The Ephemeral

I have a fascination with the ephemeral, fleeting things gone in but a moment. There’s such beauty in the short-lived. Strangely enough, this aligns with many social media trends and app concepts, but this, I assure you, is pure coincidence – I think. Regardless, I’m a bit obsessed with things here and gone in a flash.

            When I write, I tend to write for the moment before it’s gone. As of late, I write pieces the morning that I post them. This isn’t procrastination per se, although I’m sure that plays into it, but instead its more of an immediate connection to what I’m writing. I’m writing this in the morning, I’ll publish it in the afternoon, and then it lives and dies online. A real connection is made this way. I’m usually compelled by an idea walking my dog in the morning.

            Sure, there is much to be said for a life’s work or a labor of love, a project that takes months, even years. But when it comes to my writing, I tend to shy away from that. I’m not opposed to long-term projects at all, but even with those, my love of the ephemeral applies. I never stop writing a piece (or chapter), put it away, and revisit it to finish later. To me, that is a loss. I might as well have never written it, because I’ll never come back to it. Whether it’s a whole piece, a defined sub-section, or a chapter, it’s got to be finished in the moment. For me, art is meant to be finished at the time if not shortly thereafter.

            My music, which I only got back into during the pandemic, takes the same shape. I record a piece on the spot with no idea in mind. Generally, I set up my gear, and record whatever happens. I may spend a little time selecting some sort of beat or groove, but then I get going. I record one instrument, loose as it may be, and I move onto the next. I might revisit it in the next day or two, but then it’s done. I should release some of it, maybe I will.

            But why? What brought me to this fascination with art being ephemeral? When I was in the band, we set about recording an album in 2013 or 2014 – and that’s still happening to this very day. In the band, I began to feel like the seemingly endless honing and reshaping of a particular piece sucked the life out of it. It would get so far away from the original point of inspiration that I found it hard to remain attached. I won’t belabor this point; my name is already mud in that band. The point is, I was turned off by the endless tinkering. I just wanted art that I could start and finish while the inspiration was still there.

            But there’s something in the ephemeral that we could all learn from. Inspiration, whatever form it takes, is not to be trifled with, and certainly not to be ignored. However, inspiration does die, and that’s where the love of all things fleeting comes in. Making things while you’ve got the spark is so important, and so rewarding. When I decide to set up my gear and make some music, I’m done within an hour. I record an instrument, put it away, and start the next. I don’t listen back, I don’t think, I just keep going. And the same goes for writing. I get the idea, I write it as soon as humanly possible, and it’s done. Sure, some things take more time to form. That’s fine too, I don’t do everything in this Etch-A-Sketch way. But, there is something so invigorating in the ephemeral, something so beautiful about “see it before it’s gone.” Art, in whatever form it takes, dies with endless tinkering.

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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