energy to do.
So answers can be found in the space between letting go and creativity. Between emptiness and fullness. The space I think here is the important part as our brains can have some time to file here. To see if an answer can be created from all the information we already have at our disposal. Information that is personal to us – information gathered by our own personal histories, our own experience.
Online answers should perhaps only be looked for after one has spent time and space with oneself. When one has found personal knowing in intimacy.
This moment, in intimacy, I found that I need a long walk in nature.
without my phone.
By Kate Ellis.
Kate Ellis is a Writer, Poet, Drama Coach for television and film actors and a poetry, drama and literacy teacher to primary and secondary school students at a progressive independent Primary and Secondary school in Victoria’s Eastern Suburbs. Residing in Melbourne but working across Australia, Kate has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Media and Sociology (UNSW), a Performance degree (Nepean) and a Masters in Education (University of Melbourne).