For the last year or so, I’ve had half a dozen preoccupations at the back of my mind that I think are related: education, motivation, the creative process, depression and despair, suicide, and “important things we don’t talk about” in general.
I woke up a few nights ago early in the morning with an insight that connected a few of these topics, but I fell back asleep, and it evaporated, leaving me only with one sentence to hang onto: “We are each trying to escape a unique prison-maze of the mind.” The following night, I read an article on gifted children and despair — one shared on Facebook by Suzy Charnas — and in it an exceptionally intelligent young five-year-old, gripped by suicidal depression, was quoted as saying, “I feel like I’m trapped in a maze.” That helped me recover a bit of the articulated insight that fell apart for me the previous night, something about how when we align ourselves with people who can share the project of escaping our maze, we should recognize their rare value to us. We’re each navigating a route that’s uniquely our own, but others can help point our way, even as they’re going their own. In Little, Big, John Crowley observed “The things that make us happy make us wise.” It’s a pithy quote, famous for a good reason, and one I couldn’t improve upon. As with many great quotes, though, I want to play with it. The things that make us happy are clues to escaping our prison-maze of the mind. Also, though, the things that bring us happiness, and by that I mean more than mere pleasure, also connect us to what is most real and important in a world dominated by counterfeit, misdirection, and illusion.
In my follow-up posts, I’ll try to get more concrete.