I asked Walter what inspired him. The 94-year-old acquaintance answered, “I want to remain relevant to myself.” He reflected that for much of his life, he was worried about keeping up with popular social trends and political beliefs. As Walter grew older, he realized that he was struggling to remain relevant to people who had only a passing interest or no interest in him as a whole person. He had been trying to keep up appearances like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. The only difference is that Walter does not have a portrait of his real self hidden inside his attic.
During Walter’s pause in speaking, I glanced around his nursing home room and noticed a few framed photos of his friends. There was a bulletin board that displayed a few homey, pithy quotes. There was one in particular that caught my eye: “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”–Octavia Butler. (Butler was a Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction writer.)
I asked Walter about the Butler quotation because he is not a writer. He responded that he used to play the piano before his fingers became frozen by arthritis. He now focuses his creative energy into meditation and reading non-fiction books. Walter didn’t have any particular reason for pinning up the Butler quote on his bulletin board other than the words somehow appealed to him.
Walter mentioned that he used to have a diverse, numerous group of friends. They substituted in place of the family members he lost at an early age. One by one his friends passed away or became lost in dementia. He learned to better appreciate his remaining friends and to finally accept what fate has brought his way. The main thing he has now is the love for the few people in his life–and that’s what’s really important.
As I reflect upon Walter’s conversation, I ponder the things that inspire me. Basically, it boils down to everyday, mundane things. This morning while waiting for my coffee to brew, a small knick-knack caught my eye. It’s a tiny, plush Pillsbury dough boy that I placed into an antique top-hat toothpick holder so as to keep the toy upright. It’s a small thing, but it triggers a smile. If some artifact causes me to smile or feel nostalgic, that inspires me to create something.
I’m guessing that curiosity is my main creativity driver. I want to get to the root core of stuff, even if the knowledge destroys my deeply held opinions and beliefs. I do not like feeling limited by outmoded notions, ways of thinking, and techniques. So many people limit themselves and box themselves within limiting beliefs, which keep them from optimum living. I often wish that people would dare to change their opinions and attitudes so they could expand their minds. Perhaps I am only projecting my own desire for expansion onto other people.
Every so often, I awaken in the middle of the night and cannot drop back into slumber. I don’t worry; I ponder thoughts about stuff I have not yet explored. I also resolve regrets about what is beyond my personal control. This past Sunday I reflected that at one time I wanted to be an auto mechanic. I cut my handyman’s teeth on the engine in my Chevy Vega Kammback. Although I bought the car new and never abused nor neglected it, the engine had chronic, major problems. Being a college student with limited liquid cash, I had to learn how to tear apart engine components to repair them. The last repair I did was to adjust the intake and exhaust valves. While performing that somewhat mundane task, I decided that engine mechanics simply was not my cup of tea.
Trial and error is how most of us learn new things and explore hidden aspects of our personalities. We discover what works and what does not work for us. This helps us narrow down our plans for life’s journey. The experiences fortify our courage to press on to unknown challenges we may face as we meander towards our final destination. After all, satisfying our curiosity and experiencing joy are not things we postpone for some hoped-for day in the future. These are things we discover in the present.
Sometimes our lives feel as desolate and empty as a desert but we carry on anyway. Then we climb over one more sand dune and discover a tiny oasis. The discovery transforms our tiresome journey into a trek of wonder and psychological refreshment. We reaffirm the old saying that the limits of possibility are redefined by going beyond them into the impossible. Perhaps all we need to do is to remain relevant to ourselves.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
“I want to remain relevant to myself.” is a very strong quote. And otherwise I see things the same way. For example, where a painter sometimes gets his inspiration from may seem strange to some. But the field between inspiration and the finished picture has to be relevant and consistent with one’s own self.
Yes. True art comes from our core.
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It is always good to keep one’s mind open to new information and let that information reform previously held beliefs. Otherwise we might find ourselves in the same predicament as the captain of the Titanic. I had a Vega. It had an aluminum engine bloc that caused a lot of problems if I recall correctly.
This brings truth to the old saying, “One cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them.”
I love that Walter wants to remain relevant to himself. Also I know you post this before my posts come out, so what a coincidence that you talk about sand dunes on the same day as my post about sand dunes! 🙂 Maggie
Our muses must be communicating. 😊
Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News.
I look for and celebrate those small oases. I believe Walter does too. Thanks for sharing his words.
I believe we all need these types of spaces.