The Consumption Assumption

I was reading an article the other day that suggested we have two main functions as human beings. We are either consuming or creating.

It’s a simple enough notion, and yet, in a world where everything is content, everyone is a journalist and the data of our everyday lives is a for-profit business, the line starts to get a little blurry.

Am I consuming or creating on Facebook if I comment on a friend’s cat meme? If I write an impassioned rant about the plight of heel-shod humans in a cobblestoned world? If I stalk a friend’s new Tinder match on LinkedIn?

When I read a book I am consuming, but when I have a richer, better conversation at some future time because of it, am I creating?

When I bought the ingredients for dinner I was consuming, when I prepared the ricotta gnocchi I was creating. Then, I consumed the gnocchi. Later that evening, I created- okay let’s stop the food analogy there..Ahem.

My point is, maybe it isn’t an either/or, an on/off switch.

Perhaps we must consume in order to create.

We must nourish ourselves, both literally with food and water, and figuratively, with art and music and poetry and love and walks beside waterways on cool sunny days. As Julia Cameron insists, we must ‘fill the well’ if we intend to draw on it.

The oft-cited image of the reclusive writer holed up in a remote cabin with nothing to do but work, work, work, work, work has long appealed to me. And yet, would the isolation, the lack of stimuli, the relative lack of consumption actually be stilting to creativity?

In our noisy, first world it is so easy to consume. We have an app for everything, a 3am burger to our door, a soundbite of truth via Twitter. But perhaps we don’t need more articles making us feel bad about that, rather ones that push us to do something with the thing that we’ve consumed.

If reading Whitehouse press releases gives you high blood pressure: get involved in the solution. If watching Australian drama television makes you cringe: write a better script. If you’re sick of eating average takeout: give cooking a go.

I think the problem isn’t necessarily with consumption, it is with the assumption that consumption is the opposite of creation.

Perhaps we’d do better to see it is a cycle, that we consume to create. That our creation is consumed by others, who then use it to fuel their own creative fire. And so on and so forth.


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