There is a satisfaction in getting something done– whether or not it is a thing which is useful. Action is fulfilling. It often feels wrong to stay in one place, it feels like the world is moving too fast for you to stop for even a second, even if the place where you are right now is really the best place for you to be.
There is a sense of security in being static– whether or not it is actually safe to be where you are. Routine is reassuring. The aspect of motion, of action, begins to loom scarier and more imposing as we make inaction our routine.
We get stuck by inertia, and tend to keep going at a constant rate, disregarding whether that speed is too fast for us, grinding away our soft bits on the rough surfaces of life, or too slow for us, letting mold grow in our joints and guts, poisoning us with inactivity.
The way we consume entertainment gets folded into this inertia. It’s easy to try to avoid anything which might threaten to knock us out of gear, to avoid anything challenging enough to force us to slow down, and anything startling enough to force us to speed up, to be attracted to the known because it is known, to seek surprise only constrained within the boundary of acceptable surprise. Sitcoms. Zynga. Trashy novels. MMOs. Youtube. Et cetera.
It’s never sustainable though. We each go at different speeds relative to one another, and it’s inevitable that at some point we will collide and each take on properties of the others’ movement. Preparing for this inevitable trauma is another reason why we consume entertainment. Drama, tragedy, romance, all those little agonies that thrill us so, we train ourselves for the moments when our world will break our hearts or fill us with joy.
Sometimes this training supersedes the activity it trains us for. Sometimes we spend so much time bathing in simulated sorrow and thrills and pain and happiness that we forget to engage with the bases upon which those were created.
Is that a problem, though?
Isn’t it like the Matrix? Does it matter if the steak is real if it still tastes good? Does it matter if our rich emotional life is premised on an attachment to fiction if it still feels fulfilling?
Does it still feel fulfilling? If not, why not?
And… why is it so important to us, as artists, to fulfill this role in people’s lives?
I don’t know. To some degree, the answers to these questions aren’t really important to me. To some degree, I’m happy to simply be in the place of wanting to make things, wanting to make people feel things. It is an imposition of will and ego, it is a manipulation, it is a gift, it is an intimacy.
Stay the course, maybe. When it is time to change direction, you’ll know: You’ll feel the iceberg rip into your side, the signal you should have changed course long ago, and then you can sink deep, and take hundreds of screaming terrified passengers with you when you go.
And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?