I'm working my way through Sven Birkerts's newest book, Changing the Subject. It's a masterful plea to think about the ways digital technologies are eroding our abilities as humans, particularly how it affects and displaces imagination.
There's one line I've been intrigued with ever since I read it. Birkerts writes a chapter in defense of idleness, not idleness as we would define it today, charged as it is with the aroma of the ne'er-do-well. But idleness that seeks not to achieve anything, but to simply be, to let the mind drift and wander. "Idleness is the mother of possibility," writes Birkerts.
I have a friend who shared with me a strategy for jumpstarting the creative process. He calls it "intentional nonlinear search." One begins with something that piques the interest and then proceeds by way of serendipity. One book leads to another; a conversation leads to an exploration, and so forth. The goal is simply to drift, to let whim pull you where it will. There is no other goal; one does not know where one will end up. And Birkerts affirms this. But the question must be asked: is such a way of being still possible in our frenzied yet concomitantly enervated culture? Have we gone too far, passed some watershed beyond which there is no returning?