Motivation, Inspiration and Vivification

Cultivating a deliberate yet sustainable pattern of life is one of the most difficult things that I have found to do. I imagine that it would be much easier with unlimited funds, but a creative use of media usually has to suffice so long as it gets you off the couch and into the training area. This clip is a perfect example of one of those films that does it for me. It was between this and the ‘dumpling fight’ between Po and Shi Fu in King Fu Panda. It doesn’t have to be high or even good art, just inspiring.

In the modern, first-world life style, it is very easy to sink into a cyclical process of cocooning oneself. The pressure to consume food, drink and media, to say nothing of mandatory stints of five or six hours chained to a computer or counter, means that we can spend a great deal of time on our proverbials. Add to this the hours spent in automobiles and it should be clear that the ‘modern life style’ has a lot of dead space. I have found it very easy to default to what I can only call the Cult of Privileged Decay. This Cult governs the determining characteristics of most governing bodies and social services in our society, but it is not my purpose here to describe it in full but to point out that in our post-modern culture we tend to live vicariously. If we are to reclaim our lives and begin living for ourselves, then we must take into hand the pattern of our daily round, and from the perspective of gaisceachd this means cultivating a different set of assumptions for our levels of activity.

For example, we might not think twice of spending three hours sitting still for a film or long drive. In fact, we may not think twice of spending three or four days driving ten to twelve hours each, but this is hardly conducive to a heroic lifestyle. Perhaps a move from the video-game console back onto the playing field would be more conducive to fíor-ghaisceachd, but in the face of wide-spread pressure to conform to the Cult of Privileged Decay’s norms, including its predilections and enjoyments, how do we make the transition back out into the real world? In my own experience, breaking long established habits can be very difficult, especially when the pain of exercise begins to wear on us. I have found two things to be very helpful.

The first is a full understanding that where the mind goes, the body follows. This means that one of the very things that chain us to our seats also can serve to get us off of them. Certain films, websites and books can galvanise us into activity, making us feel more vivacious and that we can in fact perform great feats. I remember being put into such a state seeing ‘Starship Troopers’ in the theatre, so the film or show does not need to be a great work of literature (or even especially good). It only needs to get us ‘revved up’ and excited to move and be. As in so many other areas, the old adage, ‘whatever works’, holds true here. Of course, you need to be able to then release the need to watch such things. In time, a routine will develop wherein it will become difficult to come back inside.

The key to building such a routine is the next thing that I have found helpful. This key is the understanding that it takes about thirty days to form or break a habit. I say ‘about’ because properly speaking, this space of time is the full cycle of one synodic month, i.e. from one point in the cycle to the same point of the next (e.g. full moon to full moon). In other words, if you can do something for a full lunation then it will become a simple fact in your life. Six months will then constitute a full change in life-pattern and a full year can see a complete alteration of your life, but it takes constant attention for that first lunation.

The real trick is to start seeing that which is currently invisible. For example, we don’t think twice about the commercials that come on television or websites, but six thirty-second spots become three minutes, and five commercial breaks become a quarter of an hour in which you are willingly subjecting yourself to attempted mind control. Apart from whatever other evils American Idol might subject you to, you will also be getting almost a half-hour of people telling you what to think and do. The same is true of time. How much time do we throw away at work waiting for the whistle that ends our temporary slavery? How often do we hear our fellows counting the days to Friday? An elevated life prizes every moment, and not just the weekend or holidays. Whatever gets us into that head-space, and out of a submissive tolerance of our lives being whittled away to line someone else’s pockets is in favour of a heroic life.

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4 responses to “Motivation, Inspiration and Vivification

  1. “Certain films, websites and books can galvanise us into activity, making us feel more vivacious and that we can in fact perform great feats. I remember being put into such a state seeing ‘Starship Troopers’ in the theatre, so the film or show does not need to be a great work of literature (or even especially good). It only needs to get us ‘revved up’ and excited to move and be. As in so many other areas, the old adage, ‘whatever works’, holds true here. ”

    Did it work? Were you galvanized into moving and being? In my experience, this feeling is a drug and a trap sold to the consuming public. You might feel motivated for a short time after the film, but like a drug high, it wears off. It’ a vampiric simulacrum of life that makes you feel empowered while sucking your attention and energy dry.

    It’s rare to meet someone who’s had an authentic epiphany after watching a film or tv show. Its rarity makes it a valuable part of the advertising that sells the drug of tv, movies and video games. By authentic, I mean an epiphany that’s truly transformational and leads to a real and positive change in someone’s life.

    Everybody’s a solider after “Band of Brothers”, everyone’s an environmental activist or race relations expert after “Avatar”. I love film, but I’m careful not to consume too much of it. Do you know that old saying, “It’s the wine talking, not me?” With film, we have to do the same sort of check. Otherwise all you end up with is an existential style hangover.

    It’s too easy to buy into the dark side of the mind game and believe that the reason you didn’t start embracing life to the fullest after watching “Last Holiday” or become a vulcanologist after viewing “Dante’s Peak” is because you’re somehow unmotivated or weak. The real reason is because these are not your dreams and there is nothing there to help you accomplish those dreams even if they were truly yours. They’re second-hand experiences sold to you as mind-candy, to drug you into feeling empowered so that you don’t escape the clutches of consumer culture.

    • Thank you for commenting, Ryder! Reading this, I must admit that I was taken back to when I first began looking into Cultural Studies. Particularly I am reminded of “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (The Cultural Studies Reader, 1993). This idea that the entertainment industry is almost deliberately pandering a kind of mental and emotional drug in the form of vicarious experience is very enthralling.

      I do not agree with it, however, and I hope you wouldn’t either as then you would be guilty of being an enlightenment pusher yourself. Surely, that is not what you hope will sell your own stories. At the heart of this entry is actually an appeal to people to become more discerning about what narratives they ‘consume’ so that their own transformations may be more deliberate. I think it is impossible to maintain that narrative is not in fact transformative since every narrative, even commercial spots on television, have an influence on our patterns of thought. It is not necessary to have a major epiphany after suffering a narrative; the sum total of all the multiple narratives to which we are exposed are what lead us to be who we are.

      Thus, to answer your question in short: yes, this scene from Excalibur always gets me moving and being, as does the cited fight from Kung Fu Panda, and first duel between de la Vega and Montero in The Mask of Zorro. American Idol: now that is a show that I can’t stand and do my best to ignore as it has the exact opposite affect on me, and neither will I mention day-time television.

      • I think you’re confusing hyperactive over-stimulation with inspiration. But if it works for you, why not?

        As for the rest of it, I don’t defend against straw man arguments, nor do I get into pseudo-academic brangles. I’ll leave you be and wish you well on your path.

      • Well, thank you for speaking up all the same. I certainly did not mean to invite you to a ‘pseudo-academic brangle’. (That’s some great phrasing by the way! You don’t see ‘brangle’ trotted out much any more.) Given your background, I thought we were discussing this topic on equal footing. May you find nothing but satisfaction wherever you turn your gaze, and thank you again for commenting.

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