Finding Comfort in Discomfort

Q: “Why did you start writing?”

Me: “Because it gives me joy.”

Q: “If it gives you joy, is it an easy thing to do?”

Me: “No, it isn’t.”

Both are questions that people have asked me in the near past.

Why did I start writing?

Because I love the process, I enjoy it thoroughly. It is my canvas, where I can paint freely. No one can draw the lines they want to; no one can erase the strokes they don’t want. It feels liberating to be a creator. If this is the kind of joy I enjoy as a writer, one can hardly surmise the joy ingrained in the Universe, which is the source of all creation. I write about lessons learnt and experiences that have shaken me. I write to figure out who we are, where we come from, and what is it that ties us all together. 

Creating purely for the sake of creating itself gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. It is impossible to measure satisfaction using money as a yardstick. As with all things, money is a poor measure of value. Valuing creativity using cash is like using a pendulum – either creation is too expensive or too cheap. It’s incredibly hard to find the middle ground.

And so, I write for the sake of joy.

But, the next question that arises – if it is something that I enjoy doing, is it easy? Does writing flow naturally?

No. It is not easy, and there is no flow. The only thing flowing here is the constant rain outside my window right now. To reach unto this point here, I have taken close to 20 minutes – framing thoughts, cobbling them together and giving meaning to those thoughts using words.

Come to think of it, the Universe has done a marvellous job at creation. Creation is incredibly hard for the Universe as well. It took the Universe many Millennia to figure out how to place the galaxies and stars at safe distances, to carefully align planets. The Universe had to ensure heavenly bodies don’t end up smashing each other like UFC champions. Even on Earth, the evolution of Life began on a slow curve – the Earth formed its core which was a molten lump of iron like a scoop of the tastiest ice-cream the Earth could choose. Slowly over this molten core, asteroids, meteors, and a ton of other debris accumulated to give shape to this beautiful ellipsoid.

This is perhaps where I have reached now, too; a lump of molten thoughts. But they don’t seem to be enough. I used to stuff them all in my head, let them stay there. I thought that having them there would make it easy for me to retrieve them whenever I needed them, but I was wrong. They stayed there for a while, then they dissolved and were lost. I observed them carefully, and I noticed figments of thoughts dissolved in more thoughts. 

Ideas have this uncanny ability to dissolve others – no other substance in the Universe has this ability. Have you ever heard of salt dissolving salt? Sugar dissolving sugar? Sand dissolving sand? They only mix together – they do not dissolve. The resulting mixture at least has a weight or volume that is greater than its original constituents. The thoughts in your mind are nowhere close. One thought assimilates another completely; there’s no loss, no gain. The idea simply vanishes. Thoughts it would seem, do not obey laws of physics or chemistry, math or biology; they instead work in a different Universe with different principles. They stay for a few moments, and perish; irrespective of the quality of thoughts. It would seem unjust to lose beautiful ideas to other frivolous ones. Still, those are the principles of the “Thought Universe”. We don’t have a say in that Universe. 

To avoid the loss of further thoughts, I began to write. And when I started writing, I saw those thoughts laid bare. In that bareness, I gleaned not just about the quantum of thoughts but of the quality of those too. What I thought I knew I did not know very well. What I thought I did not know, I knew a little bit about them also. These myriad thoughts were haphazardly strewn across consciousness. Unlike the precisely arranged soldiers of the Clone Army, these random thoughts were jostling each other for attention, for space by trying to poach on the weakest idea. To grab more eyeballs to be precise – although they only had one pair of eyeballs to grab, mine.

Akin to these thoughts, after the Earth was formed, there were a few elements in the emptiness of space competing for attention. Over time, these elements learnt that existing independently did not have inherent meaning. So, they began fusing with each other, to form larger molecules. Thousands of years later, these molecules would aggregate to form amino acids. They were not content with this. Like a dopamine hungry individual, they went further along to cook a protein soup consisting of various amino acids. These proteins would form the basic building blocks for Life. Millions of years later, here we are – writing about it, comparing it to writing itself.

My thoughts too seem to have agreed amongst themselves that fighting for space, battling each other has no meaning. They too, like vital elements, try to form connections. Today, it may seem obvious to us when Hydrogen and Carbon combine in myriad ways to create hydro-carbons or when Nitrogen, Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen combine to form amino acids that build proteins. But imagine if you existed at a point in time Millions of years ago, suspended in space and given all these elements; would you be able to cook up a dish so elegant? Hindsight bias renders the accidental as obvious; whether this is a consequence of the human ego or a shortcoming of the brain, I do not know. Still, hindsight bias wants to credit a person’s thought process when instead it was luck’s hand that was being played. Anyway, the thoughts now seem to be grouping together to give shape to an idea. Infant beginnings – a sliver of thought emerges as a delicate thread, the first one in a series of threads that would weave to form a large canvas. And on that canvas, I will paint, not with colours but with words. 

It would appear as if the culmination of the evolutionary process that started off millions of years ago came about as a smooth process. Do not be mistaken. It was a result of constant struggle – a fight against discomfort. The Universe persisted and did not care that it only had time between sunrise and sunset. It did not care about the waxing and the waning of the moon. It worked tirelessly across seasons – irrespective of the harsh sun, the thundering monsoon and the frigid blizzard. It worked because it was in its nature to work. Evolution never took a backseat and said, “Let’s take a break now” or “It’s the weekend”. It persisted. Nature made these hours; it did not get them. As a part of this evolutionary process, nature also refined whatever is created. Probably nature envisaged that “big” was beautiful at first – when it created the Dinosaurs, the Wooly Mammoths, our ancestors – the Neanderthals. But slowly nature realised that bigger meant less efficient, bigger also implied only fewer could survive. Nature brought about change – excised the unnecessary and left only the valuable parts, as a consequence of intense competition. A tail was of no use to us, so nature chopped it. A thumb was more useful to us, so it grew on our palms. The spaces between these words came out of continually tapping the Space Button with my thumb. 

Publishing a post is also an evolutionary process. There is a struggle to build a framework to rest your thoughts on. There is also a constant endeavour to only use the best of words to express those thoughts. Writing a post doesn’t just occur when you’re in front of the screen. It is a constant process that keeps running in the background like a static radio signal – which is always there – irrespective of whether you turn on the radio or not. Thoughts appear and try to connect. The brain attempts to build a framework, and then it realises that the structure is too weak and everything crumbles. It starts the entire process again, but slowly it learns that there’s simply too much to express. That’s when I put pen to paper, and I pour all the thoughts on a blank document. Evolution begins – ruthless editing of parts that don’t belong, phrases that seem too lofty to communicate simple ideas are snapped – like our tails. They are replaced with words elementary school kids can comprehend. The opposable thumb is a simple idea, but a powerful idea. But simple ideas are not easy ideas. At the outset, it doesn’t feel comfortable at all. The ego wants to portray its hold over the language, but the ego is only skin-deep. It is a shallow existence. Deep down, I know, deleting the parts which are not simple, are satisfying.

In the end, it is for the joy that I write, and it is a struggle. 

But in doing this, I find comfort in discomfort.

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