“In life, the first challenge is to survive. The second is to do so in a way that allows us to live better.”

The people who really matter in your life are always the ones who introduce you to ideas that, when you hear them for the first time, it's like you've always known them – like walking into a room of your own house that you'd never gone into before. 

I was lucky enough to see Frank Chimero speak last year at my friend Andy's conference on web design, called BUILD, in Belfast.  I'm not a web designer, or designer of anything for that matter, but Andy thought I should hear Frank's talk anyway – and I'm glad he did.  It was a wonderful presentation on creativity, story-telling and the thought process of design.

Then comes Frank's post last week:  If you've time to read it all, I highly recommend you do, but here's a stand-out section:

"There’s a bit in Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist where the narrator corrects a translation, so that we may better understand how we should approach our days on the other side of the drawn line:

“Carpe diem” doesn’t mean seize the day—it means something gentler and more sensible. “Carpe diem” means pluck the day.

What Horace had in mind was that you should gently pull on the day’s stem, as it were, say, a wildflower or an olive, holding it with all the practiced care of your thumb and the side of your finger, which knows how to not crush easily crushed things—so that the day’s stalk or stem undergoes increasing tension and draws to a thinness, and a tightness, and then snaps softly away at its weakest point, perhaps leaking a little milky sap, and the flower, or the fruit, is released in your hand.

When I think about the times I connect with the work of others, it is a bit like this. A moment has been plucked from the day-to-day and made special, and I have been snagged, put under increasing tension, and drawn to a thinness. I snap softly at my weakest points, drawn away from my typical numbness, and sometimes I will even let out a barely audible sigh, overflow with a bit of laughter, or leak out a tear. From this, I hope. I hope I can do these things with what I make, and wish that the people around me can do so as well. We want to be pulled tight. We want to pluck the day. The times that the work of others or their presence makes us feel this way are surely the fruits of life. This is why we make things. To make ourselves feel this way. This is why we share it with others. To make them feel that way, too."

I'm sure if you're reading this, you can relate to Frank's experience here of "plucking the day" thanks to the creative work of others.  I often feel this experience as a thin crack in the curtain of life's everyday-ness, like another world has leaked through to me and behind it I can see something greater than myself – or as Joseph Campbell put it "I think what we are looking for is a way of experiencing the world that will open us to the transcendent that informs it, and at the same time forms ourselves within it – that is what the soul asks for". 

"To make is to be optimistic…We make in the hope that what we produce can carry us somewhere better, to a place more satisfactory. If we can do this for ourselves, we are lucky. When we are able to do so for others, we are tending towards glory."

Glory's a strong word, but it's appropriate for this feeling – this "peak experience".  So one question remains: what will you make today?

“In life, the first challenge is to survive. The second is to do so in a way that allows us to live better.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s