Before I get to the main subject of this post - ‘Jono’s Spark’ - I need to explain why it is being addressed here and not as a reply on his blog’s post. It is because Blogger is playing silly beggars with my login. It appears that I am perpetually signed in on Blogger, although it suggests that I am not. If I log out and then log in again, although it accepts my details, I am apparently not logged in. On some blogs I can leave a comment (the blog recognises me) yet others do not. My own blog sometimes allows me to reply to comments on a post, but at other times does not (I can get around this by fiddling with the blog settings). And this is why this post exists as I could not leave a comment on Jono Lethbridge’s post, which you can read here.
In very simple terms, Jono is wondering where his spark has gone. He has many interests and a life of contentment, yet feels as if the‘ooomph’ may be missing from his leisure downtime. I can sympathise with this and have been there myself. Quite a few times if I’m being honest.
This is strictly a ‘First World’ problem is it not, well-off Westerner angsting over birding (I’ll use birding as an example although it could just as easily be reading, gardening, mothing or painting). That we have the luxury of time, money and freedom to pontificate such things is not lost on me, but we cannot take responsibility for the time and place that we were born in. In fact, it is most probably the time that we are living in that breeds such - dare I say - shallow angst. That’s not saying that such thoughts and feelings are risible, but on a world-wide scale, well, you get the sentiment, I’m sure. What I am going to suggest here is based on my own experiences and not on what I think Jono’s ‘problems’ are - problems are too strong a word of course.
When I’ve voiced such thoughts in the past, of having lost my mojo when it comes to birding, writing, painting, whatever, then helpful folk will suggest giving, whatever it is that is bugging me, a rest. Take a breather. That is easier said than done. Do you have an ‘all or nothing’ character? I have. It’s a pain to be honest. If I decide I need to go on a diet then I can’t allow myself a biscuit once a week, that’s classed as a failure, so my diet will fail on a campaign of misery. Same with birding. Try taking a rest from birding - impossible. If you know that you are going to return to it soon, then you will still check what is about by reading your Twitter feed, checking your What’sApp groups and scrolling through web sites. And then when a good local bird is found, you realise that you ought to go, even though you are resting, because you’d regret it in the future if you didn’t. If you do pop along to see it and fail in doing so, then a dip becomes doubly depressing - you’ve not only failed with the bird, you’ve failed yourself by breaking your convalescence! And anyway, birders bird when they’re not birding. Everything that flies past you, perches in front of you, or sings and calls within your earshot, will be identified. And counted.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not the action of birding/reading/cooking that is the problem but the rationale behind how it is executed. Some of us (most of us?) often execute our activities at the behest of others, even if this is subliminal. It’s that word ‘ego’ again! Most of us have a platform within our birding community that we - whether we want to or not - need to maintain, a profile to uphold. If you are not seen out in the field for weeks on end, do not tweet or blog, then you will soon be forgotten. Your void will be filled by others. A deep-seated responsibility based on self-preservation. So there is an invisible pressure to be seen (in reality or virtually). Of course, there are some people I know that quite happily plough their own furrow and give no thought to what others think, but they are in the minority. So, rather than decide to ‘have a lie-in’ or go to an art gallery, we ‘make’ ourselves venture out into the field to maintain our profile, rather than have that little rest that our mind really wants.
There is also the OCD/Autism spectrum that many obsessives (that includes birders) exhibit. If things don’t go according to plan, or reach a level of expectation, then we can hit a slump. I do. Sounds petulant, agreed. I’m most probably only ankle-deep when it comes to OCD but an untidy room, a mistake made in a notebook or mud up my trousers can disturb me. When birding/reading/cooking fails to reach our desired expectation then we can start to lose our spark. Life isn’t playing ball, even though that ‘life’ is just a totally frivolous construct.
So how do we reignite it? I reckon the only long-term course of action is to jettison the need to pander to others. Do what you want, when you want, purely for yourself. Don’t want to take notes? Don’t take notes then. Don’t fancy finishing or starting that book? Put it down or don’t pick it up. When we feel the need to re-engage again with whatever it was our spark lit, we will. Refreshed.
When a person thinks too much about what they do and how they go about it there are bound to be thoughts that place hurdles before us, an assault course in the mind. And it is precisely such people that, at times, lose that spark. The way back to the light is to use the very same mind to negotiate a path, based on a calm, clean, sense of order.