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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Inspiration and Futility, Alternating Between the Poles

Part I.

This essay examines the role that inspiration has played in my creative life; as a writer, as a thinker, as an academic.

Inspiration is a broad and multi-faceted subject, I focus on three aspects: the moment, the content, and the expression of inspiration.

So that I may avoid engendering the misperception that my creative life has been an extended moment of awe, mystery and transcendence, I will also present a discussion of my struggles with a deep and pervasive sense of futility regarding my creative mission, a negativism that has dogged me like a cynic over the years.

I have a sharp sense for the inspired moment, moments that come in many ways, and not all of them my own.

There are not enough hours in the day for me to list the catalysts that have informed my creative drive, but when they come together, those disparate things and beings, those moments when memories interact with consciousness in real-time, when relationships become apparent that had never before been discerned, when, like alchemy, or a flash in the pan…wham!

The creative spirit comes.

In those moments, when my attention is keen, my attention is singular, a path toward the end of a creative ambition becomes clear, and my will becomes fixed on a specific set of steps, like the choreography of a dance. That is the inspired state, when burgeoning insight is precipitously balanced with a readiness to act.

These moments come to all of us, we sense them when they do. The wise will seize them, dwell within them, and linger in their space.

True inspiration is more than a feeling.

The truly inspired moment comes into consciousness with content, it is the flash that both illuminates and enlightens. It is a flare in the dark whose sudden eruption points the way, either out, or in.

When inspired content first springs to mind it is like that brief look you are allowed, of the image you are trying to construct from a jig-saw puzzle. There it is, in your mind, for a moment, and now you have to put it all together with only the memory of that vision to guide you.

The inspired moment is more than a feeling, more than awe, more than a sense of mystery, or of transcendence, but feeling is an essential part of it, and that feeling is not a tepid one.

Inspiration is light; yes, but not without heat. It is hot with imperative, with the command to do; to write, to stand, to move.

Inspiration is like the germination of a seed, a seed that is fully formed in its flower, and expressed completely in its fruit.        

Inspiration is a force. It is dynamic. In a literal way, inspiration is the movement of the Spirit within us, enlivening, vivifying, it is as much a part of us as the air we breathe. It is a “divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the soul of humankind.”[1]

To speak of inspiration in its aspects, or its parts, is somewhat artificial, perhaps impossible, as if when speaking of a wave you can name its peak, and its trough, without acknowledging that the two are essentially one, alternating and changing.

The inspired moment must be followed by a genuine enthusiasm for the work that lies ahead, enthusiasm which is itself synonymous for the indwelling of the divine.[2] When the inspired moment comes we must find a way to let it be within us.[3]

Inspiration is personal. It occurs in the lives of real people, and though it comes with great power, it is nevertheless subject to the cares and concerns of the individual, but the caring for it comes throughout the course of our daily lives.






[1] The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Inspiration, “1. Stimulation of the mind or the emotions to high level of feeling or activity. 5…Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the soul of humankind.”
[2] Rollo May, The Courage to Create, p. 103 “Apollo spoke in the first person through Pythia…the god was said to enter her at the very moment of her seizure, or enthusiasm, as the root of that term en-theo (‘in-god’), literally suggests.” W. W. Norton Company, New York, 1975.
[3] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: pp. 149-150. “Blake of course thought the imagination and inspiration (which we all have, as I have said) came from God and through God’s messengers; psychologists tell us it is rooted in the unconscious. But one explanation is as good another. I prefer Blake’s better because it is much easier to understand and more plausible…and remember the word enthusiasm means divine inspiration.” BN publishing, 2008

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