of an artistic statement of intent
and a surreal narrative.
was forbidden, and the artist who could
teach it was in exile.”
-Anais Nin, Journals VI,
instinct dictates our duty and the intellect
supplies us with pretexts for evading it.”
-Marcel Proust, A la recherche
du temps perdu, Livre IV
It is my calling to eat of the fruit forbidden in amerika, and to pass my dreams on to a negligent, starved society--starved as it does starve the artist who would feed it a healthy diet of forbidden dreams. Amerika, I shout out visions of sorrow and of joy, of thick-skinned ignorance which approaches evil and of the miraculous brilliance which underpins all of creation. I shall whisper dreams of the men and women who fight for the only world of which they are aware. I shall narrate tales woven from the depths of the subconscious, tales which will amaze and amuse, and perhaps shed light upon the darkness of the day. Hello world, I’m back again. And this time I’ll not shut up until I’ve gained your ear.
It’s not a question of prerogative--it’s simply who I am.
A few years back, when I was deeply immersed in the effort of finding a legitimate profession with which to provide for my daughter, when the artist had allowed himself to be almost totally eclipsed by the student of science, there was an apparent conflict between long held spiritual beliefs and the new scientific beliefs which I was then accepting. This conflict was resolved in a vivid and compelling dream, a dream from which I awoke weeping compassionately.
My daughter and I passed through a department store where all of society displayed its wares. I was shunned by both the salesmen and the customers, and I hurried my daughter through the aisles and to the rear of the store, myself indifferent to the plethora of consumer goods. A large opening in the back wall of the store led into an old cinder block building, messy and in the process of being renovated. This was the home Iwas making for my daughter and myself.
It was not at present a very homey place, being cluttered with construction materials, dirt and debris. The entrance led into a front room which I was slowly transforming into a gallery of scientific displays. Progress was very slow and everything was in disarray. A doorway in the far wall led to another room of similar dimensionswhich was set up as a living area with a small kitchen and a bed. From this room there was a screen door leading outside. Openings on the right side of each room led into the other half of the house, a large hall filled with wreckage which I had not yet made an attempt at ordering.
While we were in the living room some unexpected visitors arrived, friends and acquaintances, all artists and new-age spiritualists whom I had not seen in years. They were accompanied by a black priest and, after looking the building over, they concluded that this house would do very nicely. These visitors then approached me and stated that they would like to open a new church in my house. I protested that I would need all the free space in the building for scientific displays. We argued for a while and I grew more and more agitated.
There were a number of flies buzzing around the outside of the back screen door, some of them quite large. At this point, I noticed the priest approaching the screen door intently. I protested that he would let in the flies. He ignored me and opened it anyway. I ran over and slammed the door but a few flies managed to get inside before it closed. The black priest smiled placidly at my fury, which smile incited me to violence. I beatup the priest until his followers managed to rescue him. They fled from my hues casting disappointed looks at me and making one last plea on behalf of their new church. I chased them out and was very glad to be rid of them. After they had gone, my daughter and I also left the building for a time.
When we returned, I stepped into the front room to find that it had been cleaned up quite nicely, with all of the scientific displays assembled and functioning. I crossed through the gallery, marveling at the wonderful, elaborate displays. In the back room, I found that all my furnishings were neatly arranged on one side, and on the other side were several rows of seats facing a pulpit. The black priest appeared around me, along with my friends, all happy to see that I approved of their work and emanating a lovewhich truly made of this house a home. “You see,” they told me, “there really is room for your scientific displays and for our church too.” I was warmly touched, and began to weep for the love which would find me and aid me in spite of myself. They pointed to curtains which now hung over the doorways leading into the other half of the house and told me not to worry, we would fix up the other room in due time.
My eyes were wet when I woke from this dream, and I found myself in a peaceful state of beatitude which lasted for several days. Thus my scientific endeavors were made possible by my spirituality and my creativity. And yet, I have since discovered that the scientist must confine his spirituality and his creativity to a straitjacket, under the strict supervision of the rational mind. Thus restricted, I could no longer function smoothly and harmoniously; tied up in such a straitjacket, I would surely go insane. Scientists, even at their most eccentric, are imprisoned by their interment at educational institutions. They are forced to think only along certain lines and are tethered quite closely to a specific set of beliefs. When I wrote in paleontology that mollusks express themselves by taking the irritants of life and making of them the seeds about which pearls are formed, one professor’s only comment was, “That’s not true.” Sorry doctor, but the pearl is the clam’s excretion and its statement of existence.
