It’s intangible, hard to describe, can be found everywhere and nowhere, often at the same time by different people.  Sometimes you can almost smell or almost taste it but never quite grasp it.  It can be a moment, a person, a place, a song, a photo, a tree – well anything really.

But if you don’t make it tangible by capturing it there and then on paper, in a photo etc. it will be gone and might never be recorded physically.  If you’re lucky enough to recall the idea sometime later, chances are there won’t be such vivid details as the first time.

And we tend to believe that we are thinkers, generating these moments because of creative or artistic brilliance if we’re a bit egocentric or attributing them to a ‘flash of inspiration’ if not, without really understanding what that means.   And because we like to prove our beliefs, no matter how preposterous they may be, we can convince ourselves of anything.  In this case that we are creative or maybe not creative, so we predispose ourselves to receiving inspiration or not.

But maybe such inspiration arises from beyond our minds.  Maybe our brains are not the creative impulse in itself but act more like a tuner or funnel.

I can’t remember when or why but I have vague recollections of reading about a French philosopher who took a lobster for a walk on a piece of string a long time ago.  I’d forgotten about it to be perfectly honest until I read a reference to it recently.  I’ve always taken this as meaning that we don’t pay enough attention to our surroundings and thereby miss out seeing lots of detail. This is especially true these days given the ever-increasing pace of life.

As it happens, it wasn’t a philosopher at all but the French writer and poet Gerard de Nerval (22/05/1808 – 26/01/1855).  When asked why he had a lobster for a pet he replied:
“Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? Or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters.  They know the secrets of the sea, they don’t bark, and they don’t gobble up your monadic privacy like dogs do.  And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn’t mad!”
There has of course been much conjecture whether this was truth or symbolic.  There has been one suggestion that it was a symbolic rebellious act, although the truth of the story appears to have been confirmed in a letter written to one of his childhood friends which was found only fairly recently.  This suggested that he got into trouble whilst in LaRochelle:
 “…I was accosted by the mayor who demanded that I should make a full and frank apology for stealing from the lobster nets.  I will not bore you with the details but suffice to say that reparations were made, and little Thibault is now here with me in the city.”

Whatever the truth in the story, I like the interpretation I’ve carried with me.  This is because I’d like to think that inspiration originates from beyond the mind.  That would mean we could improve our likelihood of receiving it.  We would need to try really hard, make sure we’ve always got a pen and paper handy and maybe, just maybe, if we walk our pet lobsters often enough, find it everywhere.

The funny thing is, very shortly after drafting this post I was rewarded with a bunch of characters, lots of themes and the makings of a short story.  And I’ve never written (or had the urge to write) more than the odd poem or song lyrics before.

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