Thursday, September 18, 2008

Take Your Inner Shaman to Lunch

In the manner of a dentist or dental technician asking you to open wide, your own writing self, your inner casting director, if you will, asks you to look inside for a trait or quirk, long known to you and thus long rationalized by you as being "normal," or "ordinary," or "no big deal." Said trait might actually be ordinary, such as a fondness for crossword puzzles, or stamp collecting, or perhaps even taxidermy. No big deal, you say, and largely you are correct. But take the next step. Marathon training, for instance, or dancing or musicianship, something requiring more than a occasional thought or exercise--something requiring no less than muscle memory.

Moving from the occasional to the regular means a need to revise agendas and schedules, particularly a problem if there are young children, old parents, notional dogs such as Sally, in your picture, particularly problematic if your "daytime job" relies on a working scenario where immediacy, punctuality, and promptness are the holy trinity. Your solution to such a schematic is to get up earlier or stay up later, therein to do what it is you are building into your muscle memory, your real-time and inner-time process as opposed to your working process.

If you happen to be on the job of your choice and, thus, do not consider what you do as work but rather fun or other, you can not only indulge in what you do without thought, you can in the process pretend to be a Type A personality, sparing you the need to explain to civilians what you do in your real time. In fact, if you happen to be in such a situation, you will, to return this essay back to its opening premise, in all probability consider most other civilians quirky or trait-driven, leaving you and your brothers and sisters to be the normal in the midst of Homo sapien sapien.

Because you are a writer, you know on some level that characters need to be more focused than normal persons on something, the thing you do when, to cite Hawthorne, Nature has created them thus awry.

I see Squirrel calling me to task for the mountain goat leap I am about to take, yet leap I do. Writers are by nature obsessive and compulsive and when they are neither of these, they are control freaks, meaning they are forced to lead the double life of shifting to a more normal balance with loved ones, employers, employees, U.S. Mail persons, and even the always late men and women who arrive to install appliances, remove things, deliver pizzas, read meters and the like. Thus does the artist find comfort in dealings with other artists; it is the unspoken awareness of one control freak to another, each of us trying to control an environment, whether it be a stage, a canvas, a page or computer screen. Thus does an artist understand and frequently find live with another; the rules and perceptions are taken for granted. I do not have to explain to you that I am exploring, say, my inner Ahab. One of my mentors was married to Yul Brynner when he was performing in an iconic role as the King of Siam. He awakened one morning to tell her, We want our breakfast. To which she replied, Well we can fucking have Wheaties and non-fat or make it our self. We have plenty to talk about to one another, frequently each fueling the other with variations on the theme of Process.

We after all identify our self as Process, having worked to strip all the rest away from our persona, which is to say having stripped away all traces of normal, which is further and more mountain goat like in its leap to say that we are working toward an individual who in the past and in many locales in the present day would be considered a shaman.

We do this not for politics or profit but for the power of exploiting our inner instrument, be it a writer, an actor, a singer, a dancer, a painter. We do not forswear goals and obligations of relationships with human and animal as, say, a parent or teacher or friend, rather we look for ways to siphon what we have seen in our shaman form into those times when we must appear on the other side of the door, in the world of time, space, and causation.


Rowena said...

I am not a type A personality... except when it comes to writing... and art...and teaching. Hmm.

And now I get your comment about muscle memory. Yes. Build it into a habit so that it's first thing you reach for. But it's not a simple process (except for when it's the simplest.)

And I rarely see the connection that you make to being a shaman, although I believe in art as my spiritual practice and I believe it can save us, too. And I believe I am here as a shaman. It's not something people like to talk about in these here days, but it's true.

lowenkopf said...

"I believe I am here as a shaman. It's not something people like to talk about in these here days, but it's true."

True dat, Rowena.

Anonymous said...

Well, reading rowena's comment reminds me that my art/writing is, for what it's worth, my spiritual practice. I've long thought church might stuck to me if I'd been allowed to draw during Mass. But okay.

Shaman. Hmmm. Have to think about this. Balancing husband, son, work, friends, home, and this creative life is no easy task. One minute I do think I'm perfectly normal. Ordinary. Dull. The next minute I say something and everyone gives me that look that says--what is wrong with you? Or if they're nicer people--well, aren't you quirky!

Kate Lord Brown said...

Well, I have this image in my mind now of us tapping away in our shamanic caves while the rest of humanity is getting on with 'normal' Saturday night stuff - reality TV, ironing ... who's having more fun? As my dear mother-in-law said, 'neither of my children married normal people'. It is a compliment, no?

Anonymous said...

One of my day jobs has been as a spiritual director but I find I resonate with Shaman even more. Reading the signs between the worlds. I recently told someone that for me, writing a novel is like breaking a spell, or a curse- and trying not to let the publishing powers-that-be keep me locked out of where I want to most go.