What happens when we ask why?

In quarantine, I started following Suleika Jaouad’s “The Isolation Journals” project. The concept is simple: one prompt a day, to generate hundreds of thousands of small creative acts daily. The email newsletter was a nice spot of brightness on many tough days. And while I wasn’t the best (read: most committed) at following the “daily” suggestion, I read all the emails, and used several prompts as springboards for my own journaling and creative work. So, fast-forward to yesterday, when I found out an essay response I had submitted was featured on their site (!!!).

The piece I wrote was focused on our own intent, how that shapes how we see the world and what we’re open to, humans’ need for control, and the impetus to tell stories to make sense of our lives. (It also talks a little bit about Randonautica and quantum random number generators.)

You can read my essay here.

Below is an excerpt:

The streetlight sparked furiously, out of place against a still-blue sky. It was so visually erratic I felt like I could hear it — the zzzt-zzzt, a buzz dissolving into a whine. A small black cat darted quickly across the street beneath it, disappearing into an alley. 

A question: What does it take to transform something utterly unordinary — a church on a street you’ve driven a dozen times before, for example, or a sputtering streetlight — into something special? Some might say it’s your own intent. 

Humans spend so much time creating narratives, wanting to string together disparate events into something concrete, something patterned. Story: we crave it. We weave a tale out of bits of information. It’s a kind of electrifying alchemy, to feel as though you’re inside your own real-world choose-your-own-adventure. Does the story we build make us feel important? Does it make us feel like we’re in control? Does it give us a sense of confidence, teach us how to navigate the world better?

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