The Luck of Interest

If you write a book, you have to be that book. Your time must become the time of the book. If you engage in public discussion on social media, the world (the others) will always be a step ahead of you. Only the latest analysis and verdict are worth mentioning – everything else is irrelevant, a mere object of the ongoing public debate that relentlessly pushes forward.

With a nod to Albert Camus, the mere act of halting the frenzy of evaluations in order to formulate your own narrative is an act of rebellion. If you are utterly unafraid of being ‘irrelevant’ tomorrow, it means that you have found a genuine interest.

In a world where social media companies are designed to optimize both advertising income and data extraction, their algorithms make sure that we spend as much time online as possible. And since cat photos are unlikely to engage a user’s soul, they reward controversy and political outrage.

 

What the bleep do we want?

Subjected to a deluge of information, knowing what you are really interested in is more important than ever. It depends not only on education, but on luck. If you were lucky enough to find out in your childhood what you are really interested in, you will find it much easier in later life to focus on that subject and avoid distraction. This has always been the case, from the Wright brothers’ fascination with flying to Thomas Aquinas’ fascination with harmonizing the Bible with Aristotle to Claude Monet’s fascination with color. Is it any different in the age of distraction? Should we be more thankful if a genuine interest has befallen us in a time when nearly everybody is wearing a distraction apparatus in his or her pocket? Are people less likely to develop an undiluted interest for something under the new predicament?

A genuine interest is the attempt of our subconscious mind to experience this directedness without an intermediary.

We don’t consciously pick or choose our genuine interest, because, in the language of philosophy, it is logically older than our agency. The I is always-already directed towards the world before it becomes conscious of the fact. Genuine interest is the attempt of our subconscious mind to experience this directedness without an intermediary. When we evaluate potential areas of interest in order to find our true calling, we are rationalizing. We try to find unassailable reasons that will convince ourselves that such and such must be our true interest, or even our calling, to use that unfashionable term.

 

How to not find your calling

This is how, at eighteen, I went about finding my calling. I visited a number of universities in the Low Countries and compiled precise reasons for studies like chemistry, architecture or molecular biology. The ones for computer science were the most compelling to my young and inexperienced mind. I would be able to employ my full creativity while making something useful and without the dependency on lengthy, boring, material processes. Obviously, the reason I had fabricated was bad propaganda and I fell out of love with IT soon after. With apologies for the hackneyed phrase, you don’t find an interest, it finds you. If it is a genuine interest, not pursuing it ought to be almost unbearable. This, at least, is what many artists, scholars and scientists alike have always attested.

Back then, in 1998, there were some distractions (notably the television), but nothing like what we have today. It must have been enough to shut down the voice of my subconscious announcing what “I” (what was in the process of becoming that I) ‘really’ wanted.

Here is what I am worried about. If young children are bombarded with information, how can they choose? How can they develop a strong interest for one thing if, as soon as learning about it presents the slightest challenge, a plethora of other things is literally at their fingertips? How can they really learn how to concentrate on something, if distraction is more profitable for the advertisement machine that orchestrates the flow of information they can access?

Children need strong key experiences that are not fragments on a social media timeline they glint at in passing, scanning if it is something their in-group thinks they must know. Experiences that make an impression on their souls because they can’t be scrolled down or swiped out of sight. Experiences that have a sense of inevitability, that don’t have alternatives, command our full attention and seem to give us a glimpse at the true nature of reality.

In the digital era, such strong experiences seem to be as scarce as the simulacra or fake experiences you can purchase online. Because distraction has become the norm, it is more important than ever to realize how lucky we are if we find our real interest.

 

The Luck of Interest was originally published on Meandering home

March 22. Luck.

Luck seems to follow me wherever I go. Even on a normal day when I some work that muse is right behind me. What is the nature of good luck? Getting lucky? I don’t mean winning the lottery or living a long and healthy life. I don’t know either, you tell me. I feel very tired and my blog is way behind, now tell myself I have to write something about luck. What are we anyway? It is of course just interpretation. I just felt bedazzlingly lucky because of the delicious coffee that was served by the beautiful waitress here in Gallo 702 in Buenos Aires. The waitress wears braces that are glued to her teeth. I can see it when she smiles. That’s a pure observation, don’t you think? An observation of the kind I want to make them. Preserving our pureness in observing, our mis-en-scène of perceptional innocence that’s what I want to do. The waitress. So luck is just a feeling I hear you sigh. A no-brainer. That guy just feels lucky about the little joys of life. Such a cliché. But wait a minute please. Saying you are lucky because the coffee you ordered and paid for is saying you are lucky because you get what you are entitled to. And we are all entitled to good luck and happiness (American constitution). To say you got lucky because you got what you ought to get is to behave in an unacceptable way. We cannot accept that I call this luck, because it destroys the concept of luck. It insults people who don’t feel lucky when they got what they ought to get. So, apart from being an insult to some people, I have no idea what my luck is. And I am not interested to know it.

