Let’s be honest for a moment – the internet can be a scary place. Every time we publish a post, write a tweet, upload an image or share some work online, we hope for positive feedback, but fear the opposite, rejection, criticism or even hate. Maybe, this isn’t even a digital problem. Haven’t we all experienced thoroughly analogue forms of disapproval or contempt at some point in our lives?
Fear And The Total Perspective Vortex
Amongst the notes of congratulations as No Missing Tools was released last week, was an email from an old friend and fellow musician. My friend was summing this fear – a fear that holds many of us back from sharing our creative work with the world.
“It’s a brave move putting stuff out there – the internet (indeed, the world) can be such a brutally ‘total perspective vortex’.”
In Douglas Adams’ humorous Sci-Fi series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Total Perspective Vortex was the ultimate torture device, the joke being that if anyone really, truly understood how small and insignificant they were in perspective to the size of the universe, they would surely go mad.
“When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation,
and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, ‘You are here.’”
– Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
My friend cited The Total Perspective Vortex without realising there are several pages devoted to it in No Missing Tools. What if, instead of fearing insignificance, we embraced it? I agree the Internet can be like The Total Perspective Vortex, but I also believe this is a good thing that can liberate us to be bold and brave in our creative endeavours. As I said, in the book,
“I’m constantly talking to creatives who complain no one is paying any attention to their work. My reply is, “Great! If no one is listening, you are free to do anything you want!” When audiences are tuned into us, there are expectations; there is resistance to moves in new directions. But if you are isolated, why not just be bold and crazy and make your version of a giant stone statue in the Pacific?
No Missing Tools, pg117″
A Better Perspective
It might feel like the whole world is waiting with baited breathe to hate our work, but actually, the total opposite is true, the whole world is largely going to ignore everything we do. So, that photo you posted on Instagram got 20, or 200 likes. There’s another 200 Million Instagram users who didn’t even know your photo existed!
The true madness is being obsessed to the point of anxiety over what a tiny slice of humanity thinks of us. It’s not just that we become crippled with fear, we also lose perspective on the significance of the things we make and the work we do.
“Life is not about finding our limitations, it’s about finding our infinity.”
– Herbie Hancock
The real gift of engaging in creative work, in any kind of work really, is dipping our toes in eternity, making something that, however small, misunderstood or flat-ignored in this moment, might live on long after we’re gone, or connect with people we have never even met. We will never really know how far our work can reach across the universe, so why not just make our biggest, boldest most authentic selves known, especially since our place in time and space is so small, so fleeting and so tiny?
“…every day we do things that could live on for years, even longer than the few years we have on earth. The tree we plant, the wall we paint, the song we record, or the furniture we make could still play a role in someone’s life 50 or a 100 years from now! I love that the music of Willie Johnson – a blind son of a preacher, born in 1897, who started playing on street corners with a homemade guitar as a child – is out there, drifting through space on the Voyager probe.
No Missing Tools, pg118″
No Missing Tools: Creativity In An Age Of Abundance is available now. You can pick up a copy a paperback copy on Amazon for U$16 (also available in Amazon UK or Amazon EU), or order the Kindle version for U$6.79 (also available on all the global Kindle stores, check your local price), if prefer and there’s even a digital multipack available for U$10 through GumRoad that includes the pdf, mobi and epub versions (use the code “abundance” for a 25% discount till the end of the month on this version). Finally, there is a numbered, limited edition, hardcover version, printed in Japan available for U$65 direct from my studio in Tokyo.