There are many obvious sources of inspiration. Beautiful sunrises, the way snow lies on flat ground, the ocean. But what I have begun to value recently is a different route to that same inspiration, which I never considered to be important before. Let me predicate this with a little information about my own life. A few months ago I finally went to the doctor about a pain in my knee that I’ve had since I was 13 because this pain had suddenly got a lot worse. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, not something a 22 year old would be expected to have but I had an idea of what was wrong with me before I went to get it checked.
There is no amount of mental preparation that is possible before a diagnosis that will be present for your entire life. Even if you are 99 per cent sure that you have a certain condition, actually being told that you have it is miles apart. Suddenly I knew for definite that this pain I suffer though will be there every day for the rest of my life and it felt like in one moment, everything had crashed around me. I was with an NHS doctor so naturally he did nothing with regard to treatment and didn’t speak to me at all about the condition other than to explain what it was anatomically with a little model of the human knee. He didn’t talk about how I could deal with the pain, he didn’t talk about how I could deal with the weight that had now fallen on to my shoulders and, as I said, there was no treatment offered. But then that’s the NHS, we don’t expect our doctors to actually treat us or help us anymore, do we?
It felt at the time like everything around me had suddenly become far too real, I couldn’t get any distance between me and reality. But as I started to accept things and I started to rely on myself rather than medical professionals I developed an inner strength and it is this that gave me the inspiration I am referring to. By accepting that I will always be in pain and by accepting that the only person who will help me is myself I feel free. The whirling swirling hole of depression that appears inside my stomach when the pain in my knee gets to its very worst is something that I can fix, something that is under my power and my control. If I can’t cope with my knee, that is nobody’s fault but my own and so equally my accesses are my own.
My knee is just a personal example of this. What I am actually talking about is the inspiration that is available by taking control of our own lives and accepting when things are our own fault. Too often it is an attitude of people within this society to blame something other than themselves and this comes predominantly from our Christian roots. When something is wrong in the world that isn’t people’s faults, that’s the fault of the devil. When something really wrong has happened it is a sin, something other than ourselves and that sin is something that we can atone for and make better. Then we get to go to heaven and everything is better. What we should be doing is accepting the consequences of our own actions and accepting responsibility for them but even people who have lost the Christian faith hold onto this concept.
There are some very subtle examples of this. Let’s take the situation where a cake falls on the floor. For the sake of the visualisation it’s a chocolate cake with two layers and thick buttercream in the middle, sprinkled all over the top with hundreds and thousands and with some Smarties stuck into the top. Blip walks past it and knocks it off. If he accepts the blame for the situation and declares ‘I knocked the cake off’ then the situation is fine and done and resolved. He did something wrong and he accepted it. The more likely response however is ‘the cake fell off.’ While still technically true, it doesn’t deal with the fact that the reason it fell off is because of Blip. He has successfully got past the situation by putting the blame onto an imaginary figure. It doesn’t affect anyone around him and he might not realise it’s affecting him but what it does do is chip away at his control over himself. Another declaration he might make is 'that cake falling on the floor has made me unhappy/stressed/miserable etc.' It hasn't of course, any unhappiness he feels is his own fault because he has decided that the cake falling off makes him unhappy, his body has given him that reaction, but it is much easier to blame the cake. There are many other examples. 'The cake has made the floor messy,' 'If there isn't a mop then the floor will never get cleaned.' A version of this last one is common on cookery shows where the contestants say that if there isn't enough sugar in the cake then it will never taste right, while what they actually mean is that if they don't put enough sugar in the cake it won't taste right. Subtle but important. Another one is addiction, 'I'm addicted to sugar' is not an excuse for your lack of willpower, just like claiming alcoholism doesnt excuse your lack of willpower either. And if you smoke it's because you choose to, just because a chemical has addictive properties does not mean you are incapable of not smoking 40 a day. A person smokes because they choose to smoke, no matter how much they try to blame the nicotine. Addiction is not a disease, its a willing externalisation of blame and therefore an acceptance and allowance of weakness.
This all boils down to reality. If we can only trust our own senses and our own perception then it is only our perception of ourselves that matters and we need to maintain our control over the reality that we perceive. The control that we rescind when we externalise blame also diminishes the amount of pride we can take in our successes because we’ve made the overall amount of control we had over society a little bit smaller. This is visible on a large scale by the very small amount of pride people are allowed to show in their achievement as a consequence of the lack of taking responsibility for actions and subsequently there is a downward trend of inspiring ambition in the citizens. We blame not having a job on the government, we blame not having enough money for children being poor when the parent shouldn’t have had them in the first place if they couldn’t afford it. Because of that it is no longer an achievement of a person to go out and get themselves a job and without the thrill of the eventual goal of the feeling of success why would anyone bother to go and put the effort in.
This brings us back round to inspiration. By internalising blame and accepting our failures we gain a sense of control over our reality. And by gaining control over our reality we can find inspiration in much more than the obvious images of beaches and thunderstorms, we can find it within ourselves. Thinking outside the box and the true wonder of surrealism comes from imagination and imagination is the bending of reality, something that requires control over reality. The freedom for creativity comes from control, it can’t appear from chaos because the very point of chaos is that it is muddled and murky. To take a thread of something brilliant out of it means that either it wasn’t chaos, or the person who took the thread out of it had power over it. And ultimately, the only person who we can truly blame for not being able to pull out that little thread is ourselves, no matter how much it looks like it’s the fault of everyone and everything around us and no matter how much we want our own apathy and our own laziness to not be the cause of the undesirable situation that we find ourselves in.