Inspiration. What an elusive term. Each time I attempt to define it, something seems incomplete. The dictionary definition does not include the mental pull that inspiration generates. Attempts by people leave me unsatisfied. In fact,if you Google ‘What is inspiration’ you come up with a horde of quotes that try to inspire you,but no one (except one or two) even try to define what,actually,is inspiration. Literally,it means,”To breathe in and be filled with spirit of the gods.” The gods were the muses of ancient Greece. Greek myth explained that all creativity came from the gods and that mortals can only receive somewhat imperfect copies of the originals. But what does inspiration mean to us today? I’m still looking for an apt definition that covers the mental imagery that the word ‘inspiration’ generates.
How is inspiration born? For me,inspiration comes from a number of things.To enumerate the top two:
A book that influences you in the right way can be a good source of inspiration. I recently finished reading the last book in the Inheritance series, and it has taught me a lot. Maybe it is because of the critical timing of the book in my life, but it has given me the willpower and determination to do what ought to be done. One thing that I take away from the book is a sense of duty,no matter how hard the circumstances.
Books have a great power to influence because some part of the story, some part of the character resonates within you. You can identify with the struggle, the indecision,the difficulties. At one level,we’re all human. The identity of one man is the identity of another. That is why words have such a huge power to inspire. Every (good) book changes you in one way or the other. That is why many philosophers and emperors of old advocated censuring the books the populace is allowed to read. However,change is not equal to inspiration. Therefore a very small number of books actually inspire you. One in a hundred,maybe even one in a thousand. So while Inheritance inspired me to do what is needed, The Alchemist, for example, might inspire you to pursue your passion.
Need I say anything else? Music has the capability to make you laugh, to make you cry, to take you back to old times. To make you young, to make you feel old, to make you feel loved and to make you feel like you want to die. Similarly, music has the ability to inspire. Not Afraid by Eminem is my favourite number. Especially the night before exams, when there is a ton of syllabus to be covered and only a few precious hours left, this song sets me in a mood of grim determination. Music really can set your mood, and this is an effective tool that can be used time and again.
The difference between music and books is this – with music, you can intend to get inspired; with a book, it just happens. Musical inspiration is more of a mood changing process, while reading is a more contemplative, long-lasting and deeper change.
So what is inspiration? Still an elusive bird.