You’re doing it wrong.
That may sound like an odd thing to say about how someone experiences experiences, but, really, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Modern society has been on a seemingly unstoppable path towards a friction-less, on-demand – even pre-demand – culture that has seduced us with a shallow comfort that is defined in the negative, in the avoidance of the unpleasant. I’ve been there, seeking and effortlessly finding that easy bit of distraction: facebook, youtube, BuzzFeed... On-demand. Friction-less. Pleasant. And every time I find myself gutted, spiritually hollowed out as the superficial satisfaction fades and the emptiness that first forced me to seek reasserts itself with renewed vigor.
Louis C.K. discusses this with trademark wit at around the minute mark:
The issue at the heart of the matter is selfishness. We seek to satisfy and protect ourselves. There is nothing inherently wrong with that but compared to the joy that can be found in meaningfully engaging with the experiences of others and doing some good in the world, the masturbatory pleasure pales in comparison. Moreover, the process of really connecting with others strengthens our ability to connect with the deeper parts of ourselves and tap into those beautifully human moments that Louis describes above.
How can we do this? It starts with embracing the gritty discomfort of life. (Really, that should just be “embracing life.”) Sometimes that means entering difficult situations, having uncomfortable conversations, and embracing the failures that serve as the foundation of true progress. Other times, it simply means allowing oneself to be open – and brave – enough to be shaped by the needs and desires of yourself and, more dauntingly, others.
Will Self compellingly describes this concept in his introductory talk to a screening of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, starting at around 6:30:
This intimidating leap of faith may even seem like an unmanageable and unnecessary burden for the already busy but – and here’s the surprising bit – it is actually a form of liberation. This fact (and I do mean fact) is not one that is understood through discourse, though. It is a truth you find for yourself.
Fortunately, there’s a way to test the waters. To try things out before getting too committed to an idea that is not your own:
This weekend, the brilliant members of the Crossmodalist community will be putting on a Crossmodalist Cabaret as part of the Open Senses Festival. It will be a weekend full of provocative performances and engaging experiences that will challenge as much as they will entertain. I hope you go. I hope you give yourself to the performers and performances. Allow yourself to be shaped by the desires of others. Engage! I hope you love some of it. I also kind of hope you hate some of it but do so mindfully, finding and engaging with the “why?” behind your emotions. Who knows, you may just come to believe in the freedom that comes giving yourself to the experience of [life/love/art].
Day, weekend, and event tickets available here.
(In case you’re wondering about my involvement, the peerless Imogen Hancock will be performing ...what’s left when... along with a screening of the official video at the Bad House: Experimental Cinema event hosted by Sky Ainsbury.)