I would never read an instruction manual for a time machine written by a goat, not because I have anything against goats, it’s just that what the hell do goats know about time travel? I often get that same feeling when I sit down to write one of these articles. Staring at a blank page, even if it’s a blank “virtual” page on a screen can be very daunting. Especially when you have a deadline.
Often I suffer from a weird brand of writer’s block I call: “the time traveling goat syndrome”, it’s like normal writer’s block but instead of looking at a blank page and having nothing to say, I stare at a blank screen see a million things to say and share, but think:
Why would anyone ever care what I have to say?
Or more existentially… who am I to say anything?
I had a communications professor who used to tell me “never start out by sharing how what you have to say is of no value.” In fact those very words were written on the transcript of my final class presentation. And my guess is -if he ever reads the first few paragraphs of this article- he may just track me down, poke me in the eye, and then run off laughing.
But the plain truth of the matter is I have never really thought that anything I have ever shared in a long career of telling people how to act, feel, love, and believe has ever made any difference or really been worth communicating at all. Not because my heart hasn’t been in it or even that the words I’m saying have been untrue, on the contrary I have always poured all of myself into every speech, class, article and message I’ve ever shared. It’s just that I don’t feel that I ultimately have the right to say any of it.
I’m not smart, good looking, or by the world’s standards - successful. In fact I have a list of failures longer and more complex then the plot of Game of Thrones. Trust me, this is not false humility, just check my bank account if you need any proof.
So why do I keep at it? Why after more then two decades do I still continue to creatively communicate, or attempt to creatively communicate, certain ideals and “truths”?
I don’t know.
And honestly sometimes the weight of that unknowing is so heavy that I have hard time breathing. In my mind’s eye I see the world as I think it should be…or could be. Acceptance, love, unbridled creativity, respect, and maybe universally free coffee on Tuesdays. All things that are alive and thriving in our world in one way or another are kept in check by greed and fear. Like wild flowers living their entire existence in a pot. Yearning to grow free, but confined within a regulated space.
Speaking of growing free and regulated space…
I just finished reading an article in the 20th anniversary issue of WIRED Magazine about how much technology has progressed since 1993, and how we now live in a world that is more open and connected then it has ever been. How social media and the internet has opened doors to individuals with creativity and passion to literally remake the world as we know it. However, at the end of the article that outlined how far we have come from a technological standpoint, there was an interesting question that was asked of this new generation of blogging, tweeting, cyber-dating and streaming individuals:
“…if you could visit the Taj Mahal, take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the actual place but it was the last place you could ever visit. Or you could visit any and every place on earth in a fully immersive virtual environment. Which would you choose?”
I was shocked to read that 100% of the people asked, said that they would choose the one time visit to the Taj Mahal. Every one of them chose the real thing. In a world where we can gain the accumulated knowledge of all humanity or at the very least, look up the name of that band from the 80’s that had a song on the Breakfast Club soundtrack, at the touch of a few buttons (listen to me… “buttons”…who uses those anymore?!) we still crave, in some primitive way, the authentic experience.
And maybe in some strange way that’s why I keep doing what I’m doing, why I continue to stare at blank screens and blank faces who are interested in adding my humble opinions to their process, because at my very best and my very least, I try to offer an authentic experience. Sure maybe my Professor was right and its not a great idea to share my insecurities, maybe I should believe in myself and what I have to share with humanity more, maybe I should be more bold and confident.
But that’s not me.
I’m not “that guy”.
I’m the guy who stares at blank screens, the guy who fails, the guy who gets a strange thrill from telling others what’s possible not because I’ve accomplished anything, but because I believe that we’re all wildflowers stuck in pots yearning to grow free in open fields, experience the real thing.
So where am I going with this, as the “page” now fills with little 12pt Cambria font and the word count at the bottom of the window climbs towards a thousand words, what’s my point? I guess that it is we are all clamoring for something that tells us it’s ok to be us, while also striving to be more. For some that’s faith, for others its technology, for all of us in one way or another it’s creativity, the ability to bring into existence some small bit of real truth that has never been shared in a certain way before because it has never been shared by our unique viewpoint. Like a flower that never grows or blooms the exact same way as another similar flower.
And no matter how insecure, self-deprecating or inconsequential we think we may be, we have an obligation to ourselves and the rest of the world to grow, and share, and love. Not because we have all the answers but because we’re all asking the same questions.
Erik Ewing is the Program Director for The Authenticity Project; you can contact Erik at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com