When I draw pictures – a pasttime I enjoy very much – I usually go into a kind of zone, very attentive to what I’m doing in the moment, but not at all self-conscious. The general feeling is that another part of my mind is taking over, one that is quite different from the part of me that has conversations over dinner, or participates in meetings at work.
Something similar – yet somehow different – happens when I improvise on the piano, solve a crossword puzzle, or develop computer programs. In each case I generally lose explicit awareness of conscious being, and instead go into a kind of flow state. Decisions are clearly being made each moment, but most of those decisions are not made by the conscious “me” that my friends have come to know. It seems that these pasttimes allow me to access some other part of myself, a part that doesn’t so much “think” of things, but simply “does” things.
Today I’ve just spent a very pleasant afternoon working on a computer drawing program, then spending some time making some drawings – going back and forth between these two activities, two different kinds of flow state. Which afforded me a rare opportunity to compare two such flow states, one beside the other.
And now the question comes up in my mind, am I accessing the same part of myself when I do all of these activities, or have I developed a separate inner self for each? Is the music-improvising part of my being connected to the drawing-pictures part? Do either of these relate to the computer-programming or puzzle-solving parts of me? Or are these all completely disconnected, separate selves developed independently over the years in response to separate challenges?
It would be great to get all of these aesthetic components of one’s self into a room together, introduce them to each other and get them talking, comparing notes on their likes and dislikes. Unfortunately that might be easier said than done. In my experience, none of these aspects of my self, for all of their expressiveness, is very big on conversation.