Praise For Non Directed Intelligence

Praise For Non Directed Intelligence

We encounter most creative endeavors when they are complete. It seems to be the default to imagine that they were conceived exactly as we see them but as an idea rather than a thing. For some reason people seem to think that thinking is how you get things done. You have an idea; you think about it and then you execute it. All the choices were made in the thinking. Thinking is the most important thing. Thinking is equivalent to intelligence. Thinking is the master.

But really, it’s nothing like this at all. Thinking is at best a tool in the hands of a mysterious master whose methods are almost magical.

To be clear, I do not believe in magic. I use the term in a poetic way. Magic conveys an ability to get results from a process that is not articulable. At least not at the beginning. Once it’s all done you can articulate or recite what happened, but you can’t make up that list in your head before you’ve started. You can try but it won’t work. Or it won’t work as anticipated. Something will go wrong. Wrong is too negative, something will just go different. And how the person or team responds to that is likely to be more influential on the outcome than the original vision.

Perhaps I think about this so often because I am a documentary editor. I am given something and told to make sense of it. It’s like doing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle with no cover art to reference. It could seem that my profession flavors my other art, but I think, it’s the opposite, I came to it because I have an innate editing sensibility. I like to respond more than I like to construct. That’s what the face making is all about. I see something and respond to it. I have not made a single face that originated in my head first.

My abstracts are similar. I put a few marks on the page and everything else flows out of the choice. I usually try to make that choice as surprising to myself as possible so that I will be forced to really respond and not do an action that I have done before. I like art to be an adventure.

Some things, however, necessitate planning and careful execution, like building a house. What I am talking about doesn’t come into play during the construction of the building, planks do need to be measured and cut precisely. But what about the initial imagining of the house? You don’t measure your way into something novel, something never before seen, something special, precious, unique and surprising. You don’t tell your brain to just think it up. You have an impulse that you follow, like tracking an animal through the forest. You read the signs, you grow excited, you feel tense, you wonder if what you are hearing and sensing is real. Are you on a path or are you making a path with your constant trampling back and forth?

My brother texted me recently about a dream he had. He told me about it because he couldn’t believe his unconscious brain could author such a sophisticated story.

That’s not thinking but it is intelligence. It’s not consciously directed but it is available.

Use it.

Am I Going to Let This Crappy Hairbrush Ruin My Day?

Am I Going to Let This Crappy Hairbrush Ruin My Day?

Am I going to let this crappy hairbrush ruin my day? No! But I will let it ruin a few minutes. Multiply that momentary descent into dissatisfaction by several other “problems” and I have relinquished a good chunk of time to dismay. 

I have this belief that if I eliminate everything from my to-do list, I can finally feel the way I want to feel. I have no idea what that feeling would feel like. I don’t know if it would be super great or not, because my to-do list has never emptied. This persistent belief causes me a lot of low-level anguish throughout the day. I am attempting to undermine this belief with conscious attention to what I add to the to-do list, when I add it, and how I tell myself to feel about the fact that we haven’t checked it off yet.

I was in the bathroom, doing bathroom stuff. The thought crossed my mind that I liked the new underwear I had recently bought. This is actually kind of a big deal. I ordered new underwear last May, in 2020. Even though it was listed as a product you could buy, it never came. It was always on back order and coming soon. What is more tedious than keeping on top of an underwear order? Three months later I gave up and canceled. I’d told my mom that if I liked the underwear, I would get her some too. So, the disappointment wasn’t just on my end. In fact, the disappointment was the only thing on our ends.

What I ordered next, unfortunately did arrive. Radically miscalculating the size and style combination I received something I’d describe as a billowy ass dress. If you’re wondering what style I got, it’s the one least like bikini. Maybe high cut? Is that supposed to be so high you can pull them over your bra? This did not look good with jeans. I didn’t wear them. I did contemplate leaving them anonymously in a friend’s dryer for a laugh, but we were still in the pandemic and I hadn’t seen any friend’s dryers in a while.  

