Don’t let strategy strangle inspiration.
We’ve all heard the question, “Is there method to the madness?” This question is asked when someone is witness to a wild splatter of chaotic action that seems to be guided by no order or logic of any sort.
The question assumes the supremacy of method over madness. But, if we dig a little deeper, we might see that in the “madness” there can be an inspired motivation spurring the action, and we might also see that this inspired madness is needed.
Sometimes inspiration is enough. Often the painter, poet, or musician doesn’t plan a thing. They run off the creative juices flowing through them and create something spontaneously. Their craze for an idea fuels them. Their madness is their driving force.
Of course, other times, creativity is not enough. Spontaneity can fall on its head and lead to chaos, confusion, or pure nonsense.
There are two aspects to creative work: the conception behind it, and the technique needed to create it.
Both, in fact, are needed. But, the technique should not be used for its own sake—it should be used to properly execute the creative idea. We might say that art made with creativity supported by technique is true art, art made without any technique is amateurish, and art motivated by technique alone is showy and shallow because the idea or feeling behind the art is missing. So, the technique of the artist is secondary to their intention.
The same lesson applies to inner-growth.
For a number of years, I was searching for the ideal form of meditation. I entered the circles of Zen Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists, Vedantists, and others. I practiced counting the breath, watching the breath, breathing in and out the nose, and breathing in the nose and out the the mouth.
I inwardly repeated mantras or sometimes chanted “Om.” I never stuck with one method because I was never sure that it was the “right” one. But in the process of finding the best method of meditation, I lost the drive to meditate. It became mechanical and ended up being more of a chore than a spiritual practice. I was fixated on method.
What I gathered from this, and I think it applies to anyone in almost any undertaking, is that method is secondary to purpose and drive. Or to put it in a slogan: “Madness over method.”
We develop methods to channel our efforts so that they are not aimless and haphazard. But, sometimes our methods can stifle and suffocate the very endeavours we have undertaken.
If we are a passionately focused on accomplishing something, we will find a way to succeed. The method will be revealed through the process of doing.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” I think we can change the sentence a little and say: “He who has a why to do something will discover almost any how.” If we have a reason to do something and we are passionate about it, we will find a way.
Of course, methods are important and worth considering. Once we have the passion and resolve to achieve something, it can be helpful to look at ways to approach it. Inspiration is not always enough, especially for longer, more complex tasks. For these things, some planning and consideration of approach are needed. But too much focus on method, or premature focus, can kill the fire within. Obsessing about the best way to do something can take us out of the zone of working in the groove of that endeavour.
What this largely comes down to is the difference between the analytical mind and the creative mind.
The creative mind, or even the spirit, opens up to inspiration from within or “above.” We feel compelled to create something, discover something, start something, or stop something. We are filled with the drive to set forth on our desired task, and often this is so uncontrollable, that we don’t stop to think about how we wish to approach this. We just start acting.
Sometimes we need to channel our creative urges through suitable methods. But method should be the servant of madness, not the reverse.
All the strategizing at the bottom of the mountain cannot get us to the top. We need the drive to get up there. And, if we did have to choose between the desire or the method, we would have to choose the desire because the chaotic efforts driven by passion will do more than methods empty of inspiration.
Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” This means we should do what we are passionate about—what we are crazy about. When we are centred on a task we are passionate about, the way opens up.
Ideally we have both. We have a goal and the passion to get there and a suitable method. But, we shouldn’t be obsessed about finding the perfect method, nor should we sit and wait until we find it. We can start on the way, following our passion with the determination to succeed and refine our approach as we go.
So instead of asking, “Is there any method to the madness?” we could ask, “Is there any madness to the method?”
Author: Peter Gyulay
Image: Tangi Bertin/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina