There’s a TED Talk I go back to often.
In the talk, which in my opinion is worth every bit of the 19 minutes and 24 seconds it takes to watch, author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) discusses writing, success, and having a genius. It is understanding this third part—“having” a genius vs. “being” a genius (SPOILER ALERT: there is no such thing as being a genius)—that has drawn me closer to who I am and to who I am not, and it forms a part of the reason why I was off Periscope during Lent and why I’m coming back on.
But not so fast. In all fairness, my hiatus was not so noble and had a much more pedestrian pedigree.
My most recent broadcast had been in late January. I’d found myself—a recovered alcoholic—doing and saying very “unsober” things in and through and related to Periscope. I didn’t think it would necessarily make me drink. Because drinking is not what I fear. What I fear is self-destructing. Drinking was always and merely the agent, and if drinking started again, it would be while I was drinking that I would do crazy things to self-destruct. These days, new agents of destruction appear. I’m not always wise enough to spot them. Social media was consuming so much time, so much head space, and—thanks to Periscope and data charges—even putting several Verizon executives’ kids through college, that I thought I needed a break.
That’s the negative way to look at it.
Here’s the positive way. In early January, I heard a new thought (new to me) from a spiritual teacher. The thought is that one should cultivate boredom. Not multitask away all spare moments. Actually embrace and cultivate boredom. “For when we are bored,” he said, “we are seeking something to save us from ourselves.” Yet when we let boredom run its course—ignoring the annoying but ultimately harmless gremlins that are nibbling our toes and twisting their fingers in our ears to get us to react—at some point, an external force will present itself, a Good Force, and this force will suggest something we hadn’t thought of on our own. Because we couldn’t think it. It is outside of us. It is totally other, and it is True Beauty.
Enter the genius.
I call it the Spirit of God.
It has various names.
One of the activities the true Spirit does is to create things of lasting beauty through people who listen. When one of us is lucky enough to be the agent of that—rather than letting a gremlin-agent act on us to do something self-destructive—then we are truly blessed. The danger, of course, which Gilbert so expertly outlines, is that we might be tempted to think that we are the genius, rather than the host to one. Knowing the difference is like watching children play in the late afternoon sun, chasing their shadows like kittens and being blinded to your own shadow, thinking the light source is you and not the orb that’s floating 93 million miles behind your back.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I was not on Periscope thinking that I was a genius. But this live streaming channel, and other social media, occupied so much time and head space, as I mentioned, that I was rarely bored. And while rarely bored, I found myself with deaf ears when the Spirit spoke.
And, frankly, I’ll have more to say to you—on this blog, on this one, on Periscope, and wherever—if the Spirit is doing the talking and not I alone.