Walker-thinkers have found various ways to accommodate the gifts that their walking brings. Caught paperless on his walks in the Czech enclaves of Iowa, maestro Dvořák scribbles the string quartets that visited his brain on his starched white shirt cuffs (so the legend goes). More proactively, Thomas Hobbes fashioned a walking stick for himself with an inkwell attached, and modern poet Mary Oliver leaves pencils in the trees along her usual pathways, in case a poem descends during her rambles.
As soon as things get difficult, I walk away. That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you. If you try to approach a cat and pick it up, hell, it won’t let you do it. You’ve got to say, “Well, to hell with you.” And the cat says, “Wait a minute, he’s not behaving the way most humans do.” Then the cat follows you out of curiosity: “Well, what’s wrong with you that you don’t love me?”
Well, that’s what an idea is. See? You just say, “Well, hell, I don’t need depression. I don’t need worry. I don’t need to push.” The ideas will follow me. When they’re off guard, and ready to be born, I’ll turn around and grab them.
Have you ever felt as if you were missing something or merely going through the motions of living? Sometimes this happens as a result of a catastrophe in our lives, but it can sneak up on us when things seem to be going well. Boredom and apathy can make life miserable and contribute to a host of health issues and destructive behaviors. One way to combat the turmoil they create is to focus on enchantment.
I don’t mean that we should walk around under a spell that blinds us to reality or that we should do only what we please, but rather that we cultivate a peacefulness, joy and wonder for the world around us that doesn’t completely fade when we meet adversity. How do we do this? Here are a few strategies.
Temper authenticity with kindness
I firmly believe that there are no bad emotions, only emotions which are expressed in ways that are not useful. Being angry or scared may save your life when well expressed at an opportune time. Feelings exert pressure on us to behave differently, to act in new ways that change the outcome of the world around us. If you don’t feel like smiling, don’t smile. Denying your angst will shove it deeper into your psyche, where it will grow and leak out at unexpected times, poisoning your experiences. Strive to be honest with yourself, with those you love and, to a certain extent, with the people around you, but temper that authenticity with kindness and empathy, even when dealing with yourself. Honesty without those things can be a sharp sword and should be used sparingly.
Train yourself to see the good things
We all know that person who constantly expects the worst so that they never experience a negative surprise. If you choose to embrace this philosophy, realize that it may help you to manifest your worst thoughts and nightmares. We often take steps to avoid the uncomfortable realities we anticipate and these steps can actually create those realities, either externally or internally. If we expect something to be unpleasant or expect someone will not like us, we emit signals that make those events more likely to happen. Our attitude has energy that can bless or poison the lives of those around us. This is our magic. In addition, life is able to surprise us with circumstances which are worse than we can imagine. We are not going to be able to avoid disappointment completely, so we might as well look with joy on that which is good.
Is there any value in preparing to fight a dragon when the dragon turns out to be either a mouse or a train?
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
Focus on where you are and what you are doing right now. When you are driving to work, keep your attention on the road rather than your cellphone. When you are walking down the street or into a grocery store, notice the people around you and smile and interact with them. When you are eating, enjoy the texture and taste of your meal rather than focusing on work. This doesn’t mean you can’t sit down and plan for the future or think ahead. It means you are not dividing your attention in a way that makes you miss real life, which is nothing short of miraculous.
When was the last time you noticed the clouds, which are always changing above us?
As we become adults, we tend to get serious about life. Some of this is required; we need to pay bills and take care of ourselves or enchantment ends abruptly. But we often go overboard, working long hours that become tedious, pushing far past healthy endurance and attention span, focusing only on that which gives us obvious profit. It is okay to spend some of our waking hours “wasting time” creating imaginary realities or doing something pointless. If we can plan play into our daily lives we give ourselves opportunities for rest and learning things in nonlinear ways, as well as outlets for frustration that mean we can be more productive when we return to work. If we can see some of our work as play (there will always be elements that remain hard work) we can even draw enchantment into our workplace.
Do you ever feel guilty for enjoying yourself? Could you give yourself permission instead?
What is it that fills you with delight? Nature is a great place to look for enchantment, but there are things to fall in love with everywhere, from doll making to architecture, from fantasy novels to technology. Those things that inspire joy and awe in you need to be part of your life, even if they aren’t part of your day job. Life is too short to ration those things that make you a better, happier human being.
In closing, I would like to leave you with one last thought. You are the protagonist of your story, a supporting character in several other stories, and an incidental character in many stories. Abdicating any of these roles has consequences. Revere the stories taking place all around you and embrace your own with relish and zest and you will be on the road to lasting enchantment. If you want to fully explore the enchanted landscape you should not close your eyes to darkness and pain, nor should you strive to never be angry. The best way to cultivate enchantment is simply to be enchanting, and that means being your most genuine, best you.
Human beings often speak of the foundations of their lives as roots. Creative people often spend a great deal of time probing and studying their roots, sometimes even placing them on display. I recently realized through one of my paintings, Out of the Deep Waters, that my subconscious feels somewhat stressed by the exploration of my own root darkness and wondered if this isn’t a common thing among artists. I received my answer in the form of poetry which I am sharing today. It isn’t an exhaustive answer and it isn’t the only answer, so I’d love to hear what you feel.
Plants have a variety of root systems, designed for the environment in which they grow and the type of fruit, blooms and foliage they produce. Roots anchor the plant to its environment, absorb water and minerals and act as storage for food reserves.
These poems explore and anthropomorphize four root types: the primary or taproot system, the fibrous system, the adventitious system and that of the epiphyte, with its aerial roots. Do you identify with any of these?
Just as there are a variety of growing styles among plants, people grow and function in diverse ways. Superimposing someone else’s growth plan on our lives puts us through unnecessary pain and may kill us. A rose bush will never produce cucumbers. Despite what we may attempt with conscious effort, our subconscious mind is at the root of our being and it guides us in our natural channels. That isn’t to say that we can’t learn from others or that our behaviors can’t be changed, but rather that we cannot believe something until we are ready to believe it. We can only allow ourselves to be led into belief, just as the plant allows water to fill its being.
If you desire the path of sincerity, develop a love for obscurity. Flee from the clatter and clinks of fame. Be like the roots of a tree; it keeps the tree upright and gives it life, but it itself is hidden underneath the earth and eyes cannot see it.
I grew up playing Risk, that wonderful board game where you became a colonial power, spreading your chosen color over the globe until you were made victorious through a combination of strategy and the luck of the dice. The game is still my favorite, but I have come to wonder why there are no local uprisings, and why all of the winners are colonizers rather than indigenous peoples. There are no natural disasters like weather or disease to contend with either.
I ran across this fascinating article by Colin Campbell and thought it was a very interesting take on where humanity might be headed as foretold by one of our modern strategy games. Would any of these technologies be beneficial or would they be insanely powerful to the point of disaster? Everything has its pros and cons.
Read the full text of the article by clicking here.
The title of Firaxis’ game is Civilization: Beyond Earth, which implies a growing consciousness that the actual Earth is nearing the end of its usefulness to humanity. Like children playing office, the human race is getting ready for something that will require us to grow up. The nature of being human will change radically if Earth is no longer our home, supposing that we can survive at all without her. This game is the Risk of a new era, wise enough to see that merely winning wars and subjugating others isn’t enough, but not yet ready to abandon the colonization mindset. As we play, so we are.