The sentences in this short blog should be read as miniature mystery stories that do not understand what they are saying or what they are chasing, and that refuse to be solved.
Often words are abandoned on the streets. Dancers leave footprints. A shadow falls on a woman’s flesh. “Thoughts,” Ludwig muttered on that small boat drifting away from Bertrand enroute to Iceland in order to release Ludwig from the grasp of his elders and gain the freedom to think without the distractions of the city, “thoughts so alive that they have an architecture of their own.”
The trick with curiosity is to refuse to follow. The following, that which comes after this which comes before, is following of the sort that is never following. I knew a man who walked across the desert in worn out shoes, but never left a trace. It’s what a sentence can do.
Most people think that seeing is believing. They will say that they would not have believed something had they not seen it with their “own” eyes, as if they own their own personal way for seeing. But the simple truth is: the more you think you know, the less you see.
And the more important, and unfortunate, truth is: Believing is seeing, not seeing is believing.
Seeing is believing is merely a cliché we resort to as if we had the courage to see without a deep-rooted fear of uncertainty, as if we had the intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual wherewithal to abandon knowledge and see. What is philosophy after all? A desire to approach pure immanence. Or empirical homelessness. This is not a question, was it?
We must remind ourselves daily that believing is seeing so that we can disturb ourselves into a way of seeing that is free from what we believe before we see what we see, or before we saw what we saw, which is/was there only without us seeing it.
In our daily habitual practice of seeing, we already, a priori, believe in what we see prior to seeing what we claim to see because our language for understanding traps us inside a basement where language makes familiar the unfamiliar. And since believing is seeing, we cannot begin to see until we discover ways to begin to forget. We must unnerve seeing. Most of us, however, are too terrified to forget the name of what we see or the name for what we feel or the name for what we think, because we are afraid we will look stupid, or we fear that we will become lost.
Just think of all that we could see if we are not constrained by conventions or habits. Get rid of your ego, and see, baby, see. We are imprisoned. We cannot see things as they are. We only see things as we are. Anais Nin whispers from afar.
Be stupid. Get lost.
No artist has a special gift. No artist is original. These are lies. Every artist is insanely passionate and curious and needs to be disobedient. Every artist knows that curiosity is hard work, backbreaking work. Originality is replaced with discipline. If there is any such thing as originality, it is not in saying something that no one else has ever said before, but in saying exactly what we think ourselves.
And talent? No, not talent—infinite patience. We must teach this infinite patience to ourselves in a world gone mad with love for speed and instant gratification.
Like me, Faulkner believed in the muse of creativity. And that muse comes every morning at 6 am whether it wants to or not. An artist cannot wait to be inspired. An artist works to be inspired and work generates more work. But, I also believe in daydreaming.
Hold a vision steady and long so that you can look into something instead of merely looking at something. See into it so that language becomes confused, exhausted, meaningless. Go to those places that resist language.
An assignment for the week:
Make a list of all the crazy things you thought about as a child. Go ahead. I will wait for you to come back.
Remember the things that bewildered you, the things that you found marvelous, the things that made adults respond to you by saying “because”, as a way of silencing your desires.
(Parents should be punished for using the word “because”. That gentle word has damaged children for centuries, and adults use that word when they really want to say: “Shut up and stop being so curious. You’re driving me crazy.” And the reason the adult, usually a parent looking out for a child’s best interest, is going crazy is that everyday, because of the way that they have chosen to live their lives, they are forced to confront the reality that they are no longer curious. That nothing is miraculous to them any longer. They are merely paying bills or taking out the garbage.
They no longer think about time and space. About why, when it has rained for so many eons, the earth has not simply eroded away, or how they do not drown when their body is 50 to 65% water or what really happens to your skin when rain falls onto it. They no longer wonder. )
Our souls suffer when we live superficially. Our souls breaks. They simply shatter into a million tiny pieces.
To see the soul of something is to devote yourself to being with whatever it is that you are looking at. This requires a childish understanding of time, an extended sense of time. A sense that goes beyond the ways that adults have for measuring time.
Seeing requires an unnerving endurance of patience and uncertainty.
To get to the seen, we must bypass the imagined, the already known. Too often, if we are careless, we look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there, what we have been conditioned to expect. Stop projecting. Stop labeling. Stop categorizing. And break on through to the unspeakable shadows with a clarity that makes visible the shadow beneath the shadow. Have you ever watched a child trying to lift a shadow from a sidewalk?
I have met people who are more interested in, and excited by, something called Game of Thrones than they are fascinated by the skin cells falling off their bodies onto the carpet of their “living” room as they watch someone on television (or on any screen) entertain them. Instead of wondering who they are becoming as these skin cells fall of their bodies making a mess of everything, these people remain unconscious, consuming flickering images that mirror who they want us to be. (These people [the ones who consume entertainment designed to define them] are not my friends, but they do exist.) Because if skin cells are falling off our bodies (and they truly are) then every human being must be like Theseus’ ship, and that, my dear fellow human beings, is pretty cool. And imagine what would happen if all these skin cells commingle and rise from the carpets of our homes.
Or imagine trying to discover who you are now that your original skin cells have fallen off you. Where did the real me go? And when did the real me fall away so that I became the flesh that I am now? And which one is the real me? The pile of skin cells on the carpet, or this flesh on my bones?