The Soul Tends to Soar (After the Fall)
You're going to have to forgive me if I seem rusty, it's been a little while since I've done this.
I've included no quotes at the beginning like I used to, not that I won't again in the future, but on this particular night that sort of thing strikes me as kind of a crutch.
I write a piece, try to define a concept, an idea personal to me, and begin by hobbling around on the words of another writer, or musician sometimes, who essentially already said what I want to say, maybe even better. It doesn't exactly strike me as a firm exercise in creativity, or self-confidence for that matter.
So I'll be doing none of that, as much as I want to try your patience with long quotations from the Dostoevsky I've been reading. Or needlessly catch you in the snares of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds lyrics, who I've been listening to almost nonstop for the past two weeks and naturally assume that anyone I talk to will be as unreasonably enthusiastic about as I am.
This particular entry I've fashioned as more of a conversation piece, one-sided as it may be, between me, the writer, and you, the reader. An honest dialogue, or a monologue that plays at being one anyway, without all the usual pageantry or lyricism I generally truss these affairs up with.
I've always liked Haruki Murakami after all, who, all weirdness aside, writes generally pretty straight-forward prose, Dostoevsky did too. Writing like that reminds me of old blues records from the early part of the last century; Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, and later on John Lee Hooker, who I especially like. It loses me once it gets into that electric heavy phase, essentially when white people got privy to it and missed much of the point, for years and years.
The music and lyrics were raw and straight to the point, but beautifully executed, the mastery with which Hooker made that wood and those strings sing baffles me. Watching his hand move across the neck of his guitar was complete madness, but there was something so elegant about it, like he'd found some synchronicity with the rhythm of the universe while he played. Like the Hindu deity Krishna, transcending the illusory complications of the material dimension with his dance and flute playing, attuned to the beat and tempo of the cosmic totality.
This is what art gives us, some sense of the spark of creation, and when we respond to the inner voice in our execution of it, the soul tends to soar. As if your breath is tied to the greater whole, through cosmic entanglement, cause-and-effect, or some inexplicable metaphysical bond. When you work, whether it be in writing, painting, music, drama, or dance, you're trying to find this hidden rhythm, somewhere inside, and the moments where you reach it are like burst periods of zen.
I'm still trying to figure out exactly how all that applies to me, and how I can execute it in my writing. I want simplicity, but resonance, not a wasted word, but the words can spiral in magnificent cartwheel-like sentences and reveal something true, true at least to me.
I get the sense we're living in a time where everything is crumbling. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I've crumbled more than a few times in recent months, weeks, days, and in the process I've learned things about myself, which I can apply to my life in the future. If I'd had a worse attitude, I would've rolled over, let the rubble bury me. But I chose to learn from those moments, where the structure gives and sways, falling to earth, all of our Babels and houses of cards.
Technology for example is deconstructing all art, all film, literature, and music, they're being forced to re-adapt and evolve into an entirely new context. In the process, a good deal of each art-form's history is wiped out.
This used to cause me some distress. Theaters closing, books going digital, musical instruments synthesized by computer programs, the steam-roller of techno-futurism flattening everything I know, and am sentimental about, in its wake and leaving a blank slate for whatever comes next. The whole plane of human interaction reset, the deck reshuffled. All of the industries dovetailing towards collapse in bounding increments; music, print, film, these steep and jagged red lines plummeting down a graph.
Zero-history. That's where we'll be restarting from, all human knowledge collected online and yet largely eschewed for newer, faster means of communication. But, again, maybe it isn't all bad, maybe it's an incredible opportunity.
I was at the Get Lit event the other night at Valley Bar, put on by Four Chambers, it was a discussion on the massively successful poet Rupi Kaur. Who started out on Instagram, and eventually became a best selling author in print. One of those involved in the discussion had been studying the phenomena of Instagram poetry for the past few years, and she had said that the interesting thing about this group of poets is how they learn from one another. That they acquire the kinds of technical skills that one would in a creative writing class in a university. That they not only workshop and critique one another's work, but improve in the process.
Meaning that the gate-keepers of knowledge in academia are being replaced by a new system, which will develop and improve upon the old skills in radically new ways, totally independent of the institution. It no longer matters if you've read the short-list of required classics, most of which I love by the way, the list will be thrown out and replaced by something else. And we will arrive at the same conclusions naturally and then progress beyond them, without the baggage of a previous cultural epoch. Refresh and restart.
It's not that Dostoevsky or Shakespeare will cease to exist or matter in the hearts and minds of readers and writers, it just means that we could be entering a new age, where they don't have to. And unshackled from the institutions, which funneled knowledge and expression through their approved pathways, we might return to the same spark that ignited the old spirit in the first place and caused these names to echo so long throughout the historic record. We're just picking up the ball where it landed and tossing it further ahead, with all of our might.
All cultural and artistic revolutions began as deviations from the norm, from the established structure. That's what life is, and indeed the universe, a constant process of change.