It seems like everywhere you look, someone is predicting the end of something. The end of guitar rock, the end of printed books, the end of TV, the end of emails, the end of the Republican party, the end of America, etc. If there’s one thing people love, it’s speculating on the collapse of their surroundings.
And hey, why not. It’s fun. It makes life way more interesting to think that institutions and trends we know and love will be gone with the tide. It gives old people something to get angry about and young people something to cling to. In fact, we’re probably hardwired for this. Just think about how many religions have “end of the world” stories.
Still, for those of us interested in the creative endeavors, endings are a little scary. Maybe even stifling. I mean, why start something if its demise lurks around the next corner?
How do you know that business idea is going to make sense in 6 months? How do you know people will still give a shit about blogs in a year? Maybe the style of music your making will be passé in a few months and no one will want to hear it. Maybe you’ve missed the trend!
I mean, it feels like themes and trends are spinning and collapsing all around us all the time.
We feel this amplified and accelerated by social media and the massive communication networks that now flows through our daily lives. We live in a world that feels disposable. Where trends and ideas rise and fall by the minutes. Where thoughts don’t slowly percolate up and develop as they might have at one time, but instead they ignite as fast as they burn out.
It seems like you no longer have time to develop a craft. Instead, you have to hit hard and right the first time if you want any hope of being relevant.
What are we to do?
The other day I was reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For those of you who don’t know who or what that is, Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor (actually he co-emperored, they did back then) in and around ~160 AD. In the world of philosophy, he’s known as a “Stoic.”
Most people think of Stoics as steely faced borezos, but that’s inaccurate. Instead, they were a sect of philosophers who posited the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting each present moment and not allowing our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain control us. They believed in using their minds to understand the world around them so they could better work within nature’s plan. And by nature’s plan, I mean working together and treating others in a fair and just manner. So, it’s kind of like a western version of Zen Buddhism.
Anyway, Mark wrote this diary that we now called Mediations while he was out kicking ass and taking names, as Roman emperors are prone to do. Signs point to it never being intended as a published work, but Amazon.com tells us a different story. This collection of essays effectively tells a story in essays of how Marky Mark felt one should live their life. It spans everything from how you should treat your servants to how you should mentally fortify yourself for the death of your loved ones.
This is all great and fun, but for our purposes here, I’m not really concerned with the finer points of stoicism. It’s a cool read, and I heartedly suggest you check it out.
But, really, the most interesting point of all this is that Meditations is nothing more than an ancient blog.
Change is a lie
So that title is a little misleading. Change is actually ever-present and continuous, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Sorry about the bad news.
Amid that chaos of flux, there are certain undercurrents that pass across days, decades and lifetimes. You could call these universal truths, you could call it human nature, I don’t know, I guess you could call it whatever you want.
Think about Marcus and his thoughts. There will always be an audience for finely crafted thought and sincere insight.
The reality is that most of the stories we tell now are the same stories written by the Greeks. We still dance. We still sing. Hell, we even still draw pictures just like those cave dwellers did all those years ago.
Hell, for how many generations have we been talking about the weather.
Social media makes us think that trends live and die faster than we can get a hold of them. And as a creator, that can lead to a feeling of futility. A feeling that success requires a person to think 30 steps ahead of the curve.
What you have to do is not focus on that effervescent side of creation. The flash and fervor come and go. But that’s not the point that makes up the core of what and why you do and what you do.
So here’s the thing. As more and more people get on this planet, and communication becomes cheaper and more pervasive, these shifts towards a feeling of accelerated change will continue.
But there’s good news in all this! Sure, those global shifts will continue, but with them comes more people, each with their own particular interests and communities.
Think about music. We still have pop stars, but for every one of them, there’s a pile of not rich, not famous musicians with big enough fan-bases.
Same with books. Ebooks let anyone be a professional author. A little bit of promotion and you can even make a decent enough living at it.
In fact, amid all this change, in some ways we’ve made it easier to express ourselves to a wider audience.
Things change, sure. Technology changes, communication changes, and transportation changes. But what makes us human stays annoying the same. The long story short is that for those of you who like to talk, write, and create, it looks like we’re in it for the long haul. So keep it up.
Don’t get caught up in all the bullshit, and focus on the part that matters.