Incubation Blues — Day 6 of the Shutdown
Each night when I go to bed, I think about the day. Is there something that rises to the top? Something that puzzled me?
I work though it in my thoughts just enough to define it. Then I let it sink into my subconscious mind for sleep treatment.
When I wake up and reconnect to the topic, it has morphed and changed.
I have a different perspective.
I hurry in to write before it fades, because I know that inspiration lives in that deeper place between sleeping and being awake.
I am still busy during the days. New contracts and rescheduled tour dates come in. We are about to deliver Walter’s next album, and we are working diligently on our livestream concerts and other content for the subscribers.
Yet, things are also getting quieter as that crazy, busy energy in society all around us fades. New questions emerge.
Here’s what bubbled up for me this morning:
I have traveled a fair bit and lived in other countries, and I find The United States is the most proudly, stressed-out society I have ever been in.
Here, stress is a badge of honor. Being busy means being important.
Yet, when stress becomes chronic and people start to fall apart, it is viewed as an individual problem.
And often, it isn’t.
It is a function of an impossible reality: no matter how hard we work, there is rarely enough income to pay for healthcare, food, rent/mortgage, decent care for one’s elders, and college education of one’s kids.
A large percentage of American households often do not have enough cash to weather a small, financial emergency without having to borrow the money.
Not enough money — no matter how hard one works. No matter how many hours of the day are devoted to working. It doesn’t matter. There is never enough.
The system is engineered that way.
When running on empty, we are sold a story about why we are unhappy. It is our own fault. Others do much better than we do. We didn’t make the right choices; we didn’t work hard enough; we weren’t smart enough; there is something wrong with us because we are tired, stressed-out, unhappy, unfulfilled, depressed, and anxious.
We try to cope. We medicate, we self-medicate, we self-loathe.
We need to try harder, we are told. We need to make better choices. We need to strive for more so we can better compete.
Other people thus become our competitors. Nobody wants to be losers. We rationalize that we could have done much better if only.
If only we’d only had more money… more time… more opportunities… better connections…
It is a vicious cycle that drives us to eat too much, drink too much, buy too much… The more we self-loathe, the more we want to consume. It drives the system.
The system is on hold. We are sidelined.
Now we have:
The gift of time
The gift of seclusion
Each of us has an opportunity to step off the hamster wheel for a bit. It feels scary and unsettling, but once removed from our spin, we also have an opportunity to connect more deeply.
We have a chance to look at what drives us.
Search for comfort
A feeling of pride
These answers and many others are pillars of our reality.
But there is something that lies beyond those answers. It speaks a language we have to relearn to pick up. We knew it as children. It speaks through questions:
What gives you joy?
What can you create?
Who do you want to be?
How do you show and model your love?
This crisis gives us an opportunity to think things through, connect more deeply, and ask different questions. We can engage in thought experiments that take us beyond.
Our society will need less workers going forward. Automation and a competitive, international market changes things.
Asking questions rather than repeating old answers inspires:
Creativity, innovation, and ingenuity.
Compassion, connection, and understanding.
Joy, passion, and fulfillment.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
I think we have accepted the old, ineffective answers for so long that we have forgotten that they often don’t adequately address our questions.
Now is our time to ask away.