Thursday, September 2

what happens next

to find out what happens next is a pretty unmissable goal to have in life. it doesn't require much beyond paying a little bit of attention. being observant. how much action does that even really entail?

I'm also struck that this phrase "find out what happens next" invokes a very strong, narrative linearity and seems to impose that on the whole world. as if we are all living in a storybook in which all the things that happen next will come in a meaningful order, page by page. time may be linear, piling next after next after next into now, but narrative? that is not how things are by themselves. we get to add the meaning later. how things are underneath the metaphors we give them is much more difficult to figure out, it seems. 

semi-relevant sidenote: listening to this 99% Invisible episode and then happening to read this Frank Chimero blogpost made for a cool harmony of ideas. color. language. light. abstraction. the subjectivity of perception. 

my "about page" here on this blog currently says "my main goals in life involve asking more than enough questions and being open to as many possibilities as possible. I want to always keep learning things. seeing new perspectives. doing what I can to be good and positive in a messy, difficult world."

but it used to say "my main goal in life is to find out what happens next."

waiting to find out what happens next in one's life, or wherever, does involve some agency... the persistence of staying alive and the patient, passive agency of any curious being. the restraint of an impartial and aloof observer. 

to wait and merely observe implies no vested interest in the outcome. minimal expectations. no biased wanting this or that to happen instead of x or y. in fact, wanting any particular outcome more than another is unscientific. not allowed. 

I remember my gradschool mentors telling me me that my eager, wide-open sense of wonder is part of what makes me a good researcher. my brain will feel rewarded and incentivized by any results, whatever they might be, because I'm convinced that anything can become interesting if you look closely enough.

thankfully not everything has to be a rigorous, tenaciously justified research project. not all of life is science, and even if it were, not all science truly can be so detached from the what that happens, even if it tries to be. 

I'm pondering the opposites here. the opposite of waiting to find out seems like it should be running around making things happen.

I like making things. to spend life making beautiful or useful things is a goal of mine, too. when I say I like making, it's usually in reference to pretty sentences, arts and crafts, or deliciousness in a pastry crust. sometimes websites. sometimes furniture.

now I'm thinking about making what happens next.

why just wait and see, when instead we could make the things happen that we want to see happen? be the change, right?

we're already doing it, in any case. no matter what, everything we do is part of making the world. somehow. maybe we're changing it, maybe we are keeping it the same, or maybe some of each depending on the day. even if we aren't epic heroes out to save the world, we can save little pieces of it at a time. we can (sometimes profoundly, even) influence little segments of our chosen spheres, as friend Melanie puts it in the comments here.

it isn't hugely comforting to recognize that consciously or unconsciously, whether I'm waiting or acting or somewhere in between, I'm affecting the world no matter what. maybe it doesn't have to be comforting. life is not a storybook, after all. there's too much.

all this pondering lately is making me a tiny bit worried that for this amelia person, as addicted to curiosity as she is, the details of the future matter less, somehow, than the finding out about them does. the revelation itself is the cool part. whatever happens, whatever disaster or miracle, it'll be an interesting result to observe. passively. and safely, most of me presumes. 

but I know that's not really true. I know how ridiculous that must sound. and I know I can't necessarily trust the future that much. along with waiting and seeing and being, there must be some making: purposeful, beautiful making.

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