Creation & Consumption


Every philosophical discussion with my father includes the following tenet: the subject at hand is really on a pendulum, with each generation destined to rebel and choose the opposite of their parents. Any hope of progressiveness, therefore, is nothing more than rebellion rationalized.

This is not about that tenet or my issues with it. I will, however, borrow it for a moment.

Creation and consumption delimit a similar pendulum—albeit one that swings a bit faster. On one hand, productivity and sharing one's voice. On the other, information and connecting to others'. On the whole, binge-and-bust cycles throw this pendulum back and forth as creators burn out and consumers burn with regret. As with most such pendulums, I can't help but feel like balance must exist somewhere in the middle.

Both creation and consumption are tempting forces easy to rationalize: both "productivity" and "knowledge" (not to mention those seen as "productive" or "knowledgeable") have become worshipped as Gods of the Secular World. Listicles abound of the best ways and places to accomplish or learn more, from the shiniest new tools to the sexiest new podcast. If we just keep adding more weight to the pendulum, surely our cycles of regret, jealousy, and fatigue will be assuaged.

For how many of us is that true? How many of us have found peace and balance by adding more, whether to our to-do list or our inbox?

If we prune away those forms of creation and consumption that are not edifying, not life-giving, we give more space to those that remain to flourish. Each book not read gives the next book more room to grow in our mind. Each project not started leaves the next project more time to be nourished and to nourish us. With enough intention and attention, this pruning will alleviate enough pressure from the pendulum that, though it may swing from time to time, the violence of the swinging will be eased, and the nausea of our hearts likewise.

If we cannot see the sources of creation and consumption in our life, how do we know where to prune? Though it may seem strange at first, we need to take stock of these hidden (or neglected) drains on our time and energy.

This is a far-from-comprehensive list:

There are no right answers to these questions, but we wrong ourselves by never asking them in the first place. What would you create if you consumed less? What would you learn if you built less? What would you experience if you did less?

P.S. A note about social media

I know it's "hip" to be dropping Twitter these days, (for Mastodon, I guess?) but I will miss Twitter while I'm away. I may still post (a superficial form of creation), but I won't be following my normal routine of reading.

What hurts most about this scenario is knowing that I'm effectively leaving behind a group of people I only see through this form of consumption. Whether I've "met" them or not (for anyone's definition), I've become fond of people like Rami Ismail, Tim Keller, and Gary Bernhardt to whom Twitter is my primary connection. Though it may be a superficial connection, similar have led to my meeting, helping, and bringing into community others before.

Maybe, just maybe, by the time I come back it won't be so thoroughly filled with dangerously inept politicians and eggs.

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