Unexpected Inspiration

Theneurowire
5 min readApr 22, 2024

I had grown a lot through my experiences in Mexico. Learning to embrace life as it unfolded around me was new to me, and the results had been very freeing. By the time I returned to Gainesville my heart and my mind were much more at peace. Problem was — I had no place to live. My last residence had been in the woods by the lime pit east of town, so I returned to that secluded setting and lived there in my van. All I needed in my life was solitude, the discipline of my ever-increasing practices, and a minimal amount of food.

I realized that the probability of finishing my doctoral degree was rapidlydecreasing. I only had a few courses left, but then there were the qualifying exams as well as the dissertation. Nothing was left in me that wanted to be an economics professor. I wanted to explore inside, deep inside. The depths of my meditations were all I cared about.

The chairman of the Department of Economics, Dr. Goffman, was like a father to me. I loved and respected him a great deal, and he encouraged me to finish my degree. He thought I was just going through a phase in my youth, and I would come out of it soon. He kept me on my fellowship and pushed me to at least finish my course work. Out of respect for him, I would drive into town periodically and go to class — but not very often.

I would eventually learn that everything in life has something to teach you and that it is all for your growth. But I was not ready to see that yet. To me, there was my meditation, and then there was everything else. Though I definitely wasn’t seeing my schoolwork as relevant to my inner growth, I had a very illuminating experience associated with one of my courses.

The professor of the course was a respected economist and not at all the liberal type. I missed a lot of classes, and when I did show up, I was barefooted and in jeans. I doubt that I was his favorite student. One day he asked me if I actually expected to receive a good grade in the course. He explained that I had put out just enough effort to do well on the exams, but my absences and lack of participation in class did not provide the basis for a high grade. I knew we had a final paper left to write, so I told him I would put extra effort into that paper, and I’d appreciate it if he would base my grade solely on my exams and the quality of that paper. He said he would take it into consideration.

The time came to write the final paper for the course. I knew my mental state was not conducive to going to the library and trying to learn enough to write a great paper. I had been meditating a lot, and my mind was very still. No way was I going to spend days researching and thinking about the topic.

I would have to find a different method if I was going to write this paper.One evening, I gathered up a bunch of writing pads and a few pens. After meditation, I lit the kerosene lantern and sat at the fold-out table in my van.I began by telling myself that I really didn’t care what grade I got in the class since I probably wouldn’t finish my degree anyway. This removed any mental or emotional pressure. I then told myself to just start writing whatever I thought about the topic. I had no books to refer to, just the natural logic of a clear, unpressured mind. I began to write and thoughts began to flow. I did not worry about what I was writing or second-guess my thoughts. It was very much like meditation. I kept my personal self out of it completely and just let unbridled inspiration flow.

At some point in the process, a flash of inspiration welled up inside of me. I went from not knowing what I was going to do with the paper to knowing exactly what I was going to write. It was as though a cloud of knowing instantly formed back behind the quiet mind. It happened as fast and powerful as a flash of lightning. At first, no thoughts were involved. It was more of a feeling, just a definitive knowing that I now knew where the paper was going and how to get there. Then the thoughts began to form.

They came slowly at first, then they poured into my mind. I still had to pull them together into a logical flow, but the seeds were all there. It was an amazing process to watch.

I wrote and I wrote. Notepad after notepad became filled with a totally logical presentation that began with a premise, laid out its argument, andended with a conclusion. Along the way, there were graphs to present logical relationships, and there were references to facts I had previously read or heard in class. These facts would need to be polished and footnoted later, so I simply left space for them and kept on writing what was created in my mind. I stopped for nothing. There was no worrying or judgment of good or bad; I just allowed the process to unfold.

When artists create a work, they first get the inspiration, and then they bring it down to the physical plane. That process is exactly what happened to me that night alone in my van. The inspiration for the entire paper came all at once, and then my mind digested it and gave it form. Instead of a sculpture, a painting, or a symphony, my work of art was an economic treatise. It came from where art comes from, but the medium of expression was logical thinking instead of marble or paint. I had no idea where that spark of inspiration came from. I only knew that in the flash of a moment, I had all the material I needed to write a doctoral-level paper.I took the next few days to clean up the rough draft, type it, and turn it in.The final typed paper was over thirty pages long. Not only did I receive an A for that course, but when my professor returned my paper, he asked me if I would consider doing my dissertation under him. I was humbled. As evidenced from this recounting forty years later, the experience that night had a profound effect on me. I had clearly seen the difference between creative inspiration and logical thought. I knew where thoughts came from, but where did inspiration come from? It came from a much deeper place than where I witnessed the thoughts. It came spontaneously, in total silence,with no effort or commotion. No matter how hard I might have tried, Icould never have written that paper based solely on the efforts of my logical mind. I wondered if there was a way to tap into the brilliance of that inspiration on a regular basis. It would be years, but eventually I would learn that one can constantly live in that state of creative inspiration.

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