Once, to be inspired was to be inhabited by spirit.
Inspiration was half a step away from respiration: the drawing into oneself of vital sustenance. It was the dove perched on the shoulder of the monk, whispering into his ear with divine influence. It was the words unfurling from the mouths of saints into ribbons of gold as laid onto panels by Botticelli. And like every true and valuable commodity, it was a rare thing, sent from the heavens to a lucky and devoted few. That few, who, not incidentally, were often sufferers, outcasts, hermits and maniacs.
Today, inspiration is merely another thing to wallow in, ubiquitous and tasteless, a kind of soul sugar. We offer up cut-and-paste wisdom, gilded with curlicued fonts and sunset colors. The walls of our homes and offices are bedecked, our bumpers are stickered, our skin is inked with mantras, mottoes, and musings.
And quotes. Oh the quotes!
Not a day goes by when I am not offered inspirational advice, calligraphed over an inspirational image: a mountaintop, a beach at dawn, a night sky spangled with an inspirational array of celestial bodies.
I am reminded, daily, how wonderful, beautiful, powerful and unstoppable I could be --if only I would allow myself to be. I am perfect as I am, but I am also a work in progress. I am broken but also beautiful. I will change the world by changing myself.
Biopics and memoirs and pharmaceutical advertisements are all tricked out in the imagery of inspiration. Magic-hour cinematography lays a sheen of romanticism across scenes of happy families made whole again by Grandma's new found bladder control. Daytime chat shows draw upon an endless stream of dog rescuers, hero teachers, disabled children, veterans, veteran dogs, and recovering celebrities sharing, (or selling) their stories, that they may be inspirational to us all. And hovering angelic and supreme above it all is St Oprah, patroness of mass market redemption, looking down on us beneficently and smiling her billion-dollar smile.
Gigantic corporations invest millions peddling the same story: a tale of one man, one ragtag team that took on an empire, that beat the impossible odds, David v. Goliath with lasers, or swords, or laser-swords. In our own lives, we are all David now, each in our own way, bravely facing the giant, warriors and underdogs always. Did the young Israelite know just how inspiring he was?
Instant inspiration, a recipe: Take one part 60's activism, swirl in three parts new age egotism, ladle in 1/2 serving solemnity, remove any specificity. Spread heavily across ripe, sentimental image. Serve on multiple social media platforms. Share with your 10,000 friends.
Glut has a way of reducing through inflation; more becomes less, dilution drains quality. Everything goes gooey and dull and deflating, a simulacrum of holiness, spiritual Muzak. It speaks to the comfort and ease that we now live with, how defanged and safe our experiences are. Religion has lost its sublimaety and grandeur now that we have scraped off the sharp edges of existence, and wrestled nature into uneasy submission. In its place we have spirituality, a kind of soft-core religion, romantic and open source: Choose your own adventure, and be sure to visit the buffet with a infinite variety of religious trappings available for consumption. All you need to get started is a little, or a lot, of inspiration.