Friday, November 28, 2008

Being Impulsive

63. Being Impulsive

As children and young adults many of us learn that being impulsive is a bad thing. It leads to food spills and missed activities and, occasionally, automobile accidents. These are the countless moments when we act without enough information, or forget some important detail, or just get the distance wrong. We learn (at least some of us do) that impulsiveness is a bad idea and that our impulses themselves are always to be mistrusted as foolish, disastrous, or even sinful.
In my forties now, I am happy to report that this sad state of affairs can change. With time and judgement and practice you can learn to trust your impulses and to have impulses worthy of your trust. Just as with practice the actions involved in throwing a pot or pulling a handle become second nature, the impulses you surrender to in decorating that pot can become easy and seemingly uncalculated.
This subtle faculty of the mind, so often absent in the brains of teenagers, can extend beyond the realm of art to all aspects of your life. In some ways it amounts to knowing things without having to know just how you know those things.
Of course, there are times to be cautious, to double-check your assumptions, and to save boldness for some other occasion. But on a case by case basis, what are the consequences of ‘guessing’ wrong? And doesn’t it feel great to have “magically” chosen correctly?
As I say, for me this has come gradually, a capability developed over years of struggle with calculation and self-doubt. If it is absent in your own life and work, do not despair. Perhaps, like me, you only need time and attentiveness to develop this native strength and to restrain the unartistic part of the brain that says, “No,” to all things wild, unprecedented, and unmeasured.
I am reminded of the George Bernard Shaw quote on the subject. “I never resist temptation for I find that I am no longer tempted by things that are bad for me.” Enjoy.

“A mistake can just as easily be the consequence of careful thought.” -- Jose Saramago, Nobel Laureate for Literature

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