The Flow of Our Experience: Interrupted

We ran out of soap for the dishwasher. There was no way I was going out into this COVID nightmare to buy more. At least not today. So I did the dishes by hand this morning. While doing so, I was reminded of something I read somewhere that Agatha Christie (the old mystery writer, remember her?) said she had gotten her best ideas for her novels while washing the dishes.

It had been so long since I washed the dishes by hand that I had long forgotten about this. But letting my mind wander while I washed and rinsed and stared out the window brought back that little bit of knowledge that was buried deep down in the dark recesses of my brain. I actually think I felt a moth fly away as my neurons parted the cobwebs and blew off the dust that had accumulated on the acetylcholine receptors back there.

With all the automation and expectations of modern society, we are rarely given these moments of quiet exploration within ourselves. Even at the end of the day when we’ve turned off our brains, we’re often tethered to our screens, scrolling through our social media feeds, still being bombarded by the outside world. This has me wondering, are we neglecting to exercise an essential part of our humanity? The part that allows us to go deep inside ourselves and wander around in there, just to see what we may find?

While I was washing the dishes, my mind did wander. It landed a few places. Nothing too interesting, but it did allow me to understand what my brain was working on while I was working on other things. The one place I kept visiting was a few particularly vexing measures of music I had been trying to figure out for the past few days. The timing. The melody. I don’t have it figured out yet, but I am assured my brain is working on it.

This morning, my very artistic daughter mentioned to me that the previous day at school she drew a lot. So much more than usual. She said it usually takes her about an hour to come up with an idea and another hour to draw something. But yesterday was different. Yesterday the ideas just kept coming and she had to draw as fast as she could to keep up with them.

I told her what she had experienced was a state of flow—something we all desire when we’re working on something that completely removes us from external experience and focuses us completely on the internal. I asked her what was different about yesterday. Turns out, yesterday was a standardized testing day. She just happened to have some extra time after finishing her testing and she turned to her drawing notebooks.

Flow. The flow of our thoughts. The flow of our creativity. The flow of our lives. Constantly interrupted. Case in point, I just stopped the flow of my thoughts to Tweet something. Consequently, I have no idea where I was going with this. It could have been a masterpiece.

Now we’ll never know.

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