Going beyond answers

Caution: may contain answers. Please do not touch the paradox.

The basic law of attraction idea is that you get more of whatever you focus on.

I’ve been focused on understanding and answers for about twenty years, super-intense rumination, philosophy and mysticism, hoping I would suddenly find the pearl of great price and be perfect.

It was mostly motivated by fear and lack, so of course the answers I found were never enough.

In learning to meditate I’m wanting to go beyond that whole dimension of answers I’ve accrued and find something more satisfying and more pure.

That’s a good intention. In fact it’s inspiration. I have a backlog of unfelt relief three miles high just waiting to be enjoyed.

Meditation for narrative discontinuity

Without going all author-itative on you, I know what it’s like to write a story, a narrative, and keep thinking “what’s next?” while smoothing out the continuity.

There’s a whole lot of unspoken convention and flow that keeps the audience engaged, and a potentially infinite number of things that could be written that would break the narrative and ruin the story.

We don’t like stories where the character or the setting change for no reason.

But that’s exactly what I want for myself

My own continuity is holding me back, and the continuity lives in my habitual thoughts. Meditation as a way of finding relief without habitual thinking is like a personal deus ex machina swooping in to change things without regard to narrative coherence.

Deus ex meditatio?

My Latin is crap but you get the idea.

Meditation feels like intense relief because it takes me out of the old story, the confining narrative I’ve kept alive for myself.

When I was severely depressed the stories I wrote were bleak and horrible without meaning to be. It’s just what made sense in that state of mind.

How much moreso the story I’ve told myself only half-aware?

When meditation stops the story, it’s the ultimate freedom from old narrative pressures, conventions and constraints. It’s a new creation, true rest, and respite from a world that doesn’t need to be.

I don’t have to make this relief fit; I can’t. My old story is an old wineskin. Time to start afresh.

Dtcwee’s working holiday

Dtcwee has posted an intriguing piece in which he wonders:

Could you treat work as a travel destination?

What if I have been subconsciously treating work as a travel destination instead? That quite fits. I holiday widely, and consistently gravitate towards maximising novelty, autonomy, and budget. I go to great lengths to avoid commitment or expense. Although I have made a few life-long friends, I generally don’t keep in touch with colleagues and fellow travelers. I like what I like and I go apeshit on TripAdvisor when it is refused.

And here’s the important part: I have little inclination to re-visit places, and even less inclination to re-visit crowded tourist traps.


My only concern is that the conflation of work and travel might encourage people to use the term “career journey”. Otherwise, I think this is an excellent example of thinking through and around mindless social conventions. Has anyone ever before thought that work is like a travel destination? Perhaps unconsciously, as they murmur over and over “I want to go home!”

Metaphysics, creativity, and the tyranny of conventions

Does metaphysics undermine creativity?

I’ve noticed that I can easily get engrossed in a novel which, if I had to write it, would bore me to tears. Even LotR, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about hobbits, elves, magic rings etc., with the degree of interest required to motivate actual writing.

Nonetheless I gave fiction another go last night, and decided to focus on a positive motive – a kind of “write something that interests or excites you”. Translating this into: what is something that I would find truly awe-some?

What came to mind was the idea of contingency/emptiness, the ontological shallowness of creation. Ok cool, I’ll just write a story about that…

In principle, it’s hard or perhaps impossible to write about things we don’t care about or think important. On the level of metaphysics, the significance of the ontological gap between necessity and contingency kinda dampens down the significance of everything on the ‘contingent’ side. It’s just hard to get excited about imaginary objects when you know we are all already, in a sense, imaginary objects.

So what I tried instead was to put contingency into a story, by having a character who finds an object that allows him to pass “backstage” so to speak, and enters a kind of happy void he can sit in for as long as he likes.  This is appealing in a “ring of invisibility” kind of way because it feeds my melancholic desire to be able to just disappear and relax whenever I want to. It offers a sense of ideal freedom, but it also combines it with the ontological significance of contingency/emptiness.  I don’t know where it’s going to go, but at face value I can say “yeah that would be pretty cool”.

Forget about conventions, for now.

Last night I also spent some time thinking about the stylistic obstacles to writing fiction. Basically, whenever I try to write down an idea in narrative form, my brain kicks into “narrative fiction 101” mode and tries to force me to follow what I assume is a fairly basic and cliche stylistic model. Yet I know from writing non-fiction that the supposed conventions of the genre fill me with unspeakable dismay and that the quickest way to kill my motivation is to approach it with a formulaic mindset.

The vague and semi-conscious conventions of fiction turn writing into a clumsy, awkward chore.  So why bother with them? In my non-fiction I have no trouble side-stepping these “rules”. I’ve learned to follow the winding path of my inspiration wherever it leads. Why not do the same with fiction, and just write the parts I’m inspired to write, even if it seems incomplete along the way?

Besides, I’ve often found in non-fiction that after producing fifteen hundred words of inspired ideas and enthused analysis, it’s easy to tack on a brief introduction or explanatory notes to help the unfamiliar reader find his or her bearings. But if I had to start with the introduction or explanation, I would never start at all.

If you’re the kind of writer who feels his way along, then you have to start with the parts that feel interesting, exciting, or awe-some, and leave the drudgery to later – often much later when you know what is really going on.

I’m hoping this approach will also work for fiction if I combine it with the awe-some element described above – homing in on truly motivating ideas while side-stepping the major sources of friction and drudgery.

A richer life on a lower income

Step 1: My home-roasted coffee

I’ve often thought about becoming a professional freelance writer, but never thought I could earn enough to replace or even approach my previous income.

But what if I didn’t need to replace my previous income? What if I was to reject the financial imperative that says “make as much money as you can for as long as you can regardless of the cost”?

Because the cost has been pretty high. My experience of business has shown it to be a surprisingly shallow, unaccountable, egotistical and dysfunctional place, with an ethos inimical to the values and ideals I’ve cultivated for much of my life. Anecdotal evidence suggests my experience has not been unusual.

The cost of finding a similar role, of enduring further wasting of my skills and my time, makes the higher income look like a pretty bad deal. By contrast, the freedom and integrity of being a writer makes my much diminished income seem much more attractive.

I’m currently a part-time Phd Student, a part-time writer, and a part-time stay-at-home dad; and I’m adding to the mix a theme I’m calling ‘Richer on a lower income’: an idea that encompasses not only the sheer relief in transitioning from a pointless office job – one of David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs‘ – to a far more meaningful career, but also the various ways in which a lower income lifestyle turns out to be far richer than a higher income one that is constrained by the limitations of working life and the ultimately unsatisfying distractions of consumer culture.

In practice it means pushing back against a strictly consumerist way of life, producing more and consuming less. It means learning to live on a significantly smaller income, but being open to different streams of income rather than being tied to a single wage.

As time goes on I’ll be updating you on the experiences and data, the sacrifices and the achievements as we see what life can look like when we step away from pointless conventions and follow our ideals.