Monday, September 08, 2008

New Directions 2

Sevier Dry Lake, UT

I was having a conversation with one of my oldest, most durable friends. It was the day after the funeral of the father of one of our mutual best friends. The evening was wearing on, and the light failing as we sat on my screened-in porch, which is my de facto summer dining room, after I'd cooked dinner for two. She was filling me in on her recent experiences with her ongoing spiritual and educational explorations, and her own travels across the country this past year.

We got to talking to about how neither or us is interested in beginning-level studies anymore. We've both done lots of workshops and seminars; we're both Reiki Masters; we're both experienced and certified in multiple energy-work and body-work modalities. (I don't write about this often here, because it's not related to creativity, except in terms of energy dynamics; but it's a whole 'nother universe I operate in nonetheless.) She had just been through an intensive, advanced workshop experience, taking place out in the wilderness, and had come through it well, with insights and new knowledge about herself.

There are precursor workshops to the advanced ones in most systems these days. But we both agreed that neither of us wanted, or even needed, to do the beginning-level work anymore. We framed it as: we want to do grad-school level studies from now on, and no more elementary-school studies. In the disciplines we've both studied and explored over the years, from art-making (she has two degrees in art, I have one in music) to alternative healing and spirituality, neither of us are beginners anymore.

I frame this to myself also as deriving from an increased awareness of my own limited time on this plane. I have a lot I want to get done, and a lot I want to do for other people; so constantly recycling what I already know by being required to take beginning-level coursework is a waste of my time and energy. I have no objections to the work per se, and everybody starts out as a beginner. And I'm not a beginner anymore. This is purely an energy-management issue: an efficient use of my time and energy, when I am still recovering from a long period of having little of either. What I have I value highly, and I no longer have much tolerance for people who are wasting my time, especially on their own agendas which have nothing to do with mine. Life is too short to waste a lot of time recycling teachings you already know and live.

Now, gradually, I find myself starting to write poetry again, although it still feels like some new and unknown direction, with a lot of false starts and no certain roadmap. I often write more when I'm on the road then when I'm at home. I write a lot in my handwritten journal, sitting or lying in the tent before going to bed, or just after waking up, when I'm out there camping while traveling. Something is unique and special about writing longhand in a journal when you're in a tent, on the road; it's a similar rootedness to sleeping outdoors like that, where you can hear every breath of wind through the leaves around you, and the passage of the night beasts and birds.

I've written a few new haibun and haiku; I'm always writing haiku, even if they mostly aren't so good. I've also started but haven't brought to completion a couple of more complex poems, from the series with titles in Greek. I keep getting ideas for this series whenever I encounter one of these Greek epistemological and theological terms. The poems might be idea-triggered, but they're still visceral. I expect my poetry to only become even more of what it already is: vatic; shamanic; visceral; mythopoetic and archetypal. I don't expect to back down from that.

The surreal bit of life surrounding my poetry is that I continue to be dismissed as experimental while simultaneously belonging to no camp of avant-gardism: this rejection is mutual. I have no use for avant-gardism for its own sake, and even less for literary fashion. I simply happen to be writing poetry that isn't like much else being written right now. That makes you an experimenter by default, even though I can also trace influences and inspirations back centuries, and even could place myself in a lineage of visionary, vatic poetry; or so it could be argued. But I'm not interested in literary fashion (a lot of what's hot in writing online is very much flash fashion with little probable durability), I'm interested in truth-telling and something that is eternal as well as particular.

The new direction(s) I am pursuing have no fixed markers or guides; a lot of this road is fog-shrouded and uncertain, turning back on itself the way tight, winding canyon roads follow the creek up or down until reaching either sea or mountain pass. If you asked me where I was going, as though all art was pre-planned and thought-out beforehand, as though all art was intentional and consciously-directed, I'd have to laugh and shake my head in disbelief. Most of the time I have no clue what I'm doing or where I'm going. I'm on the road, far from my new home, and completely aware that getting back home will be as much an adventure as leaving it as been. Nothing on this road trip that was planned has stayed in place; as a great general once said, Even the best battle plans never survive first engagement with the enemy. Everything in life is provisional, and subject to revision. So, sometimes I find the idea of intent in art laughable, at other times I find the idea of pre-planning what one is going to do in a piece equally laughable. This is not a wholesale dismissal of pre-visualization, as Edward Weston called his planning process. What it is, rather, is an awareness of how provisional life itself is—much less the art we make from life.

Everything is provisional. Don't take any plans too seriously. Even your own plans. And especially your plans for the art you want to make: take those plans as even more provisional than most.

What I have been doing more and more is giving over my complete trust to instinct and intuition—putting it into practice, not merely theorizing about it, but putting it into practice with trust and attentive listening; which makes this a far more radical process than mere "radical artistic self-expression." In giving over my process to intuition, not only has my intuition become more highly-trained and accurate in both mundane and cosmic levels of operation, but I have been led to surprises that have made me feel alive again, as an artist and a person, for the first time in many months. A wise man once said that, since fear and excitement feel exactly the same—all we do is judge one negatively and the other positively, but as far as our bodies, glands and neurochemistry are concerned they are nearly identical states—each time we feel that state, we might as well choose to call it excitement rather than fear.

If you are brave enough to choose excitement over fear, then you might be brave enough to trust your own artistic intuition, and stop trying to turn it into a mentally-directed, logical, intellectual, linear process. Just let it be what it is. Acceptance is the next virtue to be discovered, that unknown country where most artists till fear to tread.

Giving up control of your own creative process can, after all, be a terrifying loss of Control in those arenas of one's own life over which one has managed to scrape together some illusion of control. Yet that is exactly the perfect moment to choose excitement over fear. The perfect moment to trust your own process to not let you down, but to take you into your own best places. The perfect moment, in the end, in which to begin life anew with each new artwork. Which, since art is in some sense nothing other than co-creation with the Creator, is as it should be.

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