The other side of me
I admire the kind of people who can simply show up and fashion something out of thin air, as if creativity and inspiration are theirs for the taking at any given moment in time. Do you know the type? It's as if their creative capacities are so well practiced that they hardly need any initiation or encouragement to get their creative juices flowing. You cut them and it bleeds: music, words, ideas, images, whatever.
I like to think of myself as a person who is in touch with my creative right brain self, but I would be lying if I said that I dwelled there continually. I need to be deliberate in my attempt to access that place where I feel most at home. I need to slow down in order to enter into the silence, and even after years of this knowledge I still find myself resisting this pull, kicking and screaming until finally it is exhaustion rather than wisdom that leads me to a place of rest.
This dichotomy of knowing that I need to slow down even though I continually find myself speeding up has been with me for as long as I have had the desire to be a spiritual man, and as such I do not really see myself outgrowing it any time soon, if ever. What has changed over the years, though, is my attitude towards the man I am most of the time. You see, most of the time I am not a man who plays with words and ideas in the comfort of my own unperturbed solitude. Most of the time I am somebody else. That 'somebody else' has taken on different roles at different times in my life. At current it is the businessman, the entrepreneur, the man who doesn't really like this world of tax and deadlines and profit margins, but who likes sponging off other people even less, and as such have decided to choose the lesser of two evils.
Looking back on it now, I have always had the tendency to pass over whoever it was that I was most of the time in order to make time for my desired self, the person I really wanted and to some extent still want to be. As a student I used to fast forward through my required reading and assignments in order to read and write about what I really wanted. As a person living abroad I sometimes neglected that what was unique to whatever country it was that I was visiting in order to return to a familiar place in order to engage in a familiar practice - my head buried in a book as the real world passed me by. Now, as someone who has owned and operated a business for the last five or six years, I still find myself rushing through my responsibilities in order to return here, to my world of words - be it reading or writing or simply drinking in the silence.
I guess there is great value in having a mental picture of the kind of person one wants to be. It gives us a sense of direction and purpose, a constant something in an ever changing world. In a strange sort of way we need this constant something in order to embrace the only thing we cannot escape: change. Be that as it may, I have been questioning the disregard which I have often had for that part of me which I am most of the time, that part of me that looks so different than the image I have of myself in my own head. As I said, my attitude towards this 'other man' has changed over the years, and the more I have welcomed it as part of who I am instead of alienating it because I am constantly trying to flee from it, the more I have learned to find joy and meaning in those corners of my life which I had previously classified as unimportant. Instead of resisting it, as I initially did, I am now embracing the joy and energy that comes from embracing this 'other man' with all its gifts and hazards.
This 'other man' is in fact not another man, it's simply a different side of me, and the more I accept it the more I am at peace with my own place within this world. Thomas Merton, the same person who has helped me greatly in cultivating habits such as silence and solitude that continue to help me discover my true self, also weighs in on what I am trying to communicate here:
"If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God, which surrounds us everywhere."
In order to fully appreciate the human experience, we need to embrace and celebrate all aspects of our existence. It is important to hold on to and nourish our 'desired selves' - that person who we are at our best of times; that person we imagine we will be one day when we are rich and retired. But clinging to this image so profusely that we blindside ourselves to the reality of our current existence and all that goes with it is both delusional and dangerous. It's good to be mindful of the fact that we are more than the sum of our regular habits and current circumstances, but acting as if such things are unimportant or inherently distracting is to miss the Life which fills every conceivable thing.