Monday, July 8, 2013

Existence Under Construction

For me, writing isn't about putting my pen to paper and letting ideas flow out. My creative process is not nearly that glamorous. Rather, I'm usually hunched over my lap top at 1 am, my face contorted like a cauliflour as I study an invisible blob of ideas hovering over the keypad. I painstakingly organize them into a logical progression, extracting the necessary from the extraneous, the profound from the cliché, only to go back and rearrange my argument all over again. Insert a few phrases here, delete, delete. Rework an entire paragraph. Delete, delete, delete. Select all, delete.

Any segment of my writing that I deem to be of lesser value is acknowledged for barely a millisecond before it is discarded, only to be swallowed by the interweb where it is never to be fathomed again.

And then I have a final product, polished and shiny and intentional down to each syllabic rhythm. I forget the screw-ups even existed. All the errors fall away from my self-definition as swiftly as those unchosen words dissolve into cyberspace. I start to fool myself into thinking I'm a writer, when really I'm just a very determined mad scientist who persists through twelve hundred rounds of conceptual trial and error. This is the beauty (or downfall?) of technology: This instantaneous power of revision protects me from fixating on the parts of my work- and of myself- that just didn't make the cut.

It appears that technology, when employed as an artistic tool, can and does affect our self-esteem and self-definition. But is this a vice or a virtue?

Last week's parsha might provide some insight on this matter. Matos-Masei documented the Jews' travels out of Mitzrayim. And when I say "documented," I mean really documented. Every single resting place was included in the account, most of which appeared to serve as merely a means to an end. But the Torah acknowledges all 42 encampments. Torah gives them a voice, bringing to light their intrinsic value that could have easily gone overlooked. Each place serves a critical purpose by contributing to a larger process, the significance of which must not be ignored. 

Every detail of the journey is our Divine destiny just as much as is the ultimate destination.

This is precisely why I chose to first write this essay the old fashioned way: With pen and paper. All those mistakes will linger a bit longer in my mind as I clamp my teeth down on my pen and consider whether scribbling things out is worth the effort and the mess. That permanent smudge on the paper gives life to the journey, including the road not taken- but whose encounter paves the way for my eventual finished product. Every "mistake" speaks as eloquently as its revision. 

We're all just under construction, and for whatever reason G-d really likes it that way. If he didn't, he wouldn't keep sustaining us. The "I" of every moment is nurtured only by Divine intention. Therefore, true self-esteem cannot be contingent solely on the quality of your final draft or the filtered, perfect self you present to the outside. It requires embracing your PROCESS and your HUMANITY.

So make yourself vulnerable. 
Let people see your flaws. 
Give them something to rebuke you about. 

Because we're not computers. We're much more than just our output. 

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