Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Energy of Intimacy

Consider:

1. You have been invited by someone you value to a gathering; it could be a party or a celebration or a wedding or a funeral or a christening, or a launching of some sort. It could even be a Tupperware party. With the exception of the person who invited you, you are confronted by a sea of earnest, friendly faces but not familiar faces. The person who invited you is the only person in the gathering you know. That person sees you, greets you, launches you forth into the assembled host, perhaps with a plate of nibbles, assuredly with some form of beverage. From that moment, you are on your own.

(This situation is something like picking up a new story or novel by an author whose work you favor.)

2. However opulent or restrained your lifestyle, you are surrounded by things, implements, appliances, conveniences, indulgences,tools, necessities. I'll leave it to you to affix the proper description to the individual thing. Suffice it to say, when you awaken, whenever and wherever you are, there, in your immediate sight, are items to fill these descriptions.

3. However opulent or restrained your lifestyle, you are considerably ahead of your historic and prehistoric forbears in terms of "things" within your grasp and sight, so much so that you tend to take some, perhaps even many of them for granted--at face value or less while your ancient forbear accorded surroundings, tools, implements with a broader degree of respect and even admiration. There may be a more diverse menu today of things and conditions to be coped with but life for our ancestors was no less filled with stress.

These issues are backstory to the construct that our senses of being and of place are often occluded by fast forwards to future contingency or replay of past performance, each a distraction from the present moment and the opportunity to accord enthusiasm to the persons, animals, places, things, and artistry in our midst.

Our solution to this problem is to have become writers or artists, a landscape that allows us to experience the intimacy of enthusiasm for persons, animals, places, things, artistry, and ideas in our midst. We are yanked out of our landscape by the quotidian, the seemingly ordinary, the barely countenanced or dreaded meeting or distraction, with the result that we write or create art about such things from a perspective of impatience or dread or resentment, three perspectives that have historically undercut storytellers, artists, and writers throughout history.

It has become a reflex to begrudge the things that yank us from our process landscape into our everyday landscape, to experience squirts of self-pity which become mustard or catsup stains on the shirtfront of our being. When self-pity, resentment, dread, and impatience become, as Wordsworth put it, "too much with us, late and soon," we are witness to the rug being pulled from under our process. You know the process I mean. The process of creativity.

When we are, to use the much beleaguered word, creative, we are entering an intimacy with the others who are our characters, their relationships, their ideas. We are entering an intimacy with a place to which we retire not to escape but to get some work done, to use and develop our process so that it, inanimate and nebulous as it is, will talk to us and share its gathered culture with us.

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