Ep. 6 - SQaC 3 - Commit
Commitment sucks. Not committing sucks worse.
People have been saying SQaC since the dawn of time. Study, question, and commit, they say, that’s the SQaCing way. No one has dared to explain SQaC. No one… until now.
Finally, as the book called Hollow reaches its climax, we dare to complete our SQaC trilogy. What happens next will either echo through history, or end history itself.
Why is commitment important. Let’s quote Aristotle, a true SQaCer. “Excellence, then, being of these two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual excellence owes its birth and growth mainly to instruction, and so requires time and experience, while moral excellence is the result of habit or custom.” How smart we get is mainly down to Study and Questioning. It’s commitment when we put them smarts to use. Remember: some people stop at studying. Those are fans. Some people, in turn, stop at the Questioning part. Those are critics. Where a fan can get exited about a work of art, a critic can question it. A critic can tell you what art does right and what it does wrong. A critic can make suggestions. A critic cannot make art; because that’s what an artist does. One can be a fan, a critic, and an artist simultaneously. Each step is harder than the last, but one cannot be an artist without first being a critic, and one cannot be a critic without first being a fan.
It’s not wrong to be a fan or a critic. You’ll have a passing familiarity with most things in life. You can only choose a few things to really love and critique. Your expertise will be even smaller. So, if you want to be a creator, you’ve got to SQaC with a capital C.
Commit is a word that gets shouted at you during workout videos. Commit is the word most likely to frighten twenty-somethings. Commitment is key. It’s the key to being annoying.
There are three common objections to commitment.
Objection #1 is that life ain’t fair.
Imagine a foot race. There’s a person fifty meters ahead of you, and much less sweaty. There’s a person fifty meters behind you, sweating gallons. The person in front makes you feel bad about your lack of commitment. The person behind you makes you feel like a champ.
The person in front looks back and shouts “commit!” It’s hard to hear him over his motorcycle. To salve your pride, you look to the person behind you and shout “commit!” You’re not sure if he understands you, though, since he’s not old enough to walk.
What can we surmise about this race? It’s not fair, is it? Commitment isn’t going to make you as fast as a Harley.
Objection #2 is that commitment is inauthentic.
If we love something, won’t we automatically commit? Isn’t that what Study was about?
How come people get married? No, seriously; why do so many people still exchange vows? It seems like if you want to love somebody, you’ll love them, with or without a ring and a license. Plus, if you find that you don’t love somebody you married… well, tough. You’re handcuffed to this person, and if you want out, you’ll just have to saw your arm off. So, wouldn’t it be more authentic not to get married? Wouldn’t it be more authentic to love someone without divorce court hanging over your head?
Objection #3 is that commitment is hard.
Commitment sucks. You don’t get “studied” or “questioned” to a psyche ward. You get “committed.” Commitment means that you continuously do something, even – and especially – when you do not want to do it. I’d come up with a third illustration for objective #3 but it’s just too hard to commit to this podcast.
Well, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re in luck. Because you live in the age of individuality. You live in the age when you have the option of committing to no one and nothing.
You can get on your keyboard and venture into the internet, raiding and harassing and consuming people, and then, with the touch of a key, slip away without having to commit anything to any of it. You can live off of others, if you know how to play them. You can have friends, and the second they displease you, you can drop them like a greasy sack of live spiders.
Like a ghost, you may touch and yet be untouched.
Commitment isn’t going to make you as fast as a motorcycle can be. But it’ll make you as fast as you can be. Objection #1 is that that life isn’t fair. Rebuttal #1 is that unless you commit, it’ll be even less fair.
Commitment to marriage means committing to loving when you don’t feel like loving. You can see that as inauthentic. But marriage is committing to loving someone even when they mess up or displease you and you don’t feel like loving anymore. Objection #2 is that commitment is inauthentic. Rebuttal #2 is that lack of commitment is inauthentic.
But that leaves objection #3. Commitment is hard. And there’s no rebuttal #3.
There are some days I hate the book called Hollow. Yesterday was one such day. Yesterday, I realized that I had written myself into a hole that I’d have to write myself out of again. My main character was going venture alone into the climax of the story, and that was intolerable to me. See, each of my characters represents an idea. Just as every human has their own unique view of the world, my characters all have unique reactions to any given situation. It is so entertaining to me to watch characters fight over the meaning of life. Conflict can end in one of three ways: destruction of one combatant, separation of the combatants, or synthesis of the combatants. Without combatants, my main character would have no one to fight but himself. My main character is not that conflicted. Not yet. At the point where he was going to enter the climax, he was exactly sure of what needed to be done. He needed a foil. He needed someone along for the ride who could make him doubt his purpose.
And so I had to destroy a whole day’s writing because it wasn’t going to do what I need this book to do. And it was my fault. And that sucked so much. And it was like racing with refrigerators tied to my ankles . What’s the point? What has all my committing gotten me? It’s tough. It’s work. It gained me nothing.
Then, there are days like today. As I write this podcast, I am in the throes of ecstasy. I have discovered a way to get both characters back together in time to face their greatest battle. If I include this podcast, I have more than doubled my daily word count, and some of the words were even a little good, so far as I can tell.
The only reason I had the good day is because I had the bad day. Because I discovered something I hated, I knew how to chase what I love.
I have gone five full episodes without quoting C.S. Lewis. Indulge me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
These objections are not unnatural. Remembering that things aren’t fair will help you survive when you get chewed out for living your life the best way you know how. Remembering that commitment is not always authentic will make you appreciate commitment all the more.
Working out sucks. Eating right sucks. Getting sober and being committed sucks. But what sucks worse is committing to nothing. Life will become a series of crash diets, false intimacy, petty distractions, and little luxuries.
Next week, we’ll wrap up the novel called Hollow and start moving on the next project. In doing so, we’ll cover a fourth – and much trickier – objection. What if I’m committing to the wrong thing?