"Chaos and Clarity" (Essay)

One gift of aging is an appreciation for the constancy of change and the inconsistency of the journey.

I recently received several poignant gifts from out of the cosmos. Good and amazing things, and events which completely derailed me from some seeming momentum of thought and purpose. If you have ever thought that creative people are constantly creating and always have some vision for what they are doing now and next, I can emphatically say that’s not how my life goes. I wish it did sometimes, though I think I am grateful for some relief from the manic bursts of creative obsession.

As I had just begun to settle in and start seriously writing around the themes woven within my family history for my next musical project, we rather suddenly made contact with a branch of my dad’s family heretofore unknown to me. A family alive and vibrant and rich with their own musics. And suddenly I was completely consumed with getting to know them, learning about our common ancestry, and marveling at our common and yet completely different relationships with these esoteric concepts called music and creativity.

I’ve lived just long enough now to not be completely flummoxed by such chaos swirling through my life. It’s like the variations of a mountain stream over time, running steady clear and spring-fed at times, and swollen muddy and powerful in the time of storm. It matters little whether there is a pattern to it or not - there simply are times of clarity and times of chaos, each of indeterminate lengths and altering in indeterminate sequence. That’s just how life works, as best as I can figure it, and those of us who pursue our creativity with some purpose beyond idle musings are no more immune to its maddening unpredictability than anyone else.

It is easy to get sidetracked in the small and large chaos of any given day. It is easy to forget that I am not the only person rudely roused from slumber in the hour of darkness by anxieties both real and fanciful, or to have the needs of a child throw an entire day’s carefully planned schedule into the trash. We creatures of habit get into a rhythm for a little while until some happening upsets the apple cart. We cuss and try to put the apples back and get back to where we were going. It's all too easy to get sucked into trying to get into - and maintain - some equilibrium of routine.

This week has been a good reminder to embrace the chaos. It is not routine but rather the constant threat of surprise and turmoil that feeds the creative beast. In simpler terms, I needed this week to happen, to completely derail me from how I envisioned my "next great work" taking shape, so that I could be more open to HOW it needs to take shape instead of what that shape will ultimately be. It happened as I tried to finish songs ahead of recording Something Worth Standing For, and I had to adjust. In retrospect, the chaos helped make a better creation. (It was also a bit stressful and angsty!)

Maybe I'm finally "mature" (old) enough now to finally recognize the essential value of the chaos in the process in real time. I'm certainly incredibly inspired in new ways by what's has happened and what I've learned. Now I just need to bring some clarity to it.

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