Curious, to see this thing I’ve worn for 30+ years… Who made it? Why so tight? Why the rough rope? It’s ingenious, actually. There’s a pull cord I see that will jab thumbtacks into my backside when I’m slowing down, and simultaneously tighten the collar around my neck… added incentive to get through the last 10% of every project?
I recognize that this harness was designed by me, however unconsciously, from the inherited protestant ethic of Work as Suffering. Life is work, therefore (inevitably) Life is Suffering. Extrapolated: If you don’t suffer, you’re not working hard enough. This idea can take the joy right out of any task – even if it’s your highest calling. It can in the extreme lead to the wearing of hair shirts, to self-flagellation, martyrdom/victimhood, the false rationalization of the need to live like a starving artist …
To be clear – I’ve had a super-productive, satisfying time since April, when I began work on the #Selfie project. It’s been an experience full of engagement, surprise, transformation – rich with reward on every level. I also met my harnessed self full-on several times, too, and recognized someone driven in a way that is not healthy.
With several new projects on the table now – each one full of promise, potential and fascination, I find myself wondering about this. As I take the breath one takes before diving in, I wonder
Do I really need the thumbtacks?
Does it need to come to suffering and self-denial, this finishing?
Must it be a battle, every time?
At the very least I need to radically alter the design. To find and use material that I like – softer, padded. No thumbtacks, no injectors full of anxiety, no neck collar. Maybe it should be more like a well-crafted tool that will help me to pull a heavier load.
Or maybe the work isn’t heavy, and I don’t need a harness at all.
This is quite a thought.
Maybe I just need to change my mind.
This is exciting. So is 2014-2015. So many neato, challenging collaborative and solo projects ahead. So many Incredibles to work and play with. Without suffering for any of it.
So, Honoured Protestant Ancestors. What you lived and suffered in protest to is no longer life-threatening; the ethic no longer applies in any way that’s healthy and life-affirming. Sleep in peace, with big smiles. Grins, even.
“If you bring forth the genius within you it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.”
– Jesus, gnostic Gospel of Thomas (which didn’t make it into the bible. Too bad.)
Open-faced and shovel-sore, I stare out the window at a thousand-thousand demons of whirling, whipped snow. I think about beauty, and the job of art.
If there can be a line we take towards healing the terrible distortions of our belief systems, I think it must be drawn by artists. There can be no measured, scientific path through the strata of abuses we have inflicted upon ourselves for generations – it must come from a place of feeling and listening and responding.
Artists, writers, composers, musicians, actors, directors, curators, editors, publishers, conductors are by nature steeped in the human mystery, and of necessity highly skilled in creative problem-solving. These are the people who need to serve here – to acknowledge our collective rage, our worry, our sorrow and our sense of betrayal, and to answer with compassionate, edgy work that stirs the pot.
The fig plant leans like love toward the light.
I admire this plant and do my best to encourage its growth, but as I observe it in the pause of today I hear deep-embedded, unbidden moral whisperings: The forbidden fruit of knowledge. Nakedness and shame. Banishment from Eden. Original Sin.
The Holy Roman Church has a lot to answer for – including the pirating of a fig leaf’s raison d’etre, and the placing of said moral reference in my mind. But the more nefarious cultural distortion is far far worse – must we – is it in ANY way appropriate and helpful that we should be so ashamed of our own naked selves?
How much damage has this caused – this shame of being who we are? How can we accomplish anything of value if at the core we believe have no goodness of our own? Early in my life I read about and far preferred the material written by the early Gnostics, who were persecuted by the Church because they felt that God resides within each of us, and our true purpose in life is to understand ourselves in this context. Elaine Pagels is a good source for this discussion – see “The Gnostic Gospels” here
These moral seeds of unworthiness and shame have been sown deeply, and have more roots than we can imagine. To present just one example of many, permit me to ask how the Church of Scientology could even pretend to exist if the Holy Roman Church had not preceeded it?
I just watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” (excellent UK review here), then dug a little more into YouTube for recordings of L.Ron Hubbard, South Park’s explanation of the Scientology core belief system, and some interviews with current Scientology Leader’s niece who has defected, thereby breaking her billion-year contract with the church which she signed at age 7. Said neice and others who have gone clear of Scientology report that the Church sells it’s prospective members the idea of true individuality and success but relies upon strict and often violently reinforced rules of conformity. Keep your members weak and fearful and make sure they toe the line. A proven formula.
It’s incredible what large numbers of people can believe in if they are compelled and taught early enough, or if they are desperately lost in addiction and need help – that the birth mother of Jesus was a virgin, for example, and Mary Magdalene was not one of the apostles (even though she authored a gospel) she was just a prostitute. If you suspend your belief, just for a moment, it’s interesting to wonder where these ideas came from.
Even if you provide ample room for miracles, which do happen, the biographical treatment of Eve, Mary and Mary (not to mention the horror of the witch hunts) speaks to an attitude towards women by the old Christian Church which is decidedly short-sighted and …. abusive, shall we say? So how does this play out, over 2013 + years?
I look at a fig plant…..
We are all of us increasingly culpable and exposed in the blight of industrial wastelands, in the hypocrisy and greed of the Big Bank Boys and their Corporate/Political allies. In the stories of people with mental illness who live anonymously on the street or in closets, who inexplicably fail at school, who are incarcerated after being pushed beyond their limits – we recognize our own bewildered selves.
It’s hard to look, but it has nothing to do with shame, though maybe that’s what got us here. Love, now – and compassion holds some promise. I do think Jesus had many things right, depending of course on which version of the bible you’re reading – see Elaine Pagels on the Gospel of Thomas (the Doubter? or maybe just a healthy skeptic), which was NOT included in the Biblical texts (Beyond Belief – the Secret Gospel of Thomas)…
I’m glad for this snow day. Glad for the whirling demons outside, the fig tree and the wood fire that warms my back, and the time to layer these ideas one over the other & watch which questions emerge. It has inspired me to write dangerous poetry. To continue to make art that is slightly uncomfortable and looks straight in the eye of forbidden questions. To play play play music with all the beautiful rage and rebel that I can muster…
So happy Friday, all. Sad for you if you didn’t get a snow day. I hope you get one soon.