The Destroyer

I love the psychological and social dualities associated with acts of creation and acts of negation: it’s great to build things, but it’s also incredibly liberating to let them go by destroying them.

One of the better known examples of this is the Buddhist sand mandala, a beautiful work of spiritual art, painstakingly created, colored sand grain by colored sand grain, over days or even weeks . . . and then ritually destroyed, with the mixed grains of sand ultimately tossed into a river, returning them to the amorphous, impermanent state from which we all emerge, and to which we all will (physically) return, regardless of our spiritual beliefs regarding our non-corporeal selves.

I wrote a novel a decade ago in which this concept of agonizing creation followed by rapid destruction featured heavily in the plot arc. (The book is way out of print at this point, but you should be able to find copies online, if you’re interested in peeking into the inside of my head, circa 1999-2000. It got good reviews from “real” literary critics when it came out, nicely enough). The fundamental concept of destroying that which we once aspired to build, erect, or create means a lot to me. We become better people, I think, when we have the wisdom to annihilate the things that needlessly tie us, through habit, or nostalgia, or inertia, to yesterday.

Tomorrow is always a more exciting place to be anyway, right?

My love for the destructive process largely explains why in 2010 I shutdown my old personal website, removing nearly 15 years worth of high-traffic generating internet articles and artifacts, some of which had provided me, in their time, with a high degree of web notoriety and/or fame. This also explained the demise of Indie Albany in 2012, which I had established two years earlier as a haven for writers who didn’t want their words to be owned by others, nor co-opted by commercial interests not of their own choosing. It was a good model. And now it is gone.

For what it’s worth, I was a coveted “content provider” in the days when most of you either hadn’t found your way online yet, or were still piddling about in the AOL or CompuServe or MySpace or Times Union kiddie pools. I have long enjoyed the sort of Google-beloved internet presence that lots and lots of folk work hard (and fail) to achieve, in both indie and commercial settings, where, sadly, they often sell their creative souls to unworthy masters in the hopes of attaining some small degree of passing notoriety. (To those who are internet flavors du jour today, I can tell you directly: it’s not going to mean anything to you, ten years from now. So be ready.)

While it was satisfying, on some plane, to know that I’d achieved some degree of internet success, it didn’t change my life in any meaningful way, and it didn’t make my family love me any more than they already did, and it didn’t guarantee me any more cultural permanence than a sand mandala can expect.

Since I didn’t really care about the comments, connections, traffic or attention that my old site brought me anymore, I found myself wondering what was the point, really, of clinging to it? I honestly couldn’t come up an answer to that question, and so I let it all go. Poof. For the rest of my life, I will never need to check traffic or comment stats for that personal website again. The psychological energy associated with such concerns can now be directed toward other, more productive things.

I like that feeling of release. I’m actually now enjoying having vaporized my online presence as much as I once enjoyed creating it. My sole public outlet for new written material at this point, accordingly, is here at Indie Moines. This is where my creative heart beats today, though I have no expectation (nor should you) that it will always be so. We’ll ride this wave as long as it carries our weight.

So enjoy it all while you can.

Because you never know when The Destroyer might show up again . . .

About J. Eric Smith
Executive Director, Salisbury House Foundation.

11 Responses to The Destroyer

    • Oh, I know it’s still out there, B. In addition to the Wayback Machine, my stuff has been stolen and copied time and time again over the years . . . most of my more significant pieces exist on multiple sites at this point, few of them with my consent.

      The information from my site is still on my hard drive, too, if I wanted it or needed at some point . . .

      So if someone wants to find most of it, they can. But I’m not putting any psychic, spiritual, intellectual, or physical energy into it anymore.

      People can take photos of a sand mandala and see what it looked like while it existed, and say that they own the essence of the mandala.

      But the monks who made it know better . . . . when they destroy it, it’s gone, copies and representations be damned . . .

    • alisonamazed says:

      Thanks for this B, found some pages I thought were gone forever – someone had mentioned this WayBack Machine, though not by name or URL, rather by guilt.

  1. alisonamazed says:

    I had a site – pages and pages – all gone now. Vanished. It bothered me at first, and then I thought – let it go – let it be ephemeral.
    Much of what was on the site is backed-up, clearly that which I valued the most is backed-up. Ultimately it was the act of creating it that gave me the most satisfaction.
    Allowing something we create to be ephemeral places emphasis on the act of creation and creativity itself rather than the finished product or object.
    It also places emphasis on the moment and perhaps helps us learn to be in the moment and appreciate the moment we are in.
    Something to muse….something for he Muse.

  2. Gman says:

    The impermanence of most communications vectors was driven home to me the day I slid a day-old copy of The Auburn Citizen into my parrot’s cage and he pooped on my byline.

  3. Bob W. says:

    Since other good folks have already covered the more thoughtful end of the comment spectrum, I will simply add:

    Thank you for flipping the switch on the Kinks portion of my mental jukebox for the day. That is all.

  4. Frank James Davis says:

    Even the amorphous had to have been formed; all disorder, somehow imposed.
    Calling forth The Destroyer may well represent an artist’s profound frustration at the sudden (often, subconscious) recognition that he cannot be first cause–that, at least in this life, he is doomed to mere creativity.
    Always a rearranger; never a maker.

  5. Pingback: Vanishing « INDIE ALBANY

  6. Pingback: Facebook Without Facebook « INDIE ALBANY

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