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The Endgame of Creative Pursuits: Reaching the Flashpoint of Stillness
When getting serious about self-awakening means the end of creative-intellectual activity
Welcome to The Living Dark. I’m Matt Cardin, and this is my blog/newsletter on waking up at the intersection of creativity, writing, religion, horror, nonduality, apocalypse, dystopia, consciousness, and culture. You can subscribe by clicking this button:
Fair warning: The following considerations from Art Ticknor, who studied self-realization under Richard Rose and Douglas Harding, may short-circuit your most cherished activities and attitudes if they really catch hold. They’re drawn from several pages of Ticknor’s book Solid Ground of Being, about his own spiritual quest and what he found. Writers and other creative-intellectual types especially beware.
In the interest of making this assemblage of thematically linked snippets more smoothly readable, I have deliberately not included ellipses indicating the transitions from excerpt to excerpt, though I have included them within individual sentences.
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Few of us are natural philosophers. We have to see that other interests are peripheral before we turn whole-heartedly to self-inquiry . . . as holding the most likely hope for satisfaction of our deepest longing.
Everyone has a strategy they’re pursuing to get what they want out of life. It may be conscious or largely unconscious. Becoming conscious of your strategy is a step in the direction of waking up.
Getting serious is the equivalent of getting honest with yourself. Are you serious about finding the truth of your existence? . . . Gautama Buddha apparently got serious when he sat down under the Bo tree; Jesus, when he spent 40 days in the desert.
You can’t force yourself to get serious. You basically have to run out of other options. As Winston Churchill quipped or complained about Americans . . . ‘[They can] always be counted on to do the right thing—after they have exhausted all other possibilities.’ ”
When you recognize that your hunger won’t be satisfied by even the highest external games (for example, the metagames of art, science and religion in DeRopp’s [sic] Master Game), then the only possibility for satisfaction lies within . . . the game of discovering who you truly are.
Ticknor then quotes Steve Jobs:
People think that focus means saying yes to the things you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. Life is brief, and then you die, you know?
And now emerging from all of that: So, if you’re like me and have felt yourself powerfully drawn throughout life to those “metagames of art, science, and religion,” just how much of your immersion in such things has been—and still is—really just a distraction from your life’s true goal?
I personally go through repeated cycles of attachment/detachment, immersion/distancing, even obsession/repulsion, when it comes to my writing and creative pursuits. Usually the times when I feel most distanced from them coincide with the times when I feel the most real. That’s when I zero in on my real calling: when the impulse to write, compose music, read books, or engage and communicate at all dies down to a slow simmer, tending toward full stop.
Which is all to say that my public creative output has always felt like it’s imbued with a kind of half-life, a built-in period of decay, after which it’s just lights-out, total silence. And that will be when I have really grabbed hold of the golden ring.
The same may be true of you. Maybe we’re all writing—and composing, speaking, religion-ing, art-ing, science-ing, working, whatevering—in search of the flashpoint of stillness, when we will realize that we don’t have to do it anymore, and that we don’t even want to do it anymore, because we have finally waked up from the dream and found the thing-in-itself, the absolute, ultimate noumenon of self-knowledge that we were always seeking obliquely, through mediated means.