I continue to explore with my camera. My friend Erik needed some shots, so we went and took some. Totally fun. I could have used more fill light at times, but still… Anybody else need some photos?
I keep experimenting. I’ve been posting these over at my Tumblr. Follow over there if you’d like.
So I’ve been experimenting with various ideas about what to do with the tetrameter that I’ve been writing each morning for over two years. For the moment, I’ve decided to pull fragments out and create panels experimenting with text and texture. I’ve got lots to learn visually, but it feels like there’s potential here.
I’ll be posting most of these over on tumblr, but I’ll be dropping them off here as well. Would love feedback.
Admittedly, this next one’s dense and hard to read. Click on it to enlarge it.
Creative stuff on the move…
I posted a question on my Facebook page this morning: “When you hear the word delight, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?” Not unexpectedly, the winners were things related to children, laughter, music, and culinary treats. And “Turkish.”
I experienced something this week that has me thinking more seriously about this seemingly airy notion.
Delight. It’s not something I seek out intentionally. I’m known as a serious guy who champions beauty, but in a capital “B” sort of way. Serious stuff, you know.
I think I may have something wrong here. Or at least unbalanced.
If someone were to ask your advice in moving delight closer to the center of their attention, what strategies would you give them?
Last Tuesday night, having been inspired by the Academy Awards, Anjie and I decided we’d watch one of the nominated/winning films, most likely via Comcast. We’re thinking 12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club. So I’m sitting there with my remote, punching away, looking at choices, and somehow, I inadvertently hit a combination of buttons I didn’t intend to, and next thing you know, the little window appeared saying “Thank you for your order.”
In a panic, I couldn’t figure out what I’d ordered, and frankly wasn’t very happy about it. Six bucks for something I didn’t intend to buy. It took me a minute to figure out I’d ordered up the compilation of animated short films nominated for the Academy Award. Well, close enough, I thought, and though animation is not my wife’s favorite, after I’d apologized profusely, we settled in to see if there might possibly be something worth watching in these little cartoons.
The first film up was a French film, Mr. Hublot, about a man who takes in an orphan puppy and the lightweight difficulties that come when the dog begins to grow. Simple story, simple characters.
My heart leapt from the very first frame.
Truth is, my mood’s been a bit sour lately. Trust me, you don’t want to hear about it. But suddenly, it was as if the sun had come out, bursting my cloudy world into full shine as this brilliantly executed steampunk city came whirling into my living room. Cogs and counters, wires and whirlygigs, bolts and buckets—the whole design was…well, delightful.
What struck me later was that this simple story delivered in this very particular way in one moment swept the sourness right off my face and out of my mind. My mouth opened in proverbial slack-jawed, wowie-zowie wonder. I laughed from my belly, I leaned forward in my chair, I clapped my hands, and as the other animated films spun out in front of me, I kept thinking, “Wow. Just wow.” Color, wit, hours of work, the risk of the sheer thought of the subjects, the structures and execution, all coming together in a moment to lift this 54-year-old out of my depressive chair.
Yes, the films ended, and life went on, and there are still clouds hovering. But when I think of Mr. Hublot, I smile and see the sun every time.
If delight has that kind of power, I wonder why “delight-carriers” are not intentionally closer to the center of my attention.
A couple of questions: does “delight” have that kind of power in your life? If someone (me) were to ask your advice in moving an intentional pursuit of delight closer to the center of things, what strategies would you give them?
Why do I write?
Popular wisdom says to “start with the end in mind.” So often, I write without much of an end in mind at all. I start from where I am, the movement of forces inside me, and work out from there. Usually, it begins with a scan of attention across my inner landscape, which includes the mood of the day, the emotional weather, the intellectual teasings that are rising out of the gray fog of sleep and waking. Perhaps thoughts of writing itself come along, or political issues nudge me, fussing at me to get busy. Theological musings, poetic flashes, or theatrical ideas begging to be wrought into plays—all of these, like unruly children starving for affection, grab at me, hassle me as I sit poised to write. It’s a pick and choose sort of affair, the plucking of notions and ideas on which to put my attention at the start of the session.
Attention is a limited good, and the phrase “pay attention” has always meant to me that there is a cost to directing my gaze intentionally toward this or that. Looking in one direction means turning your back on another. This is hard. The inner life and the exterior worlds are spheres of colossal possibility and attraction, and the fact our limits bind us is so frustrating. Nothing new there, of course—you no doubt feel it. It took years, but I think I’ve finally resigned myself to these limitations, convinced that frames are good things. They keep us from flying into nothingness, allowing order to rise in at least one small part of our world.
So I scan my internal horizons and inevitably begin to turn my attention outward, letting the external world invade. In ever-expanding concentric circles, beginning with the closest to my skin, I begin to see my world one sensation at a time, letting my senses receive what they will, as if warming up to the practice of noticing. A bird’s single note call, the steam from the cup at my right hand, the gradients of shadow as they spill across the clutter of my desk, or the thickness of my tongue as it flicks about, trying to catch the last slip of sweetness from my sipping. And then a suggestion comes from one of those images, a felt response of emotional connection, perhaps with memory or hope. As if chancing on a special, rare penny on a neighborhood walk, I pick up the thought and carry it awhile, turning it over and over, and it perhaps leads me to more coin, and the internal walk, so surrounded by the external world, becomes a place wherein I can remember what it means to breathe, and look, and renew.
