In Pulses

In Pulses
Everything I need to know about life I learned from 80's movies

To be totally honest, I've had some difficulty lately. On the one hand, I've got a couple of phenomenally exciting projects going on, but on the other, I've waiting for collaborators to review said projects and now I'm in the "in-between" doldrums. Normally, I'd fill that space in my brain with other projects. But much like my recycling bin, there just isn't any more room this week. So it'll have to wait.

Which is bugging the crap out of me! I need a creative project like a Yorkshireman needs a live ferret in his pants. I don't know what to do with myself when things get paused. But there's really no alternative way to think about it. If you're trying to surf, sitting out in the ocean and flail around won't make the next wave appear. Sometimes patience is the only sane option.

The secret to surfing is that has very little to do a finely tuned paddling technique or an advanced carbon fiber board, and everything to do with recognizing the next opportunity. Being in the right place at the right time is a skill that can be cultivated. You feel the energy come in, and you accept it.

Also, don't be in the wrong place, or you're gonna get drilled...

In about the last year I've been taking creativity seriously, after reading Steven Pressfield's inspirational The War of Art, as well as Rick Rubin's less well-written, but full-of-sound-advice The Creative Act. Both books have expanded my thoughts about what it means to be creative, influencing my recent forays into cartooning and other media (Hellooooo! This blog!), but also completely novel realms.

For example, like everyone else that's ever been a person, I enjoy music.1 One of my favorite cognitive theorists believes that music and language are deeply intertwined in the same evolutionary origin, as something called musilanguage2 (I always feel better when my experiences can be explained in terms of evolutionary biology,3 because then I don't feel so weird). But I had always written myself off as a musical dead end, possibly because I was politely asked to leave the sixth grade band due to my tuba playing. I genuinely thought anatomically bereft of a music bone.

Which I should have known wasn't true, but it wasn't until the COVID-lockdown that I picked up a ukelele that a good friend had bought for the kids and started goofing around with it. It took me a few weeks to learn a couple of chords, and a few more to play my first song, The Rainbow Connection. I'm not bragging about being able to play a simple song on a simple instrument composed by an amphibian, but it was mildly transcendental to recognize it coming out of my touch. I certainly felt closer to Eddie Van Halen.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and hot teachers?

I'd been on the record dozens, if not hundreds of times, confessing zero musical potential, and yet I could make recognizable sounds from a miniature guitar! Unfortunately for everyone around me, not only did they have to hear a daily massacre of this sweet tune (Maybe 1/50 attempts worked, same as my free throw average), this self-discovery also turned me into an obnoxious "creativity" zealot.

This experience was so fulfilling for me, and gave me so much hope in humanity, that I started feeling the need to stand behind people who looked like they might be noticing a piece of paper and a crayon nub, and start shouting "YES. YOU. CAN!". I wanted to grab everyone who's face read, I'm not as good as someone else, therefore I have nothing to contribute, and scream "Hogwash! Poppycockin' twaddle!" Of course you have something to contribute! Say it! Say anything!

I do actually see the light and the heat in your eyes. Could be anterior uveitis...

Listen, very soon, the world is going to be taken over by robots. The writing is on the wall, humans dominance is over. Could be years, could be months. So if you have something to say, go ahead and say it. Do it in the way you want to (put in a good faith effort to not be a dick, if you can). Infuse meaning into something. Anything! Write a joke. Make a floral arrangement. Tape a banana to a wall. It's more than an important display of the critical physiological role of potassium. It's a moral imperative.

I've played around with generative AI enough to know that it's very good at replicating an existing style (say, a Rembrandt painting of Sasquatch and Elvis playing cards in a bunker4), but it will never be able to put meaning into anything. It doesn't feel anything. You have to be alive to do that. Robots aren't resisting the entropy of doubt, despair, and depression that permeates every moment of life. The slings and arrows and all that wouldn't be worth it if we couldn't create.

Maybe that's why feeling the absence of this pulse has been such a struggle for me. My dream is to be surrounded by people manifested their ideas with intense self-investigation, where everyone believes in themselves as an artist, and creates for the pure joy of it. The world will be filled with expressions of self-love and self-expression. It will matter to you, and that's all it ever needs to do. Someday, just someday, we might find it. The rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me (and you, you'll hopefully be there too).

  1. Although not as much as this guy.
  2. A surprisingly unmellifluous word.
  3. I've recently been told I use too many citations and hyperlinks. And I totally get it, so I apologize for cramming so many into this paragraph. But this concept is about as core to my thinking as the fact that there is no good Mexican food north of CA-78. Okay, last one for awhile.
  4. See what I mean? Easy enough to generate, but what the hell card game are they playing where Sassie has 15 face-showing cards and Elvis has the joker instead of the King?!
Greg Bishop

Greg Bishop

A veterinarian with unquenchable creative impulses. Unquenchable? Hmmm... creative "tendencies"? Well, it depends on how well I slept last night. Also a writer, illustrator and whatever-elser.