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Consumption vs. Creation


I find myself in a heavy slumber, not totally asleep, but barely awake. The day ends and I settle into my phone to catch up on news, Giants baseball, changes in technology, or some article that seems important to my constant urge to learn something new or to better understand the world. We get the kids to bed and my wife and I turn on Netflix for an hour. Then she drifts to bed and I drift back to all that numbing information. I know the stream never ends and I drift along with it until I force myself ashore to the human need of sleep.

This is consumption.
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Out of Touch With Self

out_of_touch_with_selfI’ve felt like I’ve been spinning lately. My brain is going a thousand miles an hour most of the day and night, and thoughts about work, in particular, are jumping around up there and bouncing up and down on the relentless treadmill. This happens from time to time with me, but it’s usually not this bad. There’s been more going on at work than usual, but there’s something else at play.

I’m not staying in the moment. I’m spending my time thinking about what needs to happen next and worrying about what’s already past. What’s right in front of me slips away and sometimes becomes one more thing that I didn’t get done. When this is happening I also don’t eat regularly, I sleep even less than usual (which is not much), and perhaps most importantly, I’m not having any fun.

So yes, I know what I need to do: stay in the moment, have more fun. But how?

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#nerdlution Round II: Reviving the Chops

trumpet_and_oilI’ve been thinking about what I want to do for my next 50 day challenge (a.k.a. #nerdlution round II) and I’ve decided to tackle a beast: reviving my trumpet chops. I’ve played trumpet since I was 9 and majored in music at UCSC. I was a decent player, got gigs, etc., but once I had my first kid almost 9 years ago, it’s been a slow decline.

For the first few years of Keana’s life, I kept my chops up and taught at two different music schools while working a “day job” full time. I had occasional gigs playing with a few bands around San Francisco and Oakland, with a wedding or funeral thrown in here and there, but about 5 years ago I really put it aside, only playing a few times a week, then a few times a month. At this point my chops are in working condition, but they are a mere shadow of their former glory.

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Creating and Sharing As Deeper Engagement (or Things We Make that Others Laugh At)

Things We Make that Others Laugh AtI’ve been in a few thrift stores lately and one of my all-time favorite things about thrift stores is finding and…um…celebrating the ridiculous stuff that people have owned and passed on. I make up stories in my head of the original owners and what possessed them to buy these things in the first place. I like to imagine the unbelievable joy they derived from owning this thing that I am now mocking in shameful judgment. Did they truly love this crazy shit and grow tired of it? Were they possessed to buy more crazy shit so they had to sell this stuff to make room? Did they just die and leave it for their heirs who then experience moments of comic relief in their hour of grief? Were these prized possessions actually fashionable or popular in some place and time?

Then my mind drifts back one step further to the artist. The Creator. The font of endless creativity from which sprung this gem that I now hold in my hand. Sometimes it’s obvious that, sure, at some point it may have been original, beautiful, cool, whatever. And other times I can derive no understanding of what possessed someone to think that what they were making was actually a good idea or would be remotely desirable to any member of the human race.

And here’s where I venture into something deeper: is this what keeps us from creating…writing, playing, composing, making, sharing? Will someone laugh at this? It’s already been done so why should I do it? Will this thing only matter to me and if so, why should I bother sharing it? Why bother making it in the first place for that matter?

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Childhood’s End, A Review

I have never written a book review and it almost seems pretentious of me to even try. What could I say about any book that hasn’t already been said 100 times by others—more eloquently than I could ever say, for sure? But this review isn’t necessarily for anyone but me I guess. It’s a chance for me to process what I’ve read and by sharing it, maybe it helps someone else too, who knows? So let’s get to it.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke is a sci-fi novel—one of the first I’ve read, really—and while yes, it is about space, time travel, physics, aliens, and the like, it’s far beyond just a cosmic tale. I won’t get into the details of the plot or spoil the ending, because that certainly has been done. Instead I think I should point out what I found intriguing about this book.

Like I said, I don’t usually read sci-fi novels. This novel was recommended to me by a good friend, possibly over 10 years ago, and it’s sat on my mental bookshelf until this summer. His review was glowing and I certainly respect his taste, yet I think it was the fact that it was a sci-fi book that lowered its rank a little. I’m glad I overcame that. Yes, the book is very well written and Clarke weaves the story’s plots and timelines together masterfully, often jumping 50 or 100 years at a time, and I never felt confused or abruptly transported in the storyline. It’s really a commentary on human nature and our creativity and potential.

No Utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond tehir wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.

Aliens come to earth and help solve our greatest problems which leaves humans comfortable and at peace, yet there are many that are left questioning the inevitable “why?” and “what’s next?” For all the cultural and technological advances that take place for humans, in the end, there is no stopping our potential to evolve and become greater than ourselves, but only through our most creative and non-scientific endeavors (think unexplained phenomena), and only in a united form. Clarke has this transformation take place (fittingly) with the children in the novel and the adults are beyond the next step in evolution. In fact, anyone older than 10 is literally left behind and the aliens that are first seen as “overlords” eventually liken themselves to “midwives attending a difficult birth”.

I really don’t want to give much more away in case anyone is actually reading this, but I really enjoyed discovering the still-current perspective of Clarke’s 1953  tale on how technology and cultural changes affect—or don’t affect—us as humans. And how he saw that, in the most ideal of circumstances, humans thrive best through following creativity, curiosity, and that a certain level of adversity and discomfort is really necessary for us to achieve our greatest potential—a potential that is essentially limitless.

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Learn to Wake Up

“Nap time” hits and you’re sleepy as hell. You know what I’m talking about. It’s a Thursday or Friday afternoon, you have five different projects you’re juggling at work, some monotonous, some complicated. You’re overwhelmed, and the summer sun is beating down outside as the concrete and asphalt begin to release the stored heat from the day. Yeah, NAP TIME.

If you’re like me though, you’re not the guy who’s going to lay down and call it. There’s work to be done, there’s a couple hours left till the weekend, and you handle your responsibilities. And in these situations, coffee just doesn’t seem to cut it. You know what does: BRAIN ACTIVITY. Something to really get your juices flowing. Something challenging, something creative. Something you’re actually curious about.

When I have an interesting problem to solve, something new to learn, or a need to look at something in a new light, I can rouse myself from these afternoon sleepies and not only be productive, but be engaged, and, consequently, wake the hell up. You’d be surprised what a little learning/playtime can do for your productivity in “real” work, no matter what you do.

It’s important. It’s fun. It’s good for you. It helps you be a better person. It’s good for all humanity.

You with me?

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