I have devoted a considerable portion of my recent time investigating where my ideas come from and from what small crack or fissure they bubble. Clearly not using any serious psychological method other than just noting them when they occur. Below is a genuine and recent event in my life that I have delicately embellished and garnished with my own pretentious ruminations.

Perhaps I’m not particularly creative. Actually, throughout my life, I’ve had a number of people tell me so directly, with little hesitation. Alas, for many years, I have resonated with the notion that the ignition of valued inspiration did represent the same wet, slippery salmon that I could never clasp between my hands when I went fishing with my dad. Some people are clearly more creative than others, but what about the ones that struggle and sweat for the inspiration? They may already have the desire, but where are the concepts, or ideas, to be unearthed? Below I shall describe an event, a small burst of light through the cloth, if you like, where I caught the formation of a little creative flash which resulted in a lucid state of ataraxia.

In a small local pub on the coast of England where the locals speak with a coarse tongue embellishing their thick native prose with unpredictable and accidental small bursts of saliva, sitting perhaps only 4 or 5 feet opposite the open door that led directly outside, I bore pleasant witness to a lady in her 40s or 50s entering indoors and progressing towards the bar. As she passes, I notice her face bore the vitriol and waste that a life of stress and noise so comfortably decorates. The crippled mountain range of her skin sagged, gifting meaningless direction to the spectacles abseiling down her nose.

As I placed a handful of salted peanuts into my mouth, momentarily preventing any socially acceptable period of conversation, she smiled at me. I was, however, unable to return the gesture without presenting a mouth full of half chewed nuts revealing what would appear to be the lifetime’s grinning investment of a chronic smoker without a good dentist. So, I didn’t smile back. I just looked back down towards my drink. I have often heard people say that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to smile, but I disagree. It can take a titanic expanse of effort to smile, especially at a stranger.

The event described above was terse in its nature and only lasted a couple of seconds. But the guilt of not returning the smile, which is the underlying motivation for this letter, was tremendous, and the resulting itch to communicate this guilt with words is probably inane. In that ephemeral moment she tried to gasp for a space both separate and disconnected from her current life, drowning in a void without colour and flavour, and I denied her that chance. The pathetic and sickening cliché of a smile denied her that opportunity.

This sort of event happens all of the time but the guilt of not returning this smile is my vapid explanation about a miniscule event that distorted my day.

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