Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Flow and sugar

As time passes I find that I am more and more drawn to things that are a little more difficult. Don't get me wrong, I am not so evolved that I'm going to sit around half the day reading James Joyce and Virginia Woolf before heading off to do laps across the Mississippi. It's just that I have increasingly noticed that some things go down too easy, so easy that they don't register and end up seeming meaningless.

Look at this blog for instance. I could just write a blog. It would be very easy for me, but it would feel like nothing, weightless. What is that, writing a blog? So I made it a daily blog. That gets us almost there, but still feels a bit light. So I write the greatest blog on the Internet. That has heft and an aching heart. It is just the right sort of challenge. I can feel it as I do it, but it's still easier than writing a novel or learning Dutch.

Maybe, like so many things, this is best expressed in coffee. Every rare once in awhile I make a cold press with a lot of maple syrup, or a chocolatey mocha, or maybe I buy some latte somewhere full of caramels and vanillas and white chocolates. I cannot say any of these aren't delicious. I take one sip, and, if it's a well enough made drink, my mouth fills with a sweet pleasure. Yes, certainly, I like it. So I go to take a second sip only to find that I have already consumed the whole beverage.

What happened?

Let's call it the amnesia of easy pleasure. Yes it was good, but without effort. Without at least a small demand of engagement on my part my mind wandered off from the whole experience. Something like my usual cappuccino though is different. Warm, bitter, creamy, complicated, I have to listen for it. I have to be with it to drink it. I have to consider each sip. Is it ecstasy? Yes, of course, but an ecstasy of presence, attention, motivation, feel, and time. Taste is just a part of it. Cappuccino causes me to be there.

Recently I heard someone defining "flow" for musicians as playing at the outer edge of one's ability, but still in command. So it is for me with coffee, or blogging too, really. Any further out than their inherent challenges, and it is too bitter, a struggle, and part of the effort becomes just working back to a basic enjoyment. Closer in than their inherent challenges, sweetened, and my mind wanders and drifts away at the touch of any wind, ephemeral. I am blown over the surface of life. But with flow, in the modest consciousness demands of my chosen endeavors, time blossoms out beneath me, and I can no longer hold onto anything else. So I fall. I fall into one thing that is all I can hold, no more, no less. 

And nothingness disappears.

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