I gave up and wore old underwear for a year until the urge hit again. I located something on amazon, a place I don’t necessarily love to support but I do have confidence their products will arrive. They’re great! They fit, they’re comfortable, two thirds of the underwear are NOT above my waistline, how cool!

So, what could possibly be the problem? How has successfully getting this off my to-do list after more than a freaking year started the cascade of feeling I have too much to do? Well, I may have gotten underwear for myself, but I haven’t got it for my mom! I need to get her size and place another order. Instead of enjoying that I can finally do this for her, I start unbraiding my hair and fretting.

It’s in this state that I notice the dilapidated old hairbrush, bristles popping out with each tug through the tangles. Oh great! Another thing I need to take care of. I am not even an hour into this day, and I am already behind. I feel a sense of dread. 

DREAD?! What a ridiculous over reaction. Just writing it out re-enforces how bat shit stupid, irrational and unconscious these thoughts are.

I stand at the mirror and tell myself, slow down! This moment is happening. Be in it! Don’t throw it away to feel DREAD about replacing a hairbrush

As I stand in the shower, I realize the feeling I want to feel is available now. I can actually experience it if I just stop telling myself to wait for it.

Okay! No more waiting. Feeling it now.

Yep, feels even better than I suspected!

Observation

Observation

I spotted something that surprised me and makes me wonder how observation works. Previous to this I would have defined it as intentional, something I was trying to do, an active activity. Now I think there is a subconscious component.

I was walking the dogs at night and we passed by a house with some calla lilies in front of it. I wasn’t looking at the flowers or the house directly. I wasn’t actively looking at or for anything. I was just doing the dogs. Something compels me to turn around and check out this one flower, I sense there might be a face there. I resist a little because it’s dark so who cares. But I do it. Yup! That’s a face. I see a face. I get out my iPhone and shoot the photo below. Nothing. Let me try again. I hold very still and shoot a few more and move on.

The low light makes them crappy photographs but wow, there is someone there. How did I see this? As best I can recall, I would say my unconsciousness saw him out of the corner of my eye. I guess making faces for five and half years has built up a robust face finding perception. It can’t be turned off. Even when I think it’s off it’s not.

I suspect this works with anything we practice daily. We get so attuned to what we pay attention to that it becomes unconscious. Some people can read other people’s moods just from the way they walk in a room. Someone else sees a luscious red pepper and instantly visualizes a whole meal. I was sitting next to my dad in church as a teenager and he suddenly exclaimed and wrote something down. Very unusual for this stoic and contained man. Later he told me he’d finally solved a math problem that had been bothering him since college. Where did the answer come from? What part of him was working on it? He was a problem solver. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but an unsolved problem must have really bugged him. His brain was attracted to creating solutions. We engage with what is interesting to us. We don’t even have to try; we just do it. That’s how you know what really interests you. It is that which pulls your attention subconsciously.

It’s easier to develop observation as a skill if there is an affinity for what is being observed. My brother observes license plates. I know this because he’s always filling me in on the latest developments. He’s all excited and he’ll say, Caren, I saw a brand-new Toyota with an 8H today! And I’m like, no way dude! Tell me more! Before he started chewing my ear about it, I had never, ever noticed or thought about the sequence of numbers and letters on a license plate and they are everywhere. How many do I see a day? Hundreds? He has brought it up in conversation at least a dozen times. Because he is so passionate, his enthusiasm rubs off on me for a few days. I will notice numbers like crazy and have fun with it. But soon it all slips away because that is not what I am actually interested in.

I am less observant when I am stressed. I block out what I can’t control and don’t want to deal with like laundry that needs to be folded and empty boxes lining the hallway. If my observations are only going to add to my to do list than No Thank You. But there are things I wish I observed that I miss. Birthdays. Following up with people I care about regarding information they’ve shared. Remembering to eat the leftover mashed potatoes before they turn gross. I am pulled in so many directions, I miss things I don’t want to miss. But apparently, even in the dark, I don’t miss a face.