Sunday, February 15, 2015

Conversations 27 - In Search of A Creative Life

Why do you do what you do - someone asked by email. 

Is this a life of drift that I live, doing what I like at any given moment, or is there a design, a career plan as one may call it, was perhaps the intent behind the question. My answer - that I search for serendipity - perhaps answers the question and it does not, at the same time. 

It does, because that is precisely the plan. It does not, because that looks too much like a convenient excuse for drifting. How could one plan for serendipity? My answer, by expanding possibilities, by setting off in a journey, by doing various things, by engaging in myriad endeavours, by meeting many people and by pursuing many ideas, is logically correct - this is the only way to find possibilities that one otherwise may not - but falls outside what we mean by planning. It is being deliberately unintentional - something along the lines of Churchill rehearsing his impromptu remarks - an oxymoron.

But, at the same time, it may explain a few things. Why did I leave a job, which was going well, and migrated without one? Why did I not pursue a career path in Marketing even after taking the trouble to qualify professionally and reaching at least the starting line? Why did I not pursue career paths within the companies I worked for, or the industries I got into, but would be in, as I am now, my fifth career (after data communication, IT Training, e-Learning and recruitment)? Why my aspiration remains living in a country or a society outside the English speaking part of the world, to be able to see the world through a different language glass? Why my work is full of unexpected twists and turns, things that turn out to be beneficial to my employers but they did not ask me to do them in my job description? Why did I start two businesses, failed, but yet plan to start yet others in the future? Why did I pursue three different academic disciplines in my life (economics, sociology and education) and read other things most of the time (economic history, politics, psychology, philosophy, and occasionally, business literature)? And, indeed, why I failed to turn this blog, which I have been writing for ten years, something useful, instead of filling it out with impulsive writing on things that I was doing at the moment, rather than something planned and neatly organised?

Indeed, to talk about the blog - and this post - it possibly is best illustration of my quest for serendipity. When I set out to write this post, I did not know what I was going to write. When I made the list in the above paragraph, I did not know how many things I was going to write about. I let it come to me, rather than being deliberate. This is why possibly a blog suits me better than other, more serious, type of writing - this writing is not a finished product, but rather an endless conversation - and this is more consistent with the way I live. 

But I know that all this do not answer the question why I do this. All that I just said now is more or less what I do, a retrospective description fitting seemingly unrelated things in one box. All this may as well be seen as one big excuse for drifting - being too lazy to commit to a disciplined pursuit, or being unheroic by being flippant. My rejection of intentionality is indeed that, rejection of intentionality, and if I must indulge in search for why, I would say this is my lifelong quest to escape the middle class structures that I was born into. My comfortable middle class childhood was indeed steeped into all those regular ideas - of planning, of being responsible, of climbing the social ladder - but dominated by my desire for outside, of wanting to play. Seen that way, it may be quite normal for someone who grew up playing in the backyard of own house, and who had never been allowed into the big bad world till he was fully grown up. Life, from that point of view, was a romantic idea, as it always remained for me.

Drift again, but being deliberate, now that I come to think of it, is so devoid of possibilities. I have a great time sometime just because I try things new. I am enjoying writing this just because this is not putting in words what is inside me, but just finding out, seeing things which I did not see before. Like this post, I am in the quest for what is outside the structure, rather than the structure. And, a life lived steeped in middle class conventionality perhaps needs the window where such structures are completely redundant. Life, then, becomes pleasurable not for the possessions, and predictably (after what I said) I don't have much, but for all the inspirations, engagements, friendships, conversations and all those moments of freedom that come with them. It is living a dual life of sorts, but don't we all do the same, given that we are so desperately trying to fit one structure or the other, structures that keep shifting and changing, and the ones we know that would eventually desert us, living us used up and useless on its wake. But this duality that I embrace is my drive to live, to be free and outside all expectations - a search for a creative life, if I have to fall back on a cliched, but perhaps the most potent and understandable, expression.

Would I want to be completely free, if ever an opportunity presents itself? Is that the serendipity I am after? In the speculative mood with which all this is written, I must say that when the objective is the search, it must never end in a destination. Once I have accepted creativity as the end, I must also accept that this is an unattainable one - it must never end. And, on the other hand, there is nothing more to be free than as I already am - free to search, free to live for serendipity - and this privilege I must never end up giving up. It sounds like a terrible failure, doing something without an objective, but would not be focusing on an objective be too conventional, the very thing I am trying to avoid? This is perhaps my answer to that rather straightforward question, a long one with a confusing end, but then, that, the defiance of structures, confusion as all the conformists will call it, is precisely the way to live for. 

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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