Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Finding freedom through the eye of the needle.
The quest for liberation is insatiable. As we remove ourselves from overt conditions of oppression, the peeling off of layers of internalized captivity becomes a more subtle enterprise.
How can we know when we are definitely free? It is a bit of a quicksand state to seek freedom because when one admits that as the goal, one essentially asserts one’s captivity. By seeking to be free, I recognize that I am not.
The problem with seeking by definition is the positing that one is not in possession of what one is after… whereas to really find freedom is to recognize that one already has it. One already possesses what one needs to find. Isn’t it the same of abundance, God or a lot of advice? What we seek we can’t find until we look within and realize it’s already there?
And yet, sometimes we need to change the conditions of our existence. Leave an unsatisfying relationship, a toxic job environment or implement a new way of being that feels unusual but will allow us a creative breakthrough.
That’s what this is for me. Waking up on a Saturday morning, facing a gnawing dissatisfaction in the face. Understanding that I have found layers of freedom, I have altered my conditions to suit my temperament and pass through my day mostly without inner conflict. But there is that exhausting realization that there is still - and maybe always - farther to go. That’s the thing with growth - it doesn’t stop. When it does, so begins decay.
So I look at what’s left. Where has my growth taken me and what’s my next relay? Well, a lot of my journey thus far has been about carving rather than building. I have been stripping away - removing - conditions, relationships, commitments, habits that felt oppressive. I am almost at the point where there isn’t more to give away. I could get rid of more clothes, I could spend less time on Instagram, I could cut down on sugar - there are always more nuisances I could shed or additional empty spaces I could create. But what do I want to DO with the space that I have already created?
How has my self improvement been an escape hatch, a justification of why I am not yet ready to embark on the challenge I am training for? What have I been training to do? One answer may be writing. I know intellectually that one has to write to be a writer. I have always felt like a writer, but by not writing, I leave that identity as an ache rather than a verb.
I am a writer that (mostly) isn’t writing. That creates a lack. I seek freedom by removing the conditions that stop me from writing - some traits of ADD? Meditate. An issue with weed? Sobriety. A career that takes up a lot of time? Become a freelancer. Toxic relationships? Found a stable one. But have I been writing more? Have I really? What is left to clear?
Steven Pressfield would reply “resistance.” That’s the War of Art (2002). No amount of externally free conditions will give you permission to practice your art or hone your craft. I listened to Jordan Peterson talk to Russell Brand about how creative personalities are lateral thinkers and get going on tangents. We have trouble monetizing ideas because there are endless offshoots of possibilities. I long suspected this being my ADD but the truth is, I am a textbook creative.
So what is the remedy? Short of medicating oneself into a manic state to concentrate on one thing that may not even be particularly important but which under the condition of stimulants will feel like the be all and end all of all things? What is the remedy to a frustrated, dissatisfied creative person?
To get to work. To write. Not to wait for an audience or an idea. Getting free through the eye of the needle. Just as an addict needs a rock bottom to have their breakthrough, so too does the creative need to hit the wall of how empty their healthy life is without their craft.
Write every day, the ether whispered to me through books, podcasts, speakers. I have tended to coddle my fear of failure by trying to reassure it that it’s just the symptom of the nagging pressures of a Protestant work ethic and a capitalist structure that wants us to define our worth by our byproducts. But the anger connected to this fear is productive.
The next frontier of my freedom is to understand that no conditions will offer perfect liberation. It’s found in action, in presence, in finding the little trap door inside that we choose to keep shut - saving the unlocking for a rainy day. When the conditions are right, I’ll write. When I have enough money, I’ll be someone that makes crafts. When I am successful, I’ll have time to give more to my family. When I am in good enough shape, I’ll find the confidence in bed. When I am healthy enough, I will feel beautiful.
I am here. You are there. Whatever you are trying to get ready for - do the thing instead. Once you walk through the eye of the needle, the readiness will come and only when you look back, will you realize - you got unstuck.
A picture of me a few years ago when I rented a space to write my screenplay nearly every day. Didn't last long, but look how happy I was. Also has something to do with having Ricky Bobby on my lap assisting. The joy in overcoming resistance. Can I get a Taurus North Node?!