Saying Something to Say Nothing

1702-1252709341CgRpI came across this article the other day about 10 paradoxical traits of creative people. I can never decide if I’m creative or not, so I gave it a read. Guess what I found out? I am creative.

And so is everyone else.

According to the teaser:

Creative people are humble and proud. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. Creative people are rebellious and conservative.

Well, thank you. You just described almost every person I’ve ever known. And the whole article runs that way. One comment compared the descriptions to a horoscope: so generic and sweeping that it applies to everyone.

Much like my post about Generation Y yuppies, I see the seeds of desire for specialness in this. Who doesn’t want to be creative? Read this and feel like you are! You’re special!

But it’s empty. Grand promises and sweeping generalizations don’t make for truth. They feed our pride and tell us we really are as great as we think. But perhaps we’re simply average. Or maybe below average. Where’s the article “Ten Traits of Average People” that describes most of the population? That would probably be depressing to read. And sad. Who needs reality, anyway?

I write with cynicism because this pride courses through my veins. I yearn for specialness. I long to be known and praised and admired. I want to be creative and imaginative and just a notch above others. So reading stuff like this just ticks me off.

Really, I’m just looking for the day when I finally learn contentment with being the rather ordinary creature that I am, but absolutely unique because there’s no one exactly like me, incredibly valuable because I was made in God’s image, and unfathomably loved because Jesus gave himself for me. If I can really believe that, what other kind of “special” do I really need?

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From a Book: The Unpredictable Universe

370When I read books, thoughts or paragraphs or ideas jump out at me in new ways. And now that I read almost exclusively on my Kindle, I can capture those thoughts and mull on them a bit with the notes and highlighting feature. I thought I’d share some here from time to time.

I’ve always loved Michael Crichton novels, since at least late elementary school. He had a way of talking about science so that it made sense, usually through story and dialogue. These days, I don’t find his writing as great as I once did, but I still enjoy exploring ideas he introduces. Here’s one from Jurassic Park:

Fractals are a kind of geometry, associated with a man named Mandelbrot, who found a remarkable thing with his geometric tools. He found that things looked almost identical at different scales.

For example, a big mountain, seen from far away, has a certain rugged mountain shape. If you get closer, and examine a small peak of the big mountain, it will have the same mountain shape. In fact, you can go all the way down the scale to a tiny speck of rock, seen under a microscope—it will have the same basic fractal shape as the big mountain. It’s a way of looking at things. Mandelbrot found a sameness from the smallest to the largest. And this sameness of scale also occurs for events.

Consider cotton prices: there are good records of cotton prices going back more than a hundred years. When you study fluctuations in cotton prices, you find that the graph of price fluctuations in the course of a day looks basically like the graph for a week, which looks basically like the graph for a year, or for ten years. And that’s how things are. A day is like a whole life. You start out doing one thing, but end up doing something else, plan to run an errand, but never get there.  And at the end of your life , your whole existence has that same haphazard quality, too. Your whole life has the same shape as a single day.

It’s the only way to look at things. At least , the only way that is true to reality. You see, the fractal idea of sameness carries within it an aspect of recursion, a kind of doubling back on itself, which means that events are unpredictable. That they can change suddenly, and without warning. But we have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We do not conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is.

Straight linearity, which we have come to take for granted in everything from physics to fiction, simply does not exist. Linearity is an artificial way of viewing the world. Real life isn’t a series of interconnected events occurring one after another like beads strung on a necklace. Life is actually a series of encounters in which one event may change those that follow in a wholly unpredictable, even devastating way.

That’s a deep truth about the structure of our universe. But, for some reason, we insist on behaving as if it were not true.

Crichton, Michael (2012-05-14). Jurassic Park: A Novel (pp. 189-191). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (lightly edited to make a single quotation–click here to see the full dialogue/quotation)

We so badly want structure. Even those of us (and I certainly include myself) who act like we don’t want structure depend on the earth to keep spinning, our bodies to keep working, life to keep happening. But our hope in order and structure is an illusion apart from the God and Father of Jesus, in whom all things are held together. Yahweh keeps it all together for us. He’s also the master of the unpredictable (to us) which is utterly predictable to him. Trusting in nature, in life to be constant and steady is foolish. But trusting in the Creator and Sustainer of everything is the only right and wise choice. Not that it makes anything safe. Or predictable. But it’s our only anchor in a wave-tossed life.

Yup, I’m a Yuppie, Too

Dry GroungOr more accurately a GYPSY. This article (warning: contains some mildly offensive language) does a pretty bang-up job of hitting the heart of my generation’s ongoing angst and cynicism. And when I say “my generation” (talking ’bout my geeeneration!), I definitely mean straight up “my”–because this nails my own low-level discontentment.

The fact is, I think I’m the bee’s knees. And I got tripped up in the article when the author said:

Even right now, the GYPSYs reading this are thinking, “Good point…but I actually am one of the few special ones”—and this is the problem.

Yup. Guilty.

What I find interesting is that the article links this discontentment to careers, as if that’s the main way that we build value and worth. I suppose for many that may be true. But that’s certainly not the only way people, even GYPSYs, find value. It might be in a creative pursuit. It might be in fame. Or success. Or religion. Or family.

For me, I see these same principles at work in my faith and in my family and in my friendships. Shoot, it’s even in my blogging. Since I feel like I’m so special, I’m yearning for everyone to see that specialness and just fawn over it. Ick, but true. Deeper down, there’s a yearning to see and find specialness everywhere–and a rejection of the mundane and ordinary. Yet mundane and ordinary are by definition the way things are most of the time. So why are they not good enough for me?

Deep down, I know there must be something better. And there is–it’s just not here yet. The glorious day when perfect and ordinary meet is the day Jesus comes back. That’s what we’re all waiting for, whether we realize it or not. It’s just that we channel that desire into our work or play or family or self-image or whatever. We try to make perfection instead of finding perfection in the Perfect Lamb. Not that I think that’s easy (that’s why faith is a fight), but it’s still right. And good.