Here’s the transcript, if you don’t want to sit through the 20-minute video: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius/transcript?language=en
This is something I have thought about off and on over the years. Why is it that creative types seem more messed up than your average person? And that many seem to wear said angst like a Red Badge of Courage? Why, as Elizabeth Gilbert points out, do so many of us take our own lives? But, I’ve also wondered, why is it that many don’t want or like to take credit for the work they produce…or can’t handle that they are responsible for the work they produce? That they instead prefer to think of themselves as “vessels” for creativity that some formless Muse (or d/Deity) instead produces?
A friend of mine sent me the above Ted link (thanks, Mandy!), and as I listened to this Famous Author, I at first couldn’t help to be amazed at the lack of responsibility she is promulgating, and the audience’s acceptance of it all.
Wow, for real?
Then I read and re-read the transcript and realized I’d missed that Elizabeth was looking for a “construct” that would keep creative types from drinking themselves into an early grave. A construct that would include personal responsibility and a connection with the Divine.
Okay…I could roll with this for a little while.
So, she talked about Tom Waits and North African dancers and bad knees on Tuesday mornings. Talked about due diligence on her part in “showing up for the work,” but also in allowing Whatever Else shared the task with her to “do Their thing.” This, I kinda liked.
I’d been “brought up” on my own, basically, about metaphysical thought, through lots of reading. Sure, parental guidance, and all that—including my mom being quite metaphysically oriented herself—but my own views mainly came from reading and observing Life. Discovering what seemed to work and what didn’t seem to work from what I’ve read and how that knowledge transferred or didn’t transfer “out in the wild” of Life itself. What I found was that it didn’t really matter what you believed…if you truly believed it, than it actually worked. If you believe in Buddha and his teachings, then it worked, if you believed in crystals, mantras, or any other religion, it worked.
So, it was the belief that worked, not so much the mechanizations of the specific belief that worked (e.g., it wasn’t the actual use of crystals, but the belief in the use of the crystals).
I’d also come to the belief (pardon the pun) that, yes, there is a Divinity, an All That Is that exists. Some call S/He/It “God,” some call it other names. Doesn’t matter what we call It, in only matters that It exists. Some don’t believe any such thing. That is their belief, and they’re totally and utterly welcome to it, not that they require my buy-in. But I allow them their beliefs.
So, through all this study, I’d come to the understanding that each of us are individually responsible for our own lives, and what a wondrous life it is! We each create our own lives! What we want to do while we’re erect and breathing and taking up space in this corporeal existence! We do it through an allowance of what I call “All That Is,” and this Deity, this Divinity, is a part of us. Each and every one of us. So, when we each create anything, it is very much a part of and a result of our own, individual actions…which are—by the very nature of what I believe—one and the same with The Nine Billion Names of God. We are one and the same. God is within each of us—I make no separations of soul and flesh. My All That Is is not a separate entity for which I have to look outward. Pray to in or through another vessel (e.g., a “church”) or separate exteriorization. My expression of physical representation is as much my doing as God’s because…we’re working together. In this way, it’s probably more inline with Buddhism and that ilk, but it’s not Buddhism and that ilk. I don’t have a name for it, and I don’t like having to give it one. It is simply my belief.
And that brings us to Elizabeth Gilbert and her dilemma.
All this being said, I, therefore, do not and have never felt such angst as described here, not because I’m superhuman, but because I have tried to understand my relationship with myself, aka, All That Is. I realize that I am part of a much larger, vast, WHOLENESS. I realize that all I can do, is all I can do! That though I might feel failure, or despair, none of my acts are wholly failed nor despaired! My feelings are simply feelings, and these feelings are to be understood for what they are…momentary physical displays in a physical world that are mere representations of what’s actually going on inside me. They are my interpretations of internal data. And, being a Human Being, one of the reasons I am HERE, I’ve reasoned, is to learn. To deal with whatever issues I have in constructive ways. To find ways” around the rocks” of life that are good and positive.
So, though I am a “writer,” I am also a Human. A husband, a friend, an uncle, a son, a brother. I am many things, none of which so much as “define” me, in that in said definition, if I were to “fail” (in any sense of the word) it would defeat me. I take humourous umbrage when someone tells me that they cannot do anything else in life but (fill in the blank).
Bullshit, I politely say/think.
We are each multi-talented. All you have to do is look to all the “jobs” everyone on the planet is doing. Is someone else is doing it, we each have the capacity within ourselves to perform similarly. We each have hidden, latent talents.
When I see and hear of such anguish as discussed in Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk, I see fear. Fear of failure and fear of personal responsibility. Sure, there might also be inherent mental instability, or said fear might grow into said mental instability. But I still see fear, however defined. And developing a construct, a mechanism to combat that fear, by saying “Okay, part of this is me, but part of it is also something else outside of me” doesn’t quite “do it” for me, though I do totally understand what she’s getting at. But for me, God is within me, a part of me. Now, sure, anyone can start picking this all apart and pointing accusatory fingers at me saying I think I’m God, and that would just be what we called in the military “quibbling.”
But my belief is that all my actions—all of our actions—are all useful in the development of ourselves and the Human Race. Nothing we do is waste, and though we might perceive some of our actions as wasted and failures, they are, in reality and on the greater scheme of things, NOT failures. It is our interpretations that need readjustment. Study. And should we perceive ourselves as not doing as a great a job at one thing, then we would migrate over to something else. Whether or not we are willing to do this, is another story, but again deals with perceptions and beliefs.
So, no, I don’t feel any angst about “having to perform,” having to continue to write something that betters a previously existing work, or if I’m good enough to continue, or how can I bear such a heavy burden of speaking for the Human Race, but I am also not in the public limelight like Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, Hunter S. Thompson , so some might say it’s “easier” to say what I say. Perhaps. And I wonder if a large part of all this is lumped upon these people by the masses, the public, the publishing houses and agents. And whether these people were really as strong-willed as they behaved in public…or it was simply the stress of dealing with The World in a way they never had to before. Yes, that can be daunting. There is something to be said for the phrase “The Weight of the World.”
I don’t have the answer to everything, or why every artist took their own life. That only they can truly answer. Maybe it really wasn’t the same thing for every writer, who knows? But, as it stands now, for me, in my fairly innocuous state of publishing existence, this is how I feel—how I perceive—my life now. It could all change…my perceptions of it could change. But when I watched and read Elizabeth Gilbert’s presentation, I just had to comment. So, if you read this and you take offense or heartily disagree, that’s fine.
Just take it as one other person’s whacked-out beliefs.