Monday, September 21, 2009

Reflection: Creation in Silence and Solitude

When silence knocks at your door in your deep-sea solitude, will you answer it and let it enter and seep into the core of your being? Or will you thrash about and spurn the terrifying loneliness that it brings to your solitude? “For the memories themselves are not important,” writes Rilke, “Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves – only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.”

Memories. Do they not constitute the material with which we mold ourselves and create something out of ourselves? And is it not the breadth of experience that defines the scope of our lives and gives us that rich depth from which we draw our inspiration? Why, then, am I shut up in this small apartment, far from life and all its inexhaustible experiences, and dwelling among the dead, in the imaginary realities of poets and writers? Why are you not plunging yourself into the swift current of life? Why are you not— living? Or are you gazing down into yourself, probing what has just happened in your life, and trying to make sense of it all – all, that is, of a mere 22 years?

But listen to the wise man: “Present experience has,” Nietzsche writes, “always found us ‘absent-minded’: we cannot give our hearts to it – not even our ears! Rather, as one divinely preoccupied and immersed in himself into whose ear the bell has just boomed with all its strength the twelve beats of noon suddenly starts up and asks himself: ‘what really was that which just struck?’ so we sometimes rub our ears afterward and ask, utterly surprised and disconcerted, ‘what really was that which we have just experienced?’ and moreover: ‘who are we really?’ and, afterward as aforesaid, count the twelve trembling bell-strokes of our experience, our life, our being – and alas! miscount them. – So we are necessarily strangers to ourselves, we do not comprehend ourselves, we have to misunderstand ourselves, for us the law ‘Each is farthest from himself’ applies to all eternity – we are not ‘men of knowledge with respect to ourselves.”

Yes, so who am I really? Is that what am I asking and seeking? My “Self”? Let me reflect back to the time when I was still callous and immature, arrogant and clueless, and think – in retrospect – who I was. And who was I, other than what those four telling words reveal? No, self-search is not the point, not the point at all.

Rather, I am engaged in creating something out of all that past, setting aside for the moment if this act would “justify” that heap of memories, that pulp of experience. Creation requires attention and concentration; it requires, moreover, sacrifice, or more precisely the sacrifice of everything present and ordinary.

The budding and burgeoning of this little plant I am nourishing with my past requires my turning-in and turning-to the future (which amounts to my turning-away from the present) is known and understood by so many artists. What I impart in this plant whose flowers and fruit remain hidden from me, is the cry of loneliness, that species of human experience that echoes back throughout the history of art. And it is this cry that seeps out of the text and leaps up to the minds of the readers. An emptiness. Do I feel it? That whatever is permeating through your work and your life amounts to nothing? That your work is only – no, not even – a tiny molecule in the sea of creativity? I do feel it – or think I do – just underneath my soles, throbbing with menacing pulse. If someone were to push me ever gently, I’d fall into this abyss of nothingness. I stand on a fragile and dangerous ground – so thin, so tiny, so high.

Carve out that part of your experience that calls you to take it up in your hands. Carve it out and lay it in front of your eyes – can you do that? Comb through your past, sift it, shake it, and see if you can find any gems glittering in the dirt. Can you find them? Those diamonds of your experience, buried deep inside the mantle of your existence, exposed to the pressure of all that past. Can you find them, cut them, and polish them into round brilliant cut?

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