Buying a read bean bun at a Japanese market. Watching a steam pipe in an Apichatpong Weerasethakul movie. Glancing at a bunch of Douglas Coupland novels on a shelf. Running. Staring at a city map. Reading Brian Eno’s diary entry for April 17, 1995. Few and far between though they may be, these moments of clarity — nay, these Moments of Clarity — always repay the wait.
In these aforementioned Moments of Clarity, though, it’s like my entire life falls into order, however micro-briefly. In that tiny window, it’s like the compass stops spinning and just points: I know just what I must achieve and just what I must do to achieve it. Still, it’s more of a gestalt; I can’t verbalize it enough to, like, convince anybody, or even to jot it down in a Moleskine for later reference. Hence all the time I shamefully watch myself pouring time straight down the drain, like a bloodshot meth-head pounding desperately on the tin doors of each and every trailer lab, searching for the one that can make it to give me just the right high. I compulsively walk library shelves, scanning for just the right typographical unconventionality; I comb the net for just the right early video art; I flip through magazines from the nineties, looking for just the right union of form and substance. All in the name of inspiration, but all, typically, for naught.
Though it’s tough to trace out the cause and effect precisely, I fear I’ve never successfully induced a Moment of Clarity. They seem to come unpredictably, of their own accord, in a pattern of settings that looks absolutely nonsensical but nevertheless feels exactly right. But that doesn’t stop me from endless application of what I yesterday called “clarifying devices”: Aim for the life well lived. Would I respect me? Do things slower. Do things faster. Do hard things. Do hard things in a way that makes them seem like easy things. Fortune favors the bold. Fortune favors the stealthy. Be less autistic. Focus harder. Is there a possibility of failure? Reward is proportional to risk. Add more personality. Subtract more personality. Only have epic goals. Only have eminently doable goals. Don’t have goals. Are you producing? Aim for the general. Aim for the niche. Only connect. Is this remarkable?
Isn’t this search for clarity about finding ways to get your brain excited, as much as anything else? I find that the more junk is floating around my mind, the harder it becomes to get excited enough about something to actually work on it, or even to draw inspiration from it. Mental noise feels as if it weakens mental stimulation, whether it’s from the worthy stuff (that article you’ve been writing) or the less so (trending Twitter topics). And what prevents me from dropping myself into meaningful work more powerfully than anything else? Fear of insufficient mental stimulation ahead — fear of boredom.
Even though I rarely experience anything that could be called boredom, some sort of primal terror of it keeps me from spending as much effort on promising pursuits as I could. I think it helps to take some time to crank down my average volume of mental input so as to boost my sensitivity to it when it really matters. I guess I can see why David Lynch meditates so much. I was just this morning listening to Mark Maron talk to Judd Apatow on WTF about how sure they are that a couple fifteen-minute sessions a day could totally transform their lives — if only they could bring themselves do it. I have to believe that, when your level of ambient mental static gets down there toward zero, clarity-hunting isn’t an issue and the world around you becomes a hell of a lot more interesting. It’s the same principle that makes a humble slice of turkey taste like such a flavor explosion after you’ve endured a monthlong beans-and-plain-yogurt diet. Maybe I should invest in one of those sensory deprivation tanks from 1982.