DRMacIver's Notebook

Irritation and fascination

Irritation and fascination

I was talking to Lucy the other day about the book spectrums of ecstacy, and she mentioned the concept from it that "anger is distorted clarity".

I found this puzzling, but am not going to do anything ridiculous like actually read the book to find out what they mean, so instead I'm going to riff irresponsibly off the idea.

(I may read the book to find out what they mean later)

It's not entirely in line with my experience, in that anger certainly doesn't seem like it comes with clear thinking, but what I eventually decided was that anger is a form of clarity of purpose. Anger draws a straight line from where you are, to where you want to be. It is a form of value clarity that is not easily accessible in the real world - a straightforward desire to win.

I've definitely found this while writing sometimes. There are a lot of things I write because I am annoyed that they don't exist for example. Sometimes I'm even straightforwardly angry that they exist, usually on behalf of my past self who needed them.

Fascination is another thing that feels a bit like a line pulling you in a coherent direction. When I have a problem to work on, my thoughts drift towards it of their own accord. There's a problem to solve, and trying to avoid solving it is like resisting temptation.

But, in fact, I don't know that this isn't just another form of anger again. It's certainly irritation. Often the thing that draws me to a problem is that it's a worthy opponent, and that I want to defeat it. I think this is part of the appeal of problems that you can't run out of - you can challenge them again, and again, honing your strength against the impossible.

Fascination and irritation definitely feel similar in many regards. If you watch me playing a hard level on Celeste, you'll see me scream in rage and frustration a lot, followed by jubilation when I win. It's precisely this dynamic where the thing that drives me forward is a furious desire to defeat the mountain.

It's what I'm seeing with my current efforts with automated Wordle solving too. There's a core irritation with the problem. It has challenged me, and I must defeat it.

I wondered where the curiosity went, and maybe this is it. I used to be a very angry person, and this had its problems for sure, but I have not been kind to the angry parts of me, and maybe when they hid they took my ability to be truly interested in things. Perhaps there is a burning furious fascination required to drive you forward to the efforts required to truly invest yourself in a project. If so, I need to find a way to rekindle that.