2012-08-10

Inspiration Or Accident?

The actions and words of other people are influenced by many factors of which you are not aware. 

At any given moment in time, someone is experiencing their own, private, meaningful set of thoughts. Unless you make a habit of forcing people to tell you what they've been going through lately, you have no idea.

More importantly, unless you make a habit of keeping up with other people's private baggage on a minute-by-minute basis, you are lacking important context in which to consider the things someone might be telling you.

Negative And Positive Responses All Have Context
Obvious examples tell this story best. We have all been in situations when we went to someone we know to talk about something and received a surprising and unpleasant response that seemed to "come out of nowhere." In some cases, after some conversation, we are able to learn that the person has been having a bad day, or has been dealing with a tough situation lately, or has been experiencing some other such pressure. Once we know this, it is easy to set the initial unpleasantry aside, considering the person was under the undue influence of life's many bothers.

It is not so obvious, however, that a great many of the pleasant things that people say to us are also the result of their own private thoughts. In some cases, a person in a good mood chooses to brighten the day of others. That's great. In other cases, a person chooses to say nice things to other people as a result of something bad that they are thinking. It can work both ways. 

Sometimes a person can share a wealth of thoughts and emotions - an entire catalogue of things that prove deeply influential on you - not because they are strong, intelligent, and perceptive, but because they are going through difficult things in life. Their thoughts seem remarkably poignant, but are in fact defensive mechanisms designed to protect them from the demons they are tackling internally.

The Nature Of Invention
This is a stunning and powerful fact. That many of the things that amaze and inspire us might be nothing more than the defensive byproducts of a person's inner turmoil is potentially disheartening. We want to believe that truth is truth, and anyone speaking truth must be a brilliant sage.

The reality of life, though, is that everyone says incredibly wise and incredibly stupid things all the time, based largely on what's going on in their heads. That someone mistakenly says something brilliant does not diminish the fact that what they said was brilliant  Rather, it simply means that they stumbled upon something profound and important while doing other things.

It is the nature of invention. A person who knows little can teach you much. A person who tells you something that allows you to gain better control of your own life may slip out of control when it comes to their own. Discovery, as Edgar Allen Poe implied, is often little more than an accident. It can seem disappointing to a romantic, but it is nonetheless an important fact.