After some months of a state of being building up, on 10th October, I reached peak nothingness. By the end of the day, after feeling this oppressive pressure over the weekend, I wailed “I am nothing, I do nothing, I can’t make plans, I can’t go anywhere, I have no voice, no thoughts, I can’t even think up anything I want!!” with a feeling of fury encompassing this empty bubble. I crawled through Monday, hoping that the biweekly class I have, where I get to sit in a comfortable, well-lit room all day with other women, making beautiful embroideries, would save me. But in the evening, my teacher called to say that even though she was
double-jabbed and only had some coughing as a symptom – she had tested positive for Covid and class was therefore cancelled. So much for my escape from nothingness the next day.
And then it got better (one of my favourite phrases needing to be said by an Englishman, comes from Monty Python in regard to newts). I was actually booked for two other things that Tuesday. In the evening I went to an exhibition on Raphael which was shown in a remodeled, beautiful little cinema in Knutsford and I was left swooning with the grace and beauty I’d just experienced. Then I ran straight to the first lecture in a three month course, on zoom, on how to better deal with the world as a sensitive or empath (highly sensitive person – that’s me). It kept going. I had a friend I hadn’t spoken with in months, call me in tears, who
had had a bad time of things and tell me that just hearing my voice would be uplifting. My voice? I found a hilarious gift in a thrift store which had someone’s name all over it and had fun putting it together for her. Got a haircut. Made a cake with the apples from a tree in my garden and ate only that cake for two days.
On the day of the Vale Royal Writing group meeting I was unusually busy all day. I’d started out with my usual podcast/embroidery routine which gets me going every morning. After lunch I went over to a friend’s house that I used to go to every week up until a couple of years ago, where we did self studies of various esoteric topics. Before I went, I hand-wrote a
four-page letter to her mother, who has been in a hospital for over four months. Then I went by a warehouse of health supplements where I used to pick up orders for my health shop over 12 years ago – and picked up some supplements for myself for the first time since letting the shop go. I thought as I left “I’d like to work there!” (haven’t thought of such a thing for years).
I’d caught up on some long-delayed email correspondence which I was feeling pretty good about. And then I finally made it to the meeting! The group has been meeting at the pub again for three months now but I wasn’t able to come in person for the first two meetings. I was just a bit excited and fully enjoyed interactions with all these people that trailed in after me (I was
first after Bob – who was so thoughtfully setting up the Zoom component for people who still couldn’t attend in person) and gathered around the table. It was so good to be around these people I’ve grown to know and appreciate for a number of years now, in this meeting.
The podcast that I had listened to in the morning that inspired me, was called Fiber Nation and is usually about all kinds of textile-related topics. On this one, they talked about doing some experiments with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to see if it could create some knitting patterns. They’d found a woman who was an AI expert who liked to play all kinds of games with her computers to test their capacity. They fed knitting patterns into the AI and then set it to create some – with hilarious results. One phrase that jumped out at me – as they reassured us AI wouldn’t be taking over human creative endeavours anytime soon – was that AI would ‘see’ creativity as chaos and act accordingly. And I thought that was brilliant – a true creative enterprise is bringing something wonderful – out of chaos. And apparently computers can’t do this.
When the meeting started I got to watch this very principle play out. A group of people sat in this room and shared all kinds of creativity wrought out of nothing, an idea, a thought, an unwritten string of random letters. Sorry, but no AI could have done what we did that night. No digital interface could have worked on our emotions, our perceptions, our sharing, our writing experiences that moved the energy and thoughts all over that room and back again. Our writing exercise turned out to be a rather simple prompt – ‘what is your favourite word?’ – write for ten minutes. We got words like ubiquitous, bedtime, serendipitous,
speculate, karma – one member just made a long list. What I liked were the stories backing up the words chosen – and I thought – try and do that AI! Then we got to the readings. We got a couple of horror stories that moved us in a shadowy way that I know no computer could reach.
We got someone turning a Biblical writer – the author of Matthew in the New Testament – around into a personal story in an attempt to understand where this man was coming from. Someone shared a sweet poem about an upcoming wedding. And then David Varley demonstrated that rather than the malaise that has struck me – and some others – he is just getting even more impressive with his creativity.
I’d like to see him dancing to the song “U can’t touch this!”(MC Hammer)….to a master AI computer system. His writing sure does. Here is the ‘word’ he scribbled out in 10 minutes while sitting with us. I almost fell off my seat at the power in it – as well as how completely it fit in with my earlier thoughts of ‘creativity out of chaos – or nothingness’.
“My favourite word is “unmade”. I occasionally find myself fixating on a particular word or phrase that can rattle around in my skull for days, weeks, years. This word sprung into my head suddenly one fine spring day as I walked through a farmer’s field about three miles upriver from Durham. It has been with me ever since.
Two syllables of utter fascination. To make something is, in itself, an astonishing feat: the process of moving from nothing to something, a whole and infinite act of creation in that small verb. I make these jottings, God makes the universe, and that syllable covers them and everything in between. It is a syllable as wide as the universe. But what, then, of the “un-”? It reverses, it changes, but it is equal and opposite in scope to the syllable it modifies. It is every bit as vast. To unmake something is not to destroy it, exterminate it, or obliterate it – rather, it is the act of causing something that is to not be, or possibly even to have never been, So there you have it, fixed in two syllables, entire cosmoses of existence and negation, the two sides to everything that is and ever could be. And that is why it is my favourite word.” DHV
Computers have developed in my lifetime and have become a part of almost every aspect of our life anymore. I love my little smartphone and the way I can keep close face to face contact with family spread around the world. Yes, I do. But I’ve also hated the way it has come to control so many facets as well as driving people into more isolation from each other. There almost seems to be an effort to turn people into digital beings or to at least act or be controlled like one. And computers have just been used in a way that has levied a huge burden and upturned the world as it was. I fear we will never return to “the way it was”. But I’m not
drifting in nothingness anymore – I’ve been shown that creativity is what wins over computing and chaos. And thanks to other people around me – I seem to be finally crawling back out from under that Lockdown Rock that unmade me.