All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today’s clip comes from the drown tank scene from Divergent:
If one and one makes two, you failed. Wherever we land, whether it’s a new job or a new city or a new industry, we’re greeted with a list of rules. And there’s this myth that if we check all those boxes, we will get ahead. Of course, that’s just the story perpetuated by the institutional agenda to keep us scared, stupid and dreamless. Those who seek to keep our thinking as small as possible. The reality is, the future belongs to the destroyers of all that has gone before. And so, once we spot the ideas that are too convenient to be killed, once we let the curious part of ourselves take a risk and pay attention to the man behind the curtain, we become the great and powerful ones. Divergents possess that ability. They’re aware of when they’re in a simulation. They’re conscious that what they’re experiencing is not real. And so, they can manipulate or even shut down the system by exercising their independent will. Because it’s all in their head. That’s why the government is trying to wipe them out. Divergents threaten the social order. If that’s not a metaphor for modern society, I don’t know what is. Critics can call this movie another clone of the post apocalyptic teenage dystopian fiction factory, but I experienced it as mythic, archetypal and allegorical. What would you do if you saw yourself as being in control instead of controlled?
No great band ever wasted any time complaining. Divergent is a story about stoic characters. People who don’t do a lot of complaining. People who aren’t dependent on externals for equilibrium. People focused on strengthening the mind, body and soul so it can flourish in any environment. Because they recognize that all situations unfold regardless of how they feel about them. And so, nothing can shut them off from action. Tris is just now starting to internalize this philosophy. First, she tries yelling. Next, she tries banging against the wall. But then, as the water engulfs her body, she has a realization. The only way out is through. The only way to face her fear of drowning is to swim deeper. So she relaxes into the moment, confronts herself in the reflection, and gives the pain of glass the tiniest tap. And that creates the crack that sets her free. If that’s not a public service announcement for stoicism, I don’t know what is. Pausch, in fact, wrote that complaining doesn’t work as a strategy. That we all have finite time and energy, and any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals or make us happier. Tris reminds us, then, not to complain, because complaining sucks the air out of any new possibilities that may appear in the present moment. Instead, we learn to take the energy we would have used complaining and filter it into action. What are your three biggest time wasters?
Sometimes all we need is an ounce of not alone. This particular tank is merely a simulation. Later in the movie, when the characters are captured and sentenced to death, Tris wakes up sealed inside a real life glass tank that fills up with water. And she knows she can’t tap her way out. But at the last moment, her mother appears, breaks the tank and rescues her. Because she, too, is divergent, and understands the pain of being alienated. I’m reminded of a powerful passage in the book around this very theme. Tris says that to live factionless is not just to live in poverty and discomfort, it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life. Community. Because we can’t survive alone, and even if we could, we wouldn’t want to. A touching reminder that life without witness, isn’t. That we’re not built to be singular units. And that we’re never alone in this world unless we want to be. In fact, the things that make us feel most alone have the biggest potential to connect us. It’s simply a matter of finding the right faction. How many centers of belonging do you have in your life?
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