Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lines of communication

I'll confess: I'm drop-kicking this blog. Starting with the photograph- telephone poles over the salt marsh on the Hudson river at the mouth of the Sparkill- I spontaneously extrapolated a title. Just to see what would happen.

Now, I'll just write.

So many things in a creative life begin like this, with a spontaneous exploration that begins with a single gesture, a single choice. A decision not unlike the decision at the quantum level, where waves and particles are distinguished by an act of perception far too fine for us to comprehend.

Before the decision, uncertainty; after the decision, the beginning of something we call existence.

The art- the magic- lies in taking that first step and then letting the piece that results emerge organically from its beginning. The first gesture is a seed; it contains complete genetic instructions for the entire entity within the moment of its genesis. That single gesture which begins a piece of writing- or art- or music- already finds its whole being contained within that first moment, that first movement.

That is the secret: in a real piece of art, the whole thing is already there when the first movement of creation takes place. That first Do defines the whole octave.

When it is whole, and wants to be born, the creation will flawlessly unfold from that gesture, almost without any interference from the artist. Indeed, if the artist manages- and this happens quite rarely- to fully inhabit the role of the artist, his or her presence within the piece remains almost unknown. The artist becomes transparent, a medium channeling a higher kind of force, not an agent controlling the process. In the greatest of art- and we see this constantly in nature- the artist is so completely invisible that it appears there is no artist.

If the artist truly inhabits the growth of an art event in this manner, they will tell you: it is as though they can do no wrong. There is a lawfulness to the birth and the growth of the piece: it makes itself, and the artist is left only to try to be present within the process, in a moment of stunned wonder, as the art, like a living organism, takes on its own life in front of them.

I've participated many times in this kind of exchange between artist and medium, in many mediums- writing, painting, graphic arts, pottery, music- and what results in those rare real pieces is always baffling to me when it is over. More often than not, I am unable to tell anyone just how I arrived at what came; in fact, I did not arrive at it at all. It arrived at itself; I was merely an observer that facilitated, not an agent that acted. It did not come from me. It came through me. In fact, over and over again, as I listen to my latest CD, the music does not seem like anything I could do. It does not belong to me.

Something is communicated through this process we call art. It is the higher reaching down into this level through these flawed, clumsy vehicles we call bodies, trying to send us a message. Often, the message gets twisted as it maneuvers through the labyrinth of our psychology, the narrow corridors of our tiny minds, and the cramped space occupied by our muscles. Nonetheless, the germ is there. We must learn to trust in the process, trust in that which wishes to communicate itself.

And when we can really, truly step aside to let the art become itself, then the art is good- because it isn't art-

It's celebration- it's joy-

it's worship.

And that which deeply calls us to prayer,

That which calls us to our knees the way the Mullah calls the faithful to afternoon prayer,
Calls us the way Gurdjieff's music calls us to search,
Calls us the way a church bell rolls across frozen fields on a dark gray winter morning,
Anything which deepens our communication with an organic inner connection to the sacred,

that can be respected.

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