Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Friday, April 25, 2014

Beauty breaks the rules

This quote strikes me as poignant:

“I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires....” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The reason it has so much meaning to me is how deeply I can relate to the protagonist's insight. For a very long time, I've not acted on spontaneous emotion, on impulse, caprice, for fear of disrupting some balance in society, or my present chunk of it, by breaking some "interior" rule. I've called it Introversion, Social Anxiety, Shyness, Conscientiousness, Obsessive-Compulsive...I've spent many thoughtful moments considering rules. I'm not sure whose rules - society's, my own? 

I'd like to step back a minute. Consider this quote by the famous American General Douglas MacArthur:

"You are remembered for the rules you break."

The past two years of writing poetry for publication, and discerning what precisely spins the head off my neck, quickens my pulse, in art (music, movies, novels, visual, etc; my own, others') the chief discovery I made was I most fee pleasure in the act of rule-breaking, or while participating in it with another (reading, viewing, listening; 'another' being the maker). 

Beauty breaks the rules. 

Today, at every opportunity, every hint of reticence, every mental stopper, push-back, I broke the rule, flicked the angel off my right shoulder and gave heed to the devil on my left (sinister!) - recalcitrant instead of acquiescent, I failed at my usual capitulating and said "To hell with this prison of morality!" In short, I rebelled against myself. The slave revolted against the selfsame slavemaster; an internal servile war. 

I've made a profound synthesis: art is about revolt, breaking new ground by forsaking unnecessary rules; living artfully, ignore the limits and unbound your soul, choose the rules (a few) to keep, and live as freely as possible (art is freedom). By rules to keep, of course the Ten Commandments offer some (thou shalt not murder). I like the Hippocratic Oath (maybe I'm biased). 

Maybe this only applies to me, but for any of you out there who can relate to Fitzgerald's words (from Nick's mouth) in Gatsby, then maybe you should try what I tried today: break those interior rules. Empower yourself. If not in life - then to my artist friends - in creating!

PS: I apologize this post looks like shit. I don't know why it keeps turning out in these stupid colors. Probably has to do with pasting in the quotes. Mea culpa. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Poem Up at Poetic Diversity! (Happy Nat'l Poetry Month)

Thank you, Poetic Diversity, for taking a chance on one of my oddball prose poems. The site looks great, hope you all enjoy :)


*By the by, check in for their next issue where another prose poem of mine will be featured. "This is a dream. I'm busting, Jerry, I'm busting!" - Jason Alexander, Seinfeld

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Man and Things We Make

I'd just like to offer an idea: We mistake the extraordinariness of man's creations for the extraordinariness of man.

How often are we astounded by the creation (Annie Hall, The Cantos) and disappointed by the creator (Woody Allen, Ezra Pound)? It's because great creations, we assume, are made by great men / women. And since we're surrounded by great creations on a day to day basis (cars, computers, electricity, controlled fire, airplanes, cement roads, wooden houses, hospitals, etc) MAN must be great...nay, "in God's image."

I think man's creativity is more our specialty - like Darwin's finches, their specialized beaks based on their diet; or like the peacock's tail, or shark's rows of teeth - or rather, it's our TRICK to surviving, but it isn't proof we're highest on the hierarchy of creation. The cat probably sees how graceless most of us are and thinks CATS are god-like; dogs probably see our pathetic sense of smell and...well, you know.

Our creativity - we have such a complex language! (our creation) - is like a highly specialized organ, like a dog's sense of smell. Our creations are incredible, most individual human specimens, on the other hand, are quite canny, ESPECIALLY when stripped of their man-made objects (clothes, shoes, glasses, etc).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Animal Intelligence

I think it's human nature to look at another species - our cats, our dogs, the robins, the squirrels, the giraffe at the zoo - and wonder: What are you thinking? What do you know?

First of all, my dogs and cats are relatively lazy. A lot of their time is spent lounging on the sofa or by a vent, or on the bed. But think about a human doing that: The human is not sitting their with an empty mind; we daydream, fantasize, ponder.

I spend a lot of time wondering about my life and about God, or my (our) creator. I'd be willing to bet a hefty sum cats and dogs and giraffes, in their own ways, wonder about their (our) creator, as well. As evolution-minded scientists know, much of human behavior has precedents; it did NOT just pop up suddenly when modern Homo sapien came on the scene. That goes for tools, art, language, etc, etc. Though I still think the fact that we wear clothes is fairly nifty.

Some sort of wondering about God, and attempting to make sense of life, must go on in each individual animal with a mind, to some degree, probably in some way humans are incapable of imagining. Since no animal (we know of) can do something like a book - share his or her or its ideas - those ideas of God are probably limited to that individual, hence there are probably no animal religions. That seems absurd, but deliciously so.

I was thinking about the way we test animal intelligence - silly problem-solving and maze-memorizing games. Here's my question: If an animal is able to survive, and THRIVE, in the wild for a long enough time to mate, isn't that proof of its intelligence? It survives in the wild - think of the humans you know who couldn't! Not just people with special needs (all children, special needs children, elderly) but some low-functioning adults. Yet we presume the human mind to be superior, when we know the human eye is rather pathetic compared to some other species.

I think the human mind is a supremely creative one, and that mankind relies heavily on its creations, unlike any other beast in the world. I question our superiority in other realms of intellect though. Elephants have tremendous memories, create beautiful paintings; Gorillas with training in sign language demonstrate previously unimagined depths of feeling.

It's difficult being a human, a born omnivore who at once adores animals and survives by eating them. I think that recycling of matter and spirit, eating, growing, dying, pushing up daisies - it's at once beautiful and tragic. The necessity of death for life. I've decided to be on the side of conservationists, to be a conscientious omnivore, and avoid at all costs harming animals unnecessarily, and to consider it morally reprehensible - evil - to drive one of God's creations to extinction. It makes me queasy thinking about it; all the megafauna gone because of us - though of course if we crossed paths with some (i.e. saber-toothed tigers) we'd probably kill or be killed, as well, and part of my desire to see them alive might include some kind of zoo facility (i.e. Jurassic Park), or just being able to sleep at night (in my bed, sheltered) and KNOW...they're out there!

Anyway, my daughter loves animals, music and animals, and I think those are loves we never outgrow; I haven't! So I just wanted to put forward the idea that animals are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. Think of what they accomplish! Surviving - every day - without a refrigerator or winter coat, without a gun or car; pretty impressive.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Gift of Mindfulness

The heading really sums up all I have to say well: The enduring gift of art (for the viewer / reader) is Mindfulness - it renews your senses, emotions, lights up your inner world like a sun, makes the sun and moon of the outer world brighter, the colors and shapes sharper.

Mindfulness: Art knocks you back to your senses, you pay attention to your surroundings again. As I said in an earlier post, Attention on the Object is the act of loving the object - you re-fall in love with the world again, like a child.

Who does not wish to fully inhabit themselves and their world, to completely enjoy every aspect of a day, a sandwich, a kiss, a sunset, a bird's song? You never want to feel you're missing out on something.

This is one function of art, a tool on a par (in man's kit) with the spear and the wheel; another form of Prometheus's bestowal, the flame of our inner fires!