As I noted at the time …

It remains work, except for that sense, in the practice of the art, of being alive. Aware. Totally there, at times. A balance, between inspiration breath within and exhalation the atmosphere without.

Yes, it would be wonderful if we were all so spiritually deep that pure worship and our daily work of gardening and cutting firewood would be sufficient. But from experience, we can see that too often what resulted from enforced exclusion of color and imagination from our lives leads, over time, to extinguishing personality our gifts, as a group, are diminished and rather than loving delight, a bitter boredom sets in bringing with it, the backbiting profits of Satan. Which brings us full circle!

I believe we are expected to bring something back to the world from our solitude. Expected to be visionaries and priests. But not, as some would claim, shaman not unless we want to stake our life on the healing power of the individual work. Perhaps, as was recognized in Zen some time ago, when we start writing and singing and painting from this experience, the spiritual movement is already past its zenith. Nonetheless we also know the power of the Zen-suffused works of painting, poetry, pottery, architecture, tea ceremony, various martial arts.

Tantra: as means of going deeper. Concentration. Vibrations. Here the importance of the work of art is not the surface itself but what it triggers within the psyche of the viewer. That is, the canvas we Westerners revere is not so important mere surface of paint. The reverberation within the viewer is, ultimately, the point of value. (All that the viewer brings to the work, or the use of religious icons in the Eastern Orthodox traditions.)

Art as discipline. Self-discipline. Form. Submission/obedience. Never ending practice.

Stravinsky’s “limitations make art.” Heifitz’s love of movies yet no time to attend.

Solitude. Prophecy. Communion. Community. Vision. Hard labor.

Magnetic center point of growth.

Simplicity/direction versus art/artifice.

A separate life, our art? Or integrated?

Having something to say to express. Versus blue smoke and mirrors. Spiritual man has no need to be clever. Distrust of tricks. (Difference between craftsmanship and trickster?) Rather, to stand naked. Irony? Sarcasm? Or loving concern for the good of all? Celebration! Creation/creating. Versus discovery. Contrived versus organic. Maybe everything is different when played on a blue guitar. Not at all!

Exploring the Mystery. Connections. Links.

Here I am, writing (a) fiction about (b) sex and drugs and other aspects of searching. Also, (c) poetry from my pre-Christian experience. Some of my fellowship would argue that’s not where I should be. Some have been praying for me through this period. The kind of work that could get me read out of Meeting. Is this acceptable activity for a free Gospel minister? All I can do is explore the Truth as it’s been given to me.

How, then, turning outward into community or the world? To be candid, including the desire to get laid, the poet’s quest, the troubadour. Yet most of us, as “artists,” are out of touch with our communities. This is a manifold argument, too complex and heated to explore here, except to say.

Perhaps we really do need to be actively intertwined with our community to write well. Not necessarily a community of fellow artists, either. Rather, an intimate fellowship. Speak honestly, critically. Now look at the faces on the magazine covers or workshop brochures. How few look like people you’d like to meet! How much anger, hatred, envy, darkness brooding comes through. How little serenity, how little joy. (Would I want any of them for neighbors? Even the ones whose work I admire?)

Yet through the act of writing, I’m also more aware of qualities in other workers. Interesting. One measure of admiration is seeing something in someone’s work and recognizing a quality I wish I had but know I don’t. So I read that with gratitude and admiration rather than jealousy. Fellow workers in the fields.

Think of the spontaneous and to our “trained” ears, trite verse composed and uttered at Ohio Yearly Meeting, that when shared received an immediate reaction: “I would like to see that included in the published Minutes” and it was, because it expressed a communal feeling.

In the ancient Shah’s court, the poet stood at one end, and the jester, at the other. When one moved, performed, the other remained absolutely motionless: the unspoken balance.


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