A note: this “why I write” is not meant to be exhaustive. I have other “whys,” certainly. Sometimes it’s a specific communication, some justice question I’m wrestling with, or a particular person that’s grabbed me by the imaginative throat and said, “Look at me.” And obviously, specific forms like plays and novels don’t yield their results by means of all this moment-to-moment wandering around. How I wish they did. But I will say that what I’m describing here, this “get up and meet the world” first through the warming up of attention and imaginative sensation, is the first move behind almost everything.
One other thing…thankfulness. Somewhere in my daily practice of writing, to which I seem to be applying the metaphor of the neighborhood walk, I usually (though not always) find a moment when I feel the world and my spirit begin to lift, as if light was pouring in after a good spring rain, and I stop the walk, stop the scanning of landscape. Standing still, I close my eyes and bask, grateful for whatever it is I’m standing in, and whoever is here standing with me. For I do sense a Presence, and perhaps it’s just a story I tell myself, the result of enculturation and my need to not be alone, but still…the Presence is there. I generally refer to that Presence as Father (sometimes lately, as Mother, too), and think of him as God, and why such a being would deem a walk with me worth his time, I don’t know. But since I was young, this Presence and I have been on these walks together, and I think, in the end, when all is said and done, this is why I write.
Here, and in all my other creative endeavors, is where I’m most likely to get a glimpse of what my Father is wanting to show me. Teaching me, one day at a time, one word at a time, how to see.
It may not be the best “why I write” out there, but for now, it’s mine…
I’ve read several times not to blog about your blogging. Cardinal sin, that, mostly because people want to know how to do things: how to achieve bliss, how to find happiness, how to discover God or orgasms or the next big thing, each of them in five easy steps (or less). And a blogger talking about his blogging is going to pretty much torpedo any of those enterprises. Not helpful. Not helpful.
So what might be the worth of me admitting that I’m a little bi-polar (this is a metaphor, just to be clear–irony intended) given that there are times when I literally sit in a stupor at my computer, staring (though thankfully there’s been no drool yet), and then next day, I rush at the work of the day with the energy of a terrier, pounding at my keyboard like a literary Rachmaninoff? I surf, I troll, I read, I research. I fall in love with Tweetdeck, then Flipboard, then Hootsuite, then some piece of theological or aesthetic writing that makes my head explode, and then I’m off to hang out with my latest writing project (eighth draft of a play entering its third year of work), my camera (I have pictures to post, but I don’t for some reason), some random piece of poetry or music I’m preparing for who knows what reason, and finally, I run to my wife, who thankfully, blessedly, interacts with me in ways these other things just don’t.
So no, this post is not about blogging; its about process. I just need to start tossing out a thought or two without worrying too much about things. I used to yearn to be insightful in some unique and brilliant way, or at least a bit linear so people can follow along, but these days, I can barely get from A to B, much less from A to wherever else A might want to go out past K or L. Nope, the world is doing quite nicely, thank you very much, without any insight on my part, and that will continue to be the case. The world in which we live is a spinning top whipping along in dizzying rounds, and I count myself fortunate to just catch mundane glimpses of beauty, sense, and rational thought as best I can, and chat about them over coffee. The spinning is its own kind of post-modern lovely, though frankly, the sensation-slapping overview doesn’t tell me much about how to go about living a good life, a godly life, or for that matter, a life of love, which I think, in the end, is the point.
So throw hands up in the air, and get to it, I say. A little subject here, a little commentary there, and the ongoing confession that I don’t know much and have a bad case of what Francis Spufford calls in his great book Unapologetic, the “Human Propensity to Fuck Things Up” or HPtFtU for short, (yes, a Rubicon has been crossed, I suppose—never liked the “f” word, and still don’t particularly, but there it is). And–full disclosure– I continue to wish (I’m hanging my head, Mark Demel) I was a big deal of some kind. Will God ever save me from that stupid, ongoing, moronic idea? Well, maybe not, so I’d better just get rid of it myself.
Halting starts at sharing my process as I try to figure things out is all I’ve got. You can join in as long as you don’t get nasty about it. I need to talk about God and how not to talk about him (Peter Rollins), about the HPtFtU (see above), all manner of sexual things (breaking out in a sweat now), and theology and Jesus and art and church-going and non-church going and all the ways in which I’ve got to figure out how to move forward into the kind of life I think I was maybe born for. It’s a life I can see from here…sort of…and yes, I know, I know, it’s all a story I tell myself anyway. But all I know is…it’s time to go. Time to get on with it. Join in the fun if you’d like. Just don’t bother getting nasty about it. I’m pretty sure all my readers (both of them) know more than me, so I’ll be looking forward to being instructed. But know this–I’m all about civil conversation, and haven’t got a thick enough skin to really deal with people virtually shouting at me. I have enough trouble when people do it in person. So please, have mercy. Oh, shoot…say what you want. Maybe I’ll take a page from Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology (One of the great blogs on the planet, if you don’t know about it) and post the best of the worst, foul-mouthed comments, and we’ll all have a go at deconstructing them. I’m not sure I’m that brave. But we’ll see.
I’m sure curious about a lot of things. Confused, perplexed, even tormented. I’ll see if I can come up with a list of questions (I’ve done that before) that we can all salivate over. Of course, huge swaths of the planet are quite sure about the answers to each and every one of them. Which is a relief. Sort of. Well, not really.
Okay, that’s done. Said and done. A first step. That’s enough. Back to work.
Time to speak…