Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Infinitum

The hardest moment for a writer is a blank page. We know too many words, too many ways to begin, that to pick just one from that space is nearly impossible. We find ourselves imagining “what if,” what if we had chosen something else? It could have been perfect, and this is not perfect at all, no, it could be so much more.

What if every moment you lived was a blank page? What if every second left you hanging in a space where an infinity of choices lay before you, knowing that no matter what you pick, somewhere out there is something better?

My imagination is too strong. I can account for too much. In a sentence, at least, each word narrows down what could make some measure of sense. Then I can go back, fix that first cursed word according to that same principle, find the right beginning having written the rest. I can burn the candle from both ends. I can reconstruct, rewrite, and redo. The anxiety of the blank page is nothing compared to the terror of a blank moment.

I can say anything, and only silence escapes me. I can choose anything, and choose to wait. I can be anything, and so I feel like nothing. I could have said more, done more, been more. I could have spoken better, done better, been better.

If only I could see less, if only less was possible. Moments do not shrink that endless space, they compound it. I pick my actions based on the world those actions may create, but from that world there is yet layer after layer of infinity. There is too much! How can I choose if I can’t see forward? And how can I choose when I can?

Always it has been my habit to look back and think, “what more could I have done, and what differently?” This has not made it better. It has made it worse. It is just another side to an endless shape, another facet to consider, another surface from which my mind’s light can reflect to blind me.

Questions, thoughts, ideas, words, choices, all flow in through every open pore of my attention, each one tinted with the fear of error and the threat of inadequacy. To dull the edge of that fear and to neutralize that threat, I know only three answers: I can shut down, through sleep or an effortful emptiness; I can ingest stimulants and render my mind as hot as a star-heart furnace, blazing through each and every thought as quickly as they come; and lastly, I can rush to fill the space myself, get there first with something simple, something clear, something obvious enough that resolution and success are possible. Those are my methods, all effective yet all insufficient to withstand the spectral infinity that assails me.

Moment by moment, second by second, a blank page of life stares at me, and I stare back, overflowing with answers yet vacant of a response.

7 comments:

  1. "Always it has been my habit to look back and think, “what more could I have done, and what differently?” This has not made it better. It has made it worse. It is just another side to an endless shape, another facet to consider, another surface from which my mind’s light can reflect to blind me."

    Deep man, and certainly true. We accomplish most in life when looking forward to what we can work on rather than looking back at what we have messed up in the past.

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  2. I've always come to terms like "paralysis by analysis" or "elective inertia" to try to describe this frame of mind, but I hadn't considered it related to anxiety. That connection seems really clear through reading this. Thank you.

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  3. I sat here for 20 minutes trying to think of something to say in response. All I can think of is "same."

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  4. Wobbles, I just want to get good at the vidja garmes, I don't need any additional existential crises in my life at the moment.
    I kid, this is really good writing, which I think connects quite well to your previous post on predictive learning. We can never really make perfect choices, so the best we can do is continually close the gap between what is doable and what is optimal by trying to model out our scenarios more and more accurately. Keep up the good work.

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