This is the second in a How Things Happen series of blog posts.
As a kid, I constantly asked How come? I've pondered and studied the subject enough to know that once you understand, you can make things happen very effortlessly. Lao Tzu's statement that by doing nothing everything gets done is a clue to the value of examining How Things Happen. So, like how do they?
How Things Happen is an area of inquiry at the heart of the examined life. Socrates famously said the unexamined life is not worth living, but it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to examine the invisible. Which is precisely what you're looking at when you examine How Things Happen at the root level. Like when you're cooking up something new.
Creating new forms, re-inventing yourself, coming up with an idea for a story, a song, a poem, a work of art, a new project ... the list includes discoveries, inventions... has several stages, like a recipe. Much of the stuff of the finished product happens in the abstract, in the invisible realm of thought, emotion, imagination, sentient awareness, spiritual connection. In the quantum field. As if it's out there somewhere. Or in here somewhere.
Sometimes you see it before you know what it is; sometimes other senses ping first with a feeling of knowing. The saying, it's on the tip of my tongue is an apt metaphor: while we are not quite ready to actually say the thing we're thinking of, the tongue already feels its presence as the mind works on the information it is organizing, retrieving, bringing forward. Our desire, intention, need to know initiates the activity; our attention to the tip of the tongue helps pull the remembering into the physical, to re-member or make it appear in the now in the form of spoken representation.
Another, less abstract analogy for How Things Happen is cooking. We say we're cooking up ideas because it's a metaphor we can access easily. Cooking's part of everyday life, keeps body and soul together, and is a sentient pleasure as well. It can be easy or complicated, intuitive or totally mapped out in instructions and procedures. Either way, the results can be unpredictable. Ingredients, procedures, tools, heat sources, and timing are involved: materials and conditions. But what comes before those things? The recipe. And the inspiration for the recipe.
Genius is an interesting word: a person with exceptional abilities of creativity, imagination, intellectual ability. Many have thought processes that are quite extraordinary, tapping into the unknown in an uncanny way. Many think about How Things Happen big time, or not at all, and simply let it happen. Wikipedia says research into what causes genius or mastery is still in the early stages. Imagine that.
But the word itself is ancient and has not changed a bit from the Latin genius: the guiding spirit (of a person, family, place). These spirits and the word are connected to the verb to create, or to bring into being. So, since ancient times, How Things Happen has involved guiding spirits to help bring things into being, from non-being. Sorta like magic.
Maybe you're cooking up new forms from the invisible, with guiding spirits helping the realization of the intention and the desire – the genius recipe – the first stage in creation. Energy follows thought; they are both invisible forces. This abstract stage is one of winnowing, focusing, identifying, envisioning, dreaming, and choosing. Did I mention huge amounts of uncertainty? Part of the recipe. Along with childish curiosity, trust, abandon, fearlessness, courage, support, and ways of following your knowing, of connecting with the genii and powwowing.
It's okay if you don't know every detail, don't have all the ingredients, don't have the recipe all worked out before you begin. What are you cooking up? Take the thing that's on the tip of your tongue and let it tantalize your senses until you can taste it, use all that vast space of uncertainty as a playground. Throw your ideas out there to the genii and ask that they play ball with you, toss a few ideas around, pitch some possibilities. Mix up metaphors and ingredients, free associate. Creative directors do it all the time. Then, someone gets a genius idea.
Oh, and creating from scratch can make you hungry. For that, there's Amanda Hesser's Genius Recipes. Yum. Leave a bowl out for the genii. And set a place at the table for the unknown.