What did you do with your Labor Day weekend? For myself, I went backpacking in Big Sur, California and took a few pics along the way just to prove it. In case you’re wondering, it’s a physically grueling experience. I’m not going to even try to pass this off as anything other than what it is. You’re a mule carrying about forty to fifty pounds and eventually you’re going to have to go up a few hills. The first hill isn’t very nice to you. The second hill, well that one is a fucker, and somewhere in the middle, you look up and realize it just gets steeper without getting any shorter. And you go on.
There really is no logical reason to do this, this backpacking thing, except you have to get something
out of it or what would be the point? However, this elusive something
is intangible. You cannot hold it in your hand, you cannot show it to other people, you can only show it to yourself and talk about it to other people, and hope that they try to understand. I don’t know if hardship is conducive to creativity. I honestly can’t answer that for you. But – and I can only speak for myself here – I believe that hardship is conducive to happiness. I believe that the best kind of happiness is the kind you have earned, and that if you settle for the other kind, you kind of just float on by on the surface of your life and never achieve any depth.
I was reading Diary by Chuck Palahniuk, the writer of Fight Club fame, and he’s very good at describing everyday misery – maybe drudgery is the better term for it – the monotonous, never-ending daily grind type of misery, the misery whose defining characteristic is that it will happen again and again in exactly the same way until the overall effect is the cumulative loss of your self: your dreams and your ambitions, until you settle for just getting by and you accept misery as a kind of toll you pay to just get through the hours of the day.
Now – spoiler alert here – the point of the inflicting this kind of misery on the protagonist was to guarantee that she would become a great artist. I’m not entirely sure about that, but I think that’s a very common idea, to believe that you have to really suffer to create great art. I believe, to a less dramatic degree, that you should challenge yourself, which will lead to becoming a deeper person, a deeper thinker and observer, and that in turn will give you the tools to create something exceptional. Put another way, it’s not misery itself that is important, but what you do in the face of it.
My second point: I think everyone has something that they’re naturally drawn towards. If I say left or right, black or white, vanilla or chocolate, you have an instinctive preference. You may not feel like sharing, but you probably prefer one over the other. I know myself fairly well by now, and I like being around nature, even when I discover that citronella does not repel gnats (Did you know?) and I was walking around in an insect-filled haze of gnats that alternated between flying into my eyes, nose or ears for three days…and yet. I would do it again, probably with stronger repellant this time. And an inflatable pillow. I couldn’t sleep very well while I was out there, but it didn’t piss me off the way it would if I had been unable to sleep at home. There were sounds I could listen to. There was a lot of space for my mind to open up and play. There was a bird I wanted to hit with a rock. If you listen, and possibly explore a bit, there is something or some place you can find that calls to you, it will bring you peace, but also the kind of frustration you want.