I am happy when I am able to write and unhappy when I cannot. Usually it is the outside world, the many obligations one accumulates through the years or the multitude of distractions that are always there that makes it impossible to write. But sometimes, I stare at a blank page or my work in progress (WIP, for you fellow writers) and I am afraid. I am afraid of not being able to write, not being able to cross that line that separates the observer from the doer. There is a certain switch that needs to be flicked before I am able to unloose words upon a page and have them convey meaning. It is like having a certain ability and being afraid that it will someday desert you.
Ah, but when the words start to flow, I feel I am where I am meant to be. No, not words. I really don’t give a fig about words. I distrust writers who say how much they are in love with words. Words are merely tools used to convey ideas, it is ideas that I love. When they flow through me, I feel my body vibrate as though I were an instrument through which music is conveyed.
Yeah, I’m getting a little mystical. I tend to do that. It’s why I write. I write to get that feeling that something is flowing through me. It’s not just me who feels that way. The idea of a muse is thousands of years old, an idea that something other than the writer is writing. I do not try to justify the description, merely relate it. As a matter of fact, I kind of like leaving it unexplained. Perhaps someday science will be able to explain the creative process. When they do, I’m sure they’ll suck all of the magic out of it. Oscar Wilde said “Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.” If I may, I’d like to add that science is the process of obscuring the miraculous with explanations. Explanations do little to improve an experience. Explanations distance us from experience. It is not the musician who is thinking what notes to play but the one who plays what he feels that best conveys an experience.
So in a way, the mind that does not use the typical mode of explanation is best able to convey meaning. Feelings can be conveyed through a musical instrument in a way no description ever could. Similarly, truth can flow from a writer from some deeper channels than the conscious mind. True, words are still used, but what is conveyed goes deeper than what can literally be interpreted in the words. That is why a thousand lines can be expended explaining a single line of poetry.
And there we get a little closer to the heart of art, that it is a description of feelings and describing feelings does not need to make sense to the conscious mind, it merely has to be true to the feeling. Feelings, not the intellect, shape the sentences being recorded. I can write down a sentence and a voice deep within says, “Yes, that makes sense to me.” The voice that speaks is not one I’m often aware of but one that deeply influences my decisions and my course in life nonetheless. It is a voice I am quite able to keep from listening to when going about my day-to-day life, and yet if I do not keep its opinions in consideration I inevitably pay a steep price for ignoring them. If I am out of tune with that voice that speaks to me when I write, play piano, or have any inspired intuitive moment, be it in social interaction or “being in the zone” while competing at sports, I know I will be less productive, less successful, less happy.
I realize there is more than just my intellect or my conscious thoughts I need to listen to. I earlier referred to it as “feelings”, but there’s more to it than that, at least it feels like there is. It is a form of consciousness that is apart from the intellect. Perhaps it is some sort of synthesis of the emotional and the intellectual, perhaps it may even be spiritual. Even if it is not spiritual I believe that it is perhaps best that we treat it as though it were, give to it the same respect and reverence as those who are of a spiritual mind would. Ever and again I will say that I cannot explain it, and yet the evidence seems to be there. Man is a deeply spiritual and artistic creature. Humanity at its best expresses itself through religion and art.
Of course there are those who deny spirituality, who blame such beliefs for the irrational moments in history that run contrary to reason and progress. The narrative is that science and reason are responsible for all that is good and that with the sleep of reason there arises monsters. My contention is that it is not the sleep of reason that creates such monsters but the lack of attention paid to the subconscious, the spiritual, that which cannot be explained by the intellect. That which the intellectual, the agnostic, and the strictly materialistic mind chooses to ignore, is merely a garden which then goes bad through neglect. It is not naturally a domain of monsters, but it can become so if it is not properly tended. It exists, and like any other fact that we choose to ignore, it festers and gradually becomes an increasing problem until we are at last forced to deal with it. It is at this point that it becomes so threatening that it appears to be an evil, when in fact if we had acknowledged its existence from the beginning, we would have realized just how much it was able to give to us.
So to summarize, there is an artistic/spiritual way of observing the world that is separate from and often contradictory to the purely rational and logical way we too often believe is the correct way of processing information from the outside world. Without a doubt, a rejection of what the intellect can tell us about reality will inevitably lead to bad decisions. But so too will ignoring the artistic/spiritual way of perceiving the world and our relationship to it lead to the growth of monsters we never saw coming.
Which leads me back to writing and the joy I experience when caught up in it. It is though I am doing a bit of spring cleaning inside of me, releasing a clutter of thoughts that have too long stayed in the dark recesses of my consciousness. It is like putting into the sunlight a plant that has been kept too long in the shadows. It is like finally taking the time to explain things to a part of me that processes information differently than the conscious/logical part of me, the “me” I too often believe is all I am. But there is a whole vast pool which lies under the glittering surface that I can see, depths which are a joy to explore, containing as it does endless possibilities. At its bottom is a bubbling spring which never seems to run dry.