Day 7 of the Trust 30 challenge, which I skipped over yesterday, was suggested by Matt Cheuvront. It’s a long one!
Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Next to Resistance, rational thought is the artist or entrepreneurs [sic] worst enemy. Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego. Instead, we want to work from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious.
“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. Its [sic] only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.”
—Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
The idea of “being realistic” holds all of us back. From starting a business or quitting a job to dating someone who may not be our type or moving to a new place—getting “real” often means putting your dreams on hold.
Today, let’s take a step away from rational thought and dare to be bold. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue? Write it down. Also write down the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. Finally, write down a tangible plan to overcome each obstacle.
The only thing left is to, you know, actually go make it happen. What are you waiting for?
In Defense of Rational Thought
This prompt reminds me of everything that I didn’t like about The War of Art. After a lot of useful material about the nature and characteristics of resistance, Steven Pressfield goes completely off the rails in the third section of the book, suggesting that we need to credit gods or angels or Muses as the source of human imagination and creativity. He eschews rational thought in favor of instinct and intuition. That’s a shame, because a little more rational thought might have led to the realization that the human mind—of which rational thought is a small, but inseparable component—is sufficient to dream into being all of the creatures of our stories, including the Muses, angels, and gods themselves.
So I don’t care to follow Pressfield’s lead in rejecting the rational. I don’t know how I’d even go about using my mind that way. The conscious mind seeks out learning and stimulation, collecting raw material for creative work. It may follow the guidance of emotional responses, conditioned tastes, and cultivated interests, and it can apply rationality to the collection process, too, as when we make up our minds to pursue a course of education or read a particular book. We gather all of these inputs, and through processes that are beyond our awareness, unconscious components of the mind catalog, compare, store, and synthesize images, experiences, and words. We dream, we fantasize, we remember, we plan, we imagine, and then one day, we sit down to write. And if everything comes together, maybe we’re “inspired,” and a brilliant story, or a beautiful poem, or a radiant painting spills out of us, seemingly from nowhere.
Once again, I’m afraid that I’ve skirted the point of the prompt. But too many of the premises of the assignment seem flawed. Yes, a child believes the unbelievable…but children don’t produce a lot of great art. The fears that emerge from looking at our goals too “realistically” are fears—products of emotion. Rational thought can be our ally in dispelling fear and going after what we wan