As I reflect on the material contained in my last several posts, Miss Cherry excluded, I find myself observing a number of interesting shifts in my perspective on this blogging project, especially over the course of the last month. What began as a rather rudimentary and unfettered attempt to apply bits of psychological theory to my personal quest for a more meaningful vocation, seems to be resulting in some mindset shifts that I didn’t quite anticipate. Although, realistically, I should have. Isn’t that why I decided to conduct this experiment in the first place? I find that I am beginning to look at my problem differently. I am starting to think that the real solution lies less in my ability to “create” something external to me and more in my ability to see my talents, my interests, and my desires differently—to re-envision, or re-order those aspects of myself, to a certain extent. The latter, I believe, will be the source of my ability to create something worthwhile—perhaps, even somewhat novel—and thus forge a new professional direction.
Accordingly, I have spent time over the last few days attempting to examine my interests in a different light. This post reflects those contemplations. Please note that this discussion, similar to On Being a Work of Art, may appear like an unfinished collection of my personal musings, structured, at least partially, like a stream-of-consciousness. In addition, I have been feeling, as of late, that I’d like to take a more creative approach to these reflective posts. You will, no doubt, notice the creative re-touching in what follows.
I often feel as if there is a variegated mirror through which we view ourselves, through which a set of internal eyes reflects upon an internal landscape. That mirror is the mechanism that allows us to view ourselves from different perspectives. At least, that’s how I like to think of it. Some people call this the ability to “step outside oneself.” I don’t care for that term, if only because I never feel as though I am stepping outside of anything. It would appear that some of us are more apt to change perspectives, or to recognize those times when a perspective-change is necessary, than others. But, this capacity can be honed. I know that from experience. I also believe that this ability to see ourselves through different lenses is invaluable. It is a genesis of personal change, and the better we become at working with it, the better able we are to effect change in ourselves. This I also know from experience. Sometimes, I think success in this endeavor lies largely in asking ourselves the right questions. That is intuitive. It is also a process of trial-and-error, and it can be learned.
With regard to my activities on The Used Life, I do my best to ask myself the right questions and answer them honestly. This can be both tricky and uncomfortable. The uncomfortability comes from having to look at myself honestly. One of the topics on which I had a recent and significant perspectival shift was my interest in the field of psychology. It has become increasingly apparent to me—and I’d be foolish not to recognize here—that my interest in psychology far exceeds that which I had originally expected. I mean, that’s what this blog is actually about, isn’t it? Upon reflection, it seems I, having concluded several years ago that I didn’t quite “fit” into what I saw as a psychologist mold, moved on after finishing my degree, taking with me all of the theoretical and practical aspects of my education that intrigued me and continuing to apply them to myself, or testing them in real life. Fostering my own evolution in this manner has become second nature to me. It was so close and so familiar, I failed to recognize just how vital it had become to my existence. I was recently forced to ask myself, “What kind of woman starts a blog with the sole purpose of performing an existential experiment on herself—to ‘find meaning?’” The kind who tinkers with these kinds of concepts like she breathes. That’s what kind. (That was the right question.)
I also asked myself where my knowledge of the ideas I discuss here comes from. Another good question. In the beginning, I believed that, in order to uphold my vision for this project—that is, to remain as true to myself as possible—I should refrain temporarily from looking to any outside sources for information or inspiration for my posts. I refused to perform internet searches on terms pertinent to my interests, like “creativity,” “creative living,” “intelligence,” “eroticism,” “elegance,” etc. I did not refer to any published materials on the topics discussed here, even those I knew would shed valuable insight on the issues under consideration. I relied instead on my prior learning, life experience, and imagination. For the most part, I am still taking the same approach. Although, I did recently read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create (I highly recommend. A sensitive and approachable book.). I think it is about time for me to start appealing to outside sources, if I am going to advance my thinking beyond my personal musings, which tend only to create more questions.
If I am to look more closely at influences from my prior learning, I would have to say that art and literature have more significantly impacted not only my thinking about the human experience, generally, but also the approach I take to living my own life. It wasn’t until recently that I began to realize just how big a role that literature, in particular, plays in how I view myself and in who I aspire to become. There was a time when I thought I wanted to become a literature professor. That’s why I got a Master’s Degree in English. I now think that, in choosing to pursue that degree, I was misunderstanding the nature of my interest in literature, which is actually very similar to my interest in psychology. This is another recent discovery.
The visions of self and world crafted by my favorite writers are an important part of what constitutes my understanding of reality. I think this is probably true for all of us. Likewise, I have learned a great deal about myself and my attitudes by examining the kinds of writing that attract me most. I also relish the processes involved in creative and/or poetic criticism. I derive a deep sense of enjoyment from creating something beautiful around works that inspire me. It is my way of expressing appreciation and gratitude for the beauty they bring to my life. I, in turn, do my best to bring them to life. This makes me ask myself another question, “Could more people learn to cultivate an attitude of appreciation by engaging in such creative exercises?” I think so.
I have a tendency to gravitate to writers who contemplate the erotic side of life, or whose style reflects their own intensely amorous relationships with the world. The best example I can think of to illustrate this kind of writing is Octavio Paz’s landmark poem, Sunstone (The link is an excerpt. You’ll note that I’ve mentioned Paz’s work previously.). I fell in love with it on first read, if only because I feel as if the world he is describing is the one I inhabit—and the one I aspire to inhabit more deeply. I ask myself if it is possible to deepen one’s relationship with the world by examining works like this. My gut says, “yes.” I also ask myself if this vision of the world, and others like it, can be translated, within the confines of our individual circumstances, into a livable experience for those who might benefit from enriching their relationships with themselves and the rest of the world. Now, that very well could make an excellent question.