Disruption is my medium. I should have realised it sooner. It’s 18 years since I was awarded a wooden spoon by a friend, for stirring up his love life.
Two months ago, just before Christmas break, I sat down to ‘find my purpose in life’. My method – automatic writing – was suggested by Steve Pavlina, here:
You may have noticed, the process was supposed to take 20 minutes. But after three frustrating, exhausting sessions of several hours each, over the Christmas period in Switzerland and Germany, I was no closer to finding my purpose. But I had come to realise two things:
1. What I thought were ‘outies’, are ‘innies’ for me. When I paint and sketch, make a model or design a building, I become concerned with what I am producing. Is it of quality? Is it original? Is it beautiful? Like a thin layer of tarnish on a shiny brass handle, this slowly diminished my pleasure and over time, blocked my creativity almost entirely. Call me slow, but only at age 36 I first realised that in fact, I draw/paint/make/design NOT primarily to produce, but to explore the world around me and my relationship with it. Suddenly I was liberated from the concern with ‘producing’ something of quality. I was unblocked. I also realised that my irrepressible creative urge was not borne of negative frustration, but of a positive, insatiable curiosity.
2. Having realised my ‘outies’ were actually ‘innies’, I realised that I had no idea what my ‘medium’ was. I had always thought it was art, writing, designing buildings. (I run a successful architecture practice with my great friend, Holly). But no, those are merely explorations. So now, while I had not yet unpeeled ‘My Purpose In Life’, I had an interim goal that might help guide my search: to find ‘my medium’. Not my medium of exploration, but my medium of production, action, communication, impression (in the sense of pushing a blunt tool into wet clay).
Fireworks over the Thames saw out 2010, snow melted and January segued to February. More conversations, explorations and exercises. Ideas crashing around in my head so fast, like a nuclear reactor. I just fed more ideas in day and night and stirred it and shook it until finally two atoms collided. What did I learn? What is my purpose in life?
My purpose in life, my talent and passion, my element, my medium is … Disruption. Disruption with value, positive disruption, disruption that pulls the rug from beneath the negative and opens a fertile void for new positives to emerge. I’ll break the eggs, you make the omelette.
Memories come rushing back, hit me like a truck. How could I have missed it? My interest in demolition engineering. My chaotic, entropic studio. Love of the absurd, the ridiculous, the childish. Throwing my cards in the air, speaking out of turn, burning bridges, looking over cliff edges. The need for movement. Connecting people. Seeding ideas. Always asking “Why? Why not?” – not to myself, not looking for the answers myself, but asking those questions in company of other people. Fear of the finished. Love of paradoxes and quantum physics. Schrödinger’s Cat. The wooden spoon.
I do it, because other people can’t. I do it, so that you don’t have to.
I am, in this moment, daunted and afraid. I am not sure what I can do with my strange purpose. How will I sell my skill to feed my family, to grow my business? I have no idea. I’ve been producing objects, images, texts, buildings, ideas and events, all my life. Will I now stop producing? This feels very negative, nihilistic. Uncomfortable. But right. Meaningful. Exciting. Exhilarating. I will find the value. And like antimatter, it will change the way we see the world.
As Steve Pavlina says, finding your purpose is the easy bit. The hard work starts now. I am curious to find out what will happen next. Hence the title of this post. Curiosity is rapture. Disruption, for me, is disrapture.
With thanks to Babe Hampton, John Betjeman, Twitter, the organic Rioja and three years of compounded sleep deprivation. All of which conspired to disrupt my thinking enough for all this to finally emerge, today, at St Pancras station.