small meaningful things

my interest in photography started out not as a desire to take good photos by conventional standards, but to document precious moments in life. as I have gotten more into photography I…

should we follow our natural inclinations?

Was reading The Bell Jar yesterday and it made me wonder why were they injecting insulin into the protagonist at the asylum – she wasn’t diabetic and it was supposed to be treatment for her mental illness. I googled it and it turns out insulin shock therapy to induce comas was a thing. I’ve probably written about it somewhere before: having too much insulin is the cause of metabolic disorders, which co-incidentally another book I’m reading right now is proposing the theory that metabolic disorders are the root cause of neurological disorders. So, by injecting ALOT of insulin into Plath, they are actually making her worse:

To induce the coma, medical staff increased the insulin dose to the range of 100-150 units a day. I have no insulin production as a type 1 diabetic and I take 30 units a day, so 150 units is a lot of insulin. They occasionally used doses as high as 450 units. After injections, patients experienced the typical symptoms of hypoglycemia with drowsiness and sweating before, providing the dose was high enough, coma set in. This state was maintained for up to an hour before being terminated by intravenous glucose. Now imagine going through that every day for a couple of months.


Like wtf?

Still curious about Plath, I borrowed Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams from the library, and there was an introduction by Ted Hughs – I know his perspective on Plath is probably problematic and biased…so take this with a pinch of salt. I found it intriguing that Plath wanted to be a prose writer instead of a poet:

So her life became very early a struggle to apprentice herself to writing conventional stories, and to hammer her talents into acceptable shape. “For me,” she wrote, “poetry is an evasion from the real job of writing prose.”

…and not only did she want to write prose instead, she wanted to write only a certain kind of prose:

If a story is inevitably a fantasy, and if every fantasy leads eventually to the heart of the labyrinth, her problem was that she could not linger among the outer twists and turns and complications, where the world is still solidly itself and comparatively safe, however thrilling. She had an instant special pass to the center, and no choice but to use it. She could no more make up an objective ingenious narrative than she could connect up all the letters in her handwriting, where nearly every symbol seems to sit perched over a gulf. This lightning pass through all the walls of the maze was her real genius. Instant confrontation with the most central, unacceptable things. So her dogged, year-in year-out effort to write conventional fiction, in the hope of preparing herself to make a livelihood, was like a persistent refusal of her genius.

I feel like I relate a lot to this and I see this a lot with other people. That we envision our selves to be a certain type a person, to do a certain type of art/work, and it has to be a certain way. But plenty of times that vision of our selves is not who we are.

Of course, do we succumb to our natural inclinations or do we forcefully shape ourselves to be who we want to be? I think there are no clear or right answers. I do somewhat believe that one of the best leverages to develop meaningfully as an artist is to follow our natural instincts, doing things we actually enjoy. Learning a skill may be difficult and torturous, but one should ultimately enjoy the process or the outcome. It shouldn’t be dreadful or make us shrink.

It is though, challenging to discern what are our natural instincts and what are ingrained habits firmly stuck in a comfort zone. Developing that awareness itself is a lifetime skill.

Tangentially this essay on following our deep obsessive curiosity even if it may not amount to anything has been making the rounds on the internet. I really appreciate how the writer connected everything together to demonstrate how sometimes doing something for really long without expecting an outcome can actually lead to a great breakthrough, sometimes decades later, sometimes out of our own life times.

But Brock couldn’t stop wondering about what exactly was going on in those boiling pools. He was dying to know: What was alive down there? How was it surviving? So he spent the next six years revisiting Yellowstone and taking samples from pools, geysers, and vents.

Imagine spending 6 years doing something over and over again. Just because. Most of us probably wouldn’t even last 6 days.

Still I don’t think we should do things in hope that centuries later it will contribute to a world-changing technology. Perhaps we should do it just because. It will at least contribute to our selves.