Looting Versailles

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Brain and Soul, Art and Nature

What I have learned about optimal outcomes regarding what environment a child is reared in, I’ve seen what’s best is richness, complexity. A child read a lot of books at night, a child whose parents use diverse vocabularies, provide varied toys of multiple functions – a world a child can maneuver through and manipulate, with differing roads, where they can fail and succeed: these are ideal. And by what method? I believe what complexity and richness offers is neurological / psychological (cognitive, mental…) stimulation; the brain and soul require stimulation. Stimulation to the brain is growth; richness, complexity – these qualities are the right proper mix of nourishment; water and sun; protein, carbohydrate and fat.

I highlight the metaphysical soul along with the physical brain because I want to extend this fact into an argument for what I believe is morally necessary: the preservation of our natural world, of animal and plant species (as many as possible), of topographies and climes, of languages and cultures. These make up the sustenance for our souls which become malnourished in their absence. To see a malnourished soul, imagine the neglected child with his blank affect and benumbed heart, the poor ones who have difficulty performing the simplest of socially connecting acts, such as smiling and maintaining eye contact. To conceive of a life lived lacking the dynamic structures and arrangements of Adam and Eve’s habitat (or something akin) think only of what our prisons offer as penultimate punishment (what is qualified as harshest next to the capital kind; what, less than death, is most stern?): ISOLATION. Put another way: Sensory deprivation.

The case for environmental conservation and the case for supporting the arts are made by pleading for nothing less than the continued growth and thriving of humankind. We can survive without these things, but reminded of the prisoner kept alone in a dark, dank and quiet cell, begs the question: Would it be worth it?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Art: Maturity's Pretend Play

I watch my daughter pretend a toothbrush is a phone, pretend that she is a "wiggle worm," - when she was 18 mos she was pretending EVERYTHING was a hat or guitar. Now she likes to pretend feed me invisible food, pretend her dolls are having conversations. She's only 2.5 yo. I know, from experience with children and my own memories of childhood, how much more complex and elaborate and stylized her pretend play is going to become in the coming years.

So what is writing? For me, CREATIVE writing is essentially make-believe; pretend play. Metaphor can be a pretend play device. I'm struggling to find the way I can argue this connection - art as mature pretend play - with evidence or reason. For me, it's a truth I can intuit. I can imagine myself in the process of writing, having "serious fun," and I can think of the playful spirit I'm in at the theatre, or in bed with a novel, or viewing a Van Gogh or Pollack or Leonardo.

I know I'm not the first to recognize the connection between play and the process of making art, but for me I see the truth of that connection being crystallized in my mind when held up for inspection with my experiences in writing creatively. It only further frustrates my already angry, opinionated mind about the notion that art or poetry conveys some "message," "meaning," or "truth" there to be interpreted. Perhaps the act of interpreting is play for some who require an intellectual prize from all experiences... Maybe they're not wrong, there is wisdom there, transferred indirectly to the participants though (IMO).

Essentially, the point I want to make is this: I see my daughter engaging in make-believe, pretend play, and as a pediatrician I understand the value in this activity. I've recognized in the art I hold dear a sense of fun, play, wildness that is, in spirit, a grown up version of what children do.

In the art I don't love, those qualities - fun, play, wildness - are missing. Art that doesn't pretend isn't art I like; that art is sincere, it's communication, it's "about" something rather than "being" something. If you're art is about life, why view the art when life is all around me - they are part and parcel. National Geographic and Scientific American - about life, no pretending - do not pretend to be art.

And I want to clarify: fun, play, wildness - these things can be deadly serious, though they connote laughter, gaiety, lightheardedness. An elegiac poem, a tragedy - these can be fun, playful, wild - to the MATURE sensibility. Maybe only a mature sensibility will understand my meaning.