As I entered my teens, my mum would often say to me “you don’t always need to go to Huddersfield via Barnsley”. She was doing this as a way of warning me about over-thinking things – often to do with girls, but also in relation to work. Whilst I haven’t literally been via Barnsley since taking my girlfriend to see Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ at the cinema there in 1999, I have repeatedly managed to over-complicate things, whether that be in search of romance, or on the quest for the ultimate (and self conscious) creative endeavour (indulgence).
Even as I’m writing this I’m jumping between paragraphs, adding a bit here, moving something else there. I’ve already written the end, and made notes for the next bit. Whilst that’s not necessarily the same as overcomplicating things, it says something of how the mind likes to jump around when being creative.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like to go the long way round because it helps you make the kinds of connections, associations and leaps of imagination that you couldn’t have gotten any other way. There, I’ve said it. We can all go home now. But in fact it’s taken me writing every other paragraph preceding and following this one, before I could boil it down to that.
In his book ‘The Element’, Ken Robinson discusses how humans, unlike animals, seem unable to just ‘get on with it’. We have to have ideas about things, and wonder what the meaning of it all is. Everything becomes re-made, re-imagined, re-interpreted. “C’est ne pa une pipe” – Magritte’s work highlights how our fluid our perception and projection of the world is, and ultimately how we love to question it all. The mind can get lost in these ideas and all too easily bend back upon itself. My mother on the other hand is a Yorkshire woman of mining heritage, and though an extremely sensitive, open minded and creative woman herself, knows when to call a spade a spade. “C’est une cosse”.
Maybe it’s my footballing heritage that is to blame. Despite being born and raised in Huddersfield, I and my brothers were raised as Gooners (my dad’s family came from North London). Arsenal Football Club have been transformed under the tenure of Arsene Wenger from “boring, boring Arsenal” to the Barcelona of North London. Their creative style of play – one touch passing around the team – is a joy to watch, except when you’re an Arsenal fan and you would rather see a result than a sexy build up leading to nothing in the final quarter. My friend used to wear a t-shirt with a Nietzsche quote that said “My idea of paradise is a straight line to goal”. Arsene Wenger clearly has his own philosophy, and Arsenal seem to have a quest for the perfect goal at times rather than the easy goal, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to change them.
I like making connections and having weird ideas on the way to a solution – that is my mind doing its ‘total football’ thing. Finding those dead ends and secret passageways. It is both a skill and an expression of myself, however, applied to all areas of life all the time, then it does cause problems. The imagination is a wild dog and it will drag you where it wants. Sometimes you have to let the dog off the leash.
I know my mum is right about not taking the scenic route all the time, but at the same time it’s just the way I like to do it. Oddly enough, the last time I saw Arsenal play was when they came to Huddersfield for a pre-season friendly last year, and they didn’t travel via Barnsley. Nor did they play as such – they fielded and team of youngsters and won 2-0. They’ll learn.