This brings me to the most basic error of all science; how can you hope to attain true knowledge of anything while confining your study to mere mechanics. Your very objectivity prevents you from ever seeing the entire picture. Indigenous peoples, who have a more direct knowledge of nature than any scientist could ever hope to achieve, have always known this. That is why they marvel at western man’s wealth of knowledge and paucity of wisdom.
It is not that I disavow rational, logical thought, but that I recognize that it must be balanced by empathy. Nothing can be truly understood; it must be experienced subjectively to be fully known. Objectivity gives us a name and a physical description, subjectivity gives us the identity. But how can empathy and intuition be trusted? Thescientific mind is skeptical of anything which does not have a tangible basis of logic and fact; supposition is suspect.
Subjectivity must be accepted through faith and trust. And what is science but a system of self-supporting suppositions; any true scientist will tell you there is no such thing as an absolute fact, merely theories supported by observation and experimentation. And theories of physical reality, but there is more to reality than its physical expression and the precepts of science tend to break down when one attempts to look beyond thephysical. Here lies the territory of the artist.
Why, then, my route of the last four years? To understand this, I must look back at my position four years ago when I decided to shelve my writing and study science.
In the first place, it was never my decision to caste off my art entirely, but merely to give it a rest while I looked for a better way to earn my living. I had just finished typing up the manuscript for my fourth novel, and my artistic vision was giving way to post-creative depression. I had achieved such heights of creativity that I wondered if I would ever be able to match them, much less surpass them. My fourth novel, I felt, was a shimmering delight of transcendent beauty. But now that it was finished, I could find no audience with which to share it. For lengthy reasons which I won’t go into here, I had lost contact with the artistic community which had previously supported my endeavors, and I did not look forward to the work of editing and submitting this novel for publication. How many artists have lost their voices for lack of an audience? The gates of creativity had seemed to close, and life was bombarding me with other concerns.
The economy was in the midst of a small recession, and I--as were many others--was having trouble finding employment. I was working a dead end job as a short order cook at a concession stand, and the future appeared to be very bleak. Perhaps I would have managed to write my way out of this mess, but that all of my attention was taken up by the fact that I was soon to be a father.
The responsibilities of impending fatherhood weighed heavily upon me, and I could not see how I might adequately provide for my child as an undiscovered artist. I could find only two paths out of my dilemma: either enter the work force completely and trade my life for a weekly paycheck and benefits, or go to college and train for a career. Even had I been so inclined, my age and work history all but barred me from any job which might provide a living wage. College held an appeal, and I quite simply decided that if I would go to college, then I would study science.
There is another factor that I am forgetting here. Faced with worldwide environmental destruction and internal social degradation, I harbored grave fears (and still do) for the future of civilization and of mankind in general. I wanted a career which would keep me in close contact with nature so that--should this apocalypse ever transpire--I could easily slip into the woods and there wait out the storm. This, more than anything else, is the reason I chose to study geology. And so I set myself upon the course which I have followed for the last four years, until now when I say: no more, this is not taking me where I want to go--where I need to go and must go.
I seek to expose the hypocrisy of our capitalist, authoritarian system. My goal is a blending of waking and dreaming, conscious and subconscious, realism and fantasy, the commonplace and the archetypal, imbued with mythology and drawn with an intensity which will drive the reader onward of itself. And all of this will hopefully elicit a perspective which has vanished from mankind since the rampant spread of western ignorance--or rather a new perspective which combines ignorance and tempers it with the wisdom and spirit of our forgotten past.
This blurring of the lines of distinction produces a prose which is, in and of itself, mind altering, drawing the writer (and hopefully the reader) into different states of consciousness, where the subconscious intrudes into the live-a-day world. And this is precisely what our culture needs; our culture long ago cut itself off from the subconscious, the spiritual, the imagination. And to feed those cravings for the absent depths, we are given an innocuous, commercial pap which rarely strives for anythingmore substantial than diversion. And yet, without the reunion of conscious and subconscious, physical and spiritual, our culture is doomed to extinction and we are doomed to continue rending the fabric which supports us on this planet. It is only through the wedding of waking and dreaming, conscious and unconscious, physical and spiritual that ignorance (ignorance being that which threatens our existence) can be defeated. This is the task of the artist, and this the reason why the artist is shunned by our society. Man is an alcoholic, drunk on ignorance, blinded by denial. And it is for artists to bring to him the cure. And, as any member of AA knows, you cannot helpanyone until she is ready to be helped. Would we truly rather face an apocalypse of our own design, as opposed to opening ourselves to the rest of creation?
the melding of conscious and subconscious
as a base
upon which can be displayed
the whole man,
and through which can be illustrated
the full miracle
of our creation.
It has to be done
and it will
it is time
for us to open
The day is come
when we must
that we live in a world
of our own design.