In San Telmo there is a market and a lot of street artists. Painters, musicians. Tourist as far as the eye can see. A painter painted Amy Winehouse in very bright colours using his fingers to the rhythm of her latest record. The result was pretty amazing. The guy kept dancing around in front of the canvas and threw spicks of white, green, purple, blue on it after shaping the characteristic face of madame Winehouse with his hands. He attracted a lot of people with his life-painting. Look! He is doing something. Doing something? Yes, do-ing. Someone is doing something here. That attracts people like flies.

In a café I wrote a few pages. I want to write faster than you can read but I will never succeed. My writing is nothing to write home about. But to deliberately choose this mediocrity is such a liberation of the spirit. Once you accepted you are producing crap and crap only, you can start living. Like a pig in the mud, the mud feels so good on the cold pig-skin. And after many years you might think about other pigs, rolling in the same mudpool. Never mind. I want to demonstrate that badness has a place in the world, that bad writing just like bad acting, bad composing, bad playing, bad sex, bad relationships, bad eend, bad jokes and bad weather has its place on the earth. I will never be able to proof this. Once this is read and known, a one-way process of recognition, of approval and assessment of a certain quality will be started. A process like a ticking timebomb. What will come out will be goodness, and the badness will be forgetten. Why can’t I safe the badness?

A Canadian hairdresser came and asked me to use his computer. A little reluctant at first, I saw this man was a real tourist and I let him send an email from my machine. He paid for my coffee my friends had already paid for. Luck had put a few licks of her ointment too much on my forehead.

In the metro on my way back home I saw a smile. I saw the cutest smile I had seen in years. The smile was on the face of a girl and the girl was Sara. Or rather, she ought to be Sara, but she wasn’t. That smile changed to another metro line and I changed too. She gave me a telephone number and all that and I decided to call her. Felt a bit like in a movie. The question “who is this person?” I mean when you really ask this question you feel very much alive.

March 22. Luck.

Luck seems to follow me wherever I go. Even on a normal day when I some work that muse is right behind me. What is the nature of good luck? Getting lucky? I don’t mean winning the lottery or living a long and healthy life. I don’t know either, you tell me. I feel very tired and my blog is way behind, now tell myself I have to write something about luck. What are we anyway? It is of course just interpretation. I just felt bedazzlingly lucky because of the delicious coffee that was served by the beautiful waitress here in Gallo 702 in Buenos Aires. The waitress wears braces that are glued to her teeth. I can see it when she smiles. That’s a pure observation, don’t you think?
An observation of the kind I want to make them. Preserving our pureness in observing, our mis-en-scène of perceptional innocence that’s what I want to do. The waitress. So luck is just a feeling I hear you sigh. A no-brainer. That guy just feels lucky about the little joys of life. Such a cliché. But wait a minute please. Saying you are lucky because the coffee you ordered and paid for is saying you are lucky because you get what you are entitled to. And we are all entitled to good luck and happiness (American constitution). To say you got lucky because you got what you ought to get is to behave in an unacceptable way. We cannot accept that I call this luck, because it destroys the concept of luck. It insults people who don’t feel lucky when they got what they ought to get. So, apart from being an insult to some people, I have no idea what my luck is. And I am not interested to know it.

In San Telmo there is a market and a lot of street artists. Painters, musicians. Tourist as far as the eye can see. A painter painted Amy Winehouse in very bright colours using his fingers to the rhythm of her latest record. The result was pretty amazing. The guy kept dancing around in front of the canvas and threw spicks of white, green, purple, blue on it after shaping the characteristic face of madame Winehouse with his hands. He attracted a lot of people with his life-painting. Look! He is doing something. Doing something? Yes, do-ing. Someone is doing something here. That attracts people like flies.

In a café I wrote a few pages. I want to write faster than you can read but I will never succeed. My writing is nothing to write home about. But to deliberately choose this mediocrity is such a liberation of the spirit. Once you accepted you are producing crap and crap only, you can start living. Like a pig in the mud, the mud feels so good on the cold pig-skin. And after many years you might think about other pigs, rolling in the same mudpool. Never mind. I want to demonstrate that badness has a place in the world, that bad writing just like bad acting, bad composing, bad playing, bad sex, bad relationships, bad eend, bad jokes and bad weather has its place on the earth. I will never be able to proof this. Once this is read and known, a one-way process of recognition, of approval and assessment of a certain quality will be started. A process like a ticking timebomb. What will come out will be goodness, and the badness will be forgetten. Why can’t I safe the badness?

A Canadian hairdresser came and asked me to use his computer. A little reluctant at first, I saw this man was a real tourist and I let him send an email from my machine. He paid for my coffee my friends had already paid for. Luck had put a few licks of her ointment too much on my forehead.

In the metro on my way back home I saw a smile. I saw the cutest smile I had seen in years. The smile was on the face of a girl and the girl was Sara. Or rather, she ought to be Sara, but she wasn’t. That smile changed to another metro line and I changed too. She gave me a telephone number and all that and I decided to call her. Felt a bit like in a movie. The question “who is this person?” I mean when you really ask this question you feel very much alive.

March 22. Luck. was originally published on Meandering home