On Inspiration

I’ve been thinking about sources of inspiration a lot lately. I’ve recently written about the decline in my writing, an ironic thing to write 🙂 I’ve also had a few encounters with people where I have inspired if not them, then at least their short term thinking. Those events, and some recent challenges, led me to think of the sources of inspiration.

The source of the word itself is interesting – to inspire is to breathe in, or breathe into. Inspiring is literally the act of taking breath or life from the world. If we don’t inspire, we expire.

Having recently finished reading Noah Yuval Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, I’m now reading Matthew Syed’s “Rebel Ideas”. They are of differing aspects and are inspired by different ideas, but they have caused me to think about writing again. In their way, each is inspiring me. “21 Lessons” has a lot of common ground with “Homo Deus” but is worth reading on its own merits. As I’ve written previously, I find the idea that we’re all just biological automata, reacting with no more true insight than a trout eating a mayfly, to be somewhat horrific (and a little demeaning). I can’t argue with Harari on it, though – what little I’ve read in this area makes it clear that we often react rather than acting independently.

In “Rebel Ideas”, Matthew Syed highlights situations where cognitive diversity leads to inspired thinking or could have avoided disaster if alternative viewpoints had been available or considered. When I think about how I manage, I try to understand how to get inputs from as many voices as possible without impeding progress. I’m sure I don’t always succeed, but I try to avoid the challenges described in the early chapters of Matthew Syed’s book.

When it comes to sources of inspiration for the writing I do, I’ve identified three:

  1. Interactions with other people
  2. Reading multiple books on different topics at the same time
  3. Listening to podcasts

If I’m missing one or other of these, there is less life in my writing. The breath that stirs me to write is not strong enough to blow me out of my inertia. As a result, I’m looking for more ways to interact with people, albeit remotely. I’m listening to podcasts whenever I can, although my listening is now very fragmentary. And I continue to read multiple books at a time because the intersections that occur can be enough on their own to trigger the urge to write.

I hope, always, to inspire others to think more deeply, to act with fairness and kindness, and to keep learning. In turn, I am inspired by the stories I hear, the people I meet and the words I take in. And I continue to be open to other sources of inspiration, regardless of the medium – there’s a lot to learn, and so many places to learn from!

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