Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you’ve been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It’s hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that’s one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life’s mystery; with leaving certain things undescribed, unspecified, and unknown; with savoring certain emotions, such as curiosity, surprise, desire, and anticipation. It depends on an intensified sense of life’s preciousness and fragility, and on a Heisenberg-like notion that, when it comes to our most abstract and spiritual intuitions, looking too closely changes what we feel. It has to do, in other words, with a kind of inner privacy, by means of which you shield yourself not just from others’ prying eyes, but from your own. Call it an artist’s sense of privacy.
As artists and communication designers you can choose to be the outriders of society. Like the scouts in the old western films, you can be in the position of surveying the horizon and alerting the rest of us to the dangers and surprises ahead. But I worry about you. I worry that while you have evolved the use of your thumbs to work at phenomenal speeds, you are not as interested in developing the habits you need to accumulate knowledge, knowledge that can inform your vision as artists. I mean knowledge of the world—science, literature, and history—knowledge of the great contributions others are making or have made to our rich understanding of humanity and the earth which gives us life.
We can pick our teachers and we can pick our friends and we can pick the books we read and the music we listen to and the movies we see, etcetera. You are a mashup of what you let into your life.