What to do when you're bored of everything
I believe they call this a "pivot"
This week I had every intention to write up a biggish article about free will to send out today.
I’d found my target, a smart-mouthed physicist who “destroyed free will with FACTS and LOGIC”. I had the knives out for sharpening. But as I started writing it, my heart wasn’t in it. If I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to care about my topic, I can bet you won’t.
Hell with it. Let’s take a walk over to the wild side instead.
Yesterday I finished a book about the friendship of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien which has sent my mind spinning. There is a whole wider world hidden in the works of these “mere fantasy authors” than you’d ever realize if you took them as simple entertainments.
They can be that, sure. But it’s worth slowing down to consider that both of these men set out to offer alternatives to the relentless, crushing, soulless mechanical system devouring our modern-day reality.
That they’ve ended up categorized by their placement on the Fantasy shelf at the bookstore is a sad and ironic line scrawled underneath their purposes. We aren’t to appreciate the real mythic and heroic power behind the stories. They’re only intellectual property for the machine to exploit and you to consume.
Which is the total and sinister inversion of the messages relayed through The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve wandered down a new rabbit-hole.
Some souls get their rush from racing cars and jumping out of airplanes. For me, it’s new ideas. World-shaking, perspective-flipping thoughts that show you a different world, or the same world differently. Point me at ideas and I’ll get lost for weeks and months as I chase every lead, book mention, and footnote. I’m a collector. Some might say a hoarder. Only a slice of this ever bubbles up into writing for the public.
Between my disillusionment with academia (which is no longer a place for ideas or real learning) and my dissatisfaction with philosophy (which has turned into one more publish-or-perish game for people who like playing with symbols with 10 other people), I’ve been looking all over the place for new ways to feed the craving.
I no longer believe that the approved institutions are doing anything whatever to contribute to truth, goodness, or beauty. They’re no longer giving us anything to work with in the areas of purpose, meaning, or value. The essays I’ve written here have all touched on that sense of unease.
Truth is I’m bored of it all. Yes, I can argue about free will or consciousness or most any topic until I win by submission. So what? Having weapons-grade reasoning skills means nothing if you can’t put them to a constructive use, or find an audience that cares about what you’re doing.
On a writerly level, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m too technical for the non-specialist and too populist for the informed reader. The folks I want to reach can’t follow easily and the folks that can aren’t my audience. Writing 3000 word think-pieces can be fun and all, but it feels like I’m missing the target.
(I have zero intention of producing “content” here. There are certain concessions to readership and format that I could take on board.)
My way of thinking is, if you can’t create what you want working within the approved institutions, then why not see what the dissident fringes have to offer? The dissidents have more fun anyway. I’ll take Art Bell to the 6 o’clock news, thank you.
That’s how I found myself exploring the history of occultism, magic, and Neo-Platonism.
So it is right now, as I find myself up to my eyeballs in a tradition that can draw a line from Plotinus to Ficino to Coleridge. There’s branches off into Christian and Islamic thought, Romantic art and thought in the 19th century, and real-live magicians using techniques to alter consciousness in accord with the will. And hobbits. The connection to Lewis and Tolkien is no accident.
Lots of fun stuff to chew on.
Practical, too. In my other lives I write, fiction and non, and earn a little coin as a coach and consultant for “mental toughness” in health and fitness (a crude term that doesn’t begin to capture the depths of the human mind’s capabilities. You have to work with where you are.) Think more Steven Pressfield and Matt Cardin than a guy in a polo shirt yelling motivational slogans.
The ideas, philosophies, methods, techniques, tips, tactics, and perspectives I’m digging up will be of interest and value to anyone who writes, creates, or has any need to focus the mind on sustained creative work.
Big promise. Stay tuned and let’s see where this takes us.
🛑 One last thing
There’s a lot of good writing out there from one-author publications. But it’s harder than ever to get seen with the noise of social media (now aided by undead machines like GPT-4).
Out of the sheer goodness of my will, I’ll reserve this unused space for links to writing that meets the following conditions:
You’re a one-person show (Substack is not mandatory, though it is easier)
You aren’t already a high-subscriber publication or involved in heavy-duty traffic-getting referral schemes. Big fish have their own ponds.
You write something that strikes me as powerful, potent, with insight into new possibilities for seeing and thinking, and I judge it worth sharing to my audience.
You don’t mind linking back here in exchange.
Subjective, vague, and up to the whims of Fate, as many good things are.
If you think you can tick the boxes and would like to see your work grace these hallowed digital pages, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Link exchange”.
This button should handle that:
Thanks for reading.
Share, don’t share, it doesn’t much matter, nobody is real online: