He said hello and then said, “What are you up to now?”
“I’m still crazy. The rain feels good. I love to walk in it.
“I don’t think I’d like that,” he said.
“You might if you tried.”
“I never have.”
She licked her lips. “Rain even tastes good.”
“What do you do, go around trying everything once?” he asked.
At this moment, in this place, the shifting action potential in my neurons cascade into certain arrangements, patterns, thoughts; they flow down my spine, branch into my arms, my fingers, until muscles twitch and thought is translated into motion; mechanical levers are pressed; electrons are rearranged; marks are made on paper.
At another time, in another place, light strikes the marks, reflects into a pair of high-precision optical instruments sculpted by nature after billions of years of random mutations; upside-down images are formed against two screens made up of millions of light-sensitive cells, which translate light into electrical pulses that go up the optic nerves, cross the chiasm, down the optic tracts, and into the visual cortex, where the pulses are reassembled into letters, punctuation marks, words, sentences, vehicles, tenors, thoughts.
The entire system seems fragile, preposterous, science fictional.
― Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
You’ve heard poets talk about poems flowing out of their bodies; painters, they get on a roll. You all have seen the musician, when they are in that state, the guitar, the piano, whatever instrument just becomes part of their body, their ego is completely gone and it is just their connection to the art, their connection to the emotions they are trying to share with the audience- that is pure flow.
All you have to do is wait. Sit tight and wait for the right moment. Not try to change anything by force, just watch the drift of things. Make an effort to cast a fair eye on everything. If you do that, you just naturally know what to do. But everyone’s always too busy. They’re too talented, their schedules are too full. They’re too interested in themselves to think about what’s fair.
The flow. Yeah. Knowing you could step on the court and make it happen. You practiced, sure. But then, when you walked out there, you could just go. You could flow, that was it: you created and you didn’t totally know how. You just knew you could, so you did. It wasn’t thinking and it wasn’t imitating somebody else’s moves, though you always looked carefully when you watched good players play. But when you played… it was something you couldn’t explain. Neal used to know. It didn’t come from thinking about it.
Most important, in flow, the relationship between what a person had to do and what he could do was perfect. The challenge wasn’t too easy. Nor was it too difficult. It was a notch or two beyond his current abilities, which stretched the body and mind in a way that made the effort itself the most delicious reward. That balance produced a degree of focus and satisfaction that easily surpassed other, more quotidian, experiences. In flow, people lived so deeply in the moment, and felt so utterly in control, that their sense of time, place, and even self melted away. They were autonomous, of course. But more than that, they were engaged.
― Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Those books, pasted together by my grandmother, year after year, replaced the cognitive exercise of memory for me. Sitting on a section of wall-to-wall carpeting, drinking the bubbling red birch beer from a tinted brown glass, I reestablished my relationships with the members of my family. This is where I put it all together and perpetuated the lies. Not malicious lies, but lies with so many years to develop that we forgot the truth because nobody rehearsed it. When Mark was sentenced to sixty days in a twelve-step rehab program in 1991, he wrote an inventory of his experiences with drugs and alcohol that filled a whole notebook, and then he gave it to us to read. It was in those pages that I learned he had once tapped the powder out of horse tranquilizer capsules, melted it down, and shot it into his veins for a high that lasted fourteen days. My God, I thought, Oh my God. This is Mark’s story? Okay, now put the cooked-down shot-up horse tranquilizer against the pictures in the album. What do you get? Collage. Dry made wet and introduced into the body. Cut cut cut. It’s not so radical.
Popular culture isn’t a freeze-frame; it is images zapping by in rapid-fire succession, which is why collage is such an effective way of representing contemporary life. The blur between images creates a kind of motion in the mind.