The Frankenstein Complex
More than ever, there is a constant force in our lives that is conducive with stress, worrying, and exhaustion. I call this force 'pressure,' and although some modern day Buddhas have mastered a sense of contentment and peace in the constant hustle of everyday life, for those who are more susceptible to pressure, I'd like to dedicate this post to you.
I recently read the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In the story, Frankenstein (no, he is not a doctor, nor is his creation given his name) is described as an intelligent chemist who pursues the more progressive practices of his time (early 1800's.) Specifically, it was believed then that electricity, because of its effects on musculature reactions, could resuscitate something that had been dead.
Pseudoscience aside, Frankenstein became obsessed with the idea of reanimating something and playing god. This obsession so consumed him that he shut out his friends, refused to write to his family, and even admitted to himself that he turned into something of a ghastly creature, having not gone in the sun or communicated with other humans for years.
When I finished reading this section of the novel, I could only think of one word: productivity. Are we not, ourselves, constantly driven by this word? Whether we have a normal job, or are working on an independent career, this concept of being productive with every minute of our day has a knack for consuming us. Being a workaholic certainly can have its benefits: success, wealth, respect, but internally what do we gain from the constant toil?
But do not misinterpret my words; I advocate a lifestyle of consistent productivity. However, I wish to also inspire something in people a little more radical in this age: patience.
As creatures of reflection, artists, or simply workers, we have the ability to observe our world, interpret what it means to us, and express this interpretation in any possible way. Some call this expression art. However, the moment that art becomes a job, career, or an obsession, I believe that it takes away from the meaning and worth of it, which in its purest form, is purely expression.
Just like Frankenstein, some of us have a tendency to get tunnel vision on projects or aspirations, which can be a tremendously advantageous thing. On the other hand, it is important to question ourselves; at what point does productivity fester into obsession, and warp this concept of art into another job, or daily task that must be completed for us to sleep soundly at night?
Art, like threading a needle, should be pulled through with great focus, determination, and patience.
The purest forms of art, I believe, come from the untroubled child, or the explorative teenager seeking a release from the new emotions they are experience. As adulthood approaches, and life becomes more of a numerical value and less of a journey of exploration, it can become easy to lose the innocence and purity that once accompanied our endeavors and aspirations.
When Frankenstein finally finished his creation, he immediately snapped back to a normal state. The walls of his work crumbled around him, and his sense of reality returned so quickly that he realized, instantaneously, that what he had just created was the fruition of his obsession; it was everything he had turned into in the past two years: an asocial, self-centered creator.
Immediately, he left his study and his now breathing creation alone, incapable of looking at it for more than a few moments.
On smaller scales, unless we balance ourselves properly, it seems we are all susceptible to the horror of moments like that. We strive so hard for the things we want in life, our dreams, whatever they might entail, and throughout the stress of that toil, we forget to enjoy the journey. We become inure to the sense of happiness, or joy, in simply being alive and having this moment to be human, instead we want more, we work harder, we set timers on our phones, we strive ... we 'aspire?'
But does such a word really describe what we are doing with ourselves? Are you aspiring for something, or are you forgetting yourself?
Dreams, goals, and wishes for our futures are beautiful things. But when they become the focal point of our existence, something else must crumble for such a monster to survive. In my experience, the best art, the best work, is manifested when there is a balance in the creator's life: a balance of peace with each moment, and eagerness to move forward into the next. We come to the Zen state of recognizing that we are happy with the current state of things, (because the current state of your life will always be the current state of your life, and it will not be what you want in the next moment.) And yet, we do not ignore that innately human desire to move onward, to progress, and to let that mad genius in us continue growing.