Monday, March 21, 2011

Eshu threw a stone yesterday; it killed a bird today


By Brian George

Section 5 from the Reality Sandwich forum for “Memories of Mr. Trippi; The Trauma of an Urban Shaman”

Hi Dave (Hanson),

“You wrote, “So as you step in and out of the implicate order I can only suggest looking at your intention, honing your control, looking for opportunities to heal others, and seriously questioning everything you experience on the journey. I would like your writing more if it was more simple and direct, but that is me. I don't know that just because something comes to us from ‘the spirits’ it is any more meaningful than the sound of the toilet flushing. I'm surrounded by people who 'see things.' I don't understand the underlying meanings of most of it, so I plant more vegetables.

“My dog died. I miss him. I can feel his body under my hand. My wife is working too hard and worries too much. I have a broken ankle and hate crutches. I can't do what I love to do and when I'm back on my feet I'll waste precious time. A Native American spirit showed me a painting I am supposed to do, over twenty years ago, and I haven't done it.

“…Can your visions help heal another? That's all there is.”

To me, writing is a yogic discipline of consciousness, as well as a form of ecstatic flight. Appearances to the contrary, I do attempt to take the reader with me as I go.

In a number of traditions—Hinduism and Lukumi come to mind—an “obstacle” is not different from a “gateway," and energy, by being frustrated, is not necessarily decreased. Quite the opposite may occur. As—my uncooperative victim—you will see! Beloved. Trap set by the Daemon. You who once cut my throat.

Fate has overdetermined every symbol and event. By what strange alchemy does the Self become the Other? What language is spoken by the story that creates us, and that we in turn create?

Perhaps the image that confronts us is a lie; the meaning that first presents itself might very well be at odds with the deeper implications. We do not know what the action is that we being asked to perform; and it seems impossible that we should act on what we do not understand. Just so. Exactly. When faced with an ultimatum, we must “stop the world”—in Castaneda’s phrase—if only for a moment, as we figure out what to do. A small grain of anxiety disrupts the clockwork of our consciousness. This is the function of “difficulty” in a dense and symbolic style; an essay can be as labyrinthine as a dream.

The way In is the way Out. The way Around is the way Through. The way Forward is the way Back.

Eshu, the Yoruba trickster, creates obstacles, which we must then petition the “Orishas," or “gods," to remove"”—thereby necessitating an exchange of gifts, which our relative ignorance and lack of power keeps in motion. Ganesh, the Vedic elephant god, is also called “Vignesvara”, the "Lord of Obstacles.” The rat, his vehicle, is often viewed as a manifestation of desire—in which aspect it both creates and gnaws away at obstacles. Ganesh makes no attempt to kill or remove it, since, without it, he would have no way to get around.

People often say, “You would make more friends and influence more people if you did not use so much figurative language. I appreciate what you are doing, but it bores me. Is there some reason that you can’t just say what you mean?” One could just as easily argue: That a labyrinth would be a better path if you took out all the twists and turns. But then again, it would no longer be a labyrinth. If the goal is to get from point A to point B, then we should no doubt travel as quickly as we can; of course, point A will look no different than point B, and, if it does, then we will be too busy to notice.

We must carefully remove the two hands of the clock. The most fateful means of transport may be also the least direct.

We live in a culture in which prose is dominant. We think in sound bites, and expect all communication to be immediately transparent. If we are simple-minded, we tend to believe that all earlier cultures were even simpler than our own, forgetting how intimately language, sound, myth, and symbol must collaborate as they are woven into a living form.

Most poets take the rebelliousness of language as a given; it exists as a semi-independent being, which makes demands. Each symbol is like a “koan”—the person who first hears of it is not the same as the one who will understand it. Rilke wrote, of the archaic torso of Apollo, “For there is no part that does not see you. You must change your life.” Like a woman trapped inside the body of a man, who must learn, by stealth technology, to survive, poets learn to clothe their deeper intuitions in linear narrative or abstract prose.

In “Memories of Mr. Trippi; The Trauma of an Urban Shaman," as in much of my other work, I have attempted to have it both ways: The style navigates between the Scylla of the oracular and the Charybdis of the real, between the altered state that is poetry and the window that is prose—each speech mode helping to counterbalance the limitations of the other.

Yet I believe that poetry can more closely approximate the shock of a primal encounter with the Numinous.


(Illustration: Brian George, The Passageways of the Egg, photogram, 2004)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Writer's Block

By James Curcio

The problems facing writers have nothing to with writer's block. Not in my experience. Not ever. Sure, there are days where the "juice isn't flowing." Many "pro writer" blogs will tell you to push through those dry spells. I say they have no idea what they're talking about. If you're obsessed with writing, you'll be back on the horse soon and right now you need a trip to the beach or fuck your brains out or sip single malt scotch or, just stop writing for a minute and live, will you? Maybe take some time to focus on your concepts, your plot structure, your characters. Watch a show you like. Anything but forcing yourself to write as if it's a chore that's really going to benefit you if you kick your ass and squeeze out 500 words. 

Being "a writer" has nothing to do with 5 step plans, and it has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that no matter what you do, you find yourself time and again back at the pad, or the keyboard. You want to Get rich? Become an architect or a lawyer. A famous tennis star. Write some gibberish about the Concordance of Elaisch or some other random medieval tome in your spare time, for yourself. I don't care, and neither will anyone else. 

Sweat blood, write persistently for days and years, publish...and it's possible that still no one will care. I have reached that much desired, much feared position of having people - not just friends, in fact anyone but my friends tells me this - tell me that my work has changed their lives. They "love" my work, or "I really liked your original work. What you're doing now? Not so much." I have reached thousands, tens of thousands of people with my work, and I'll be honest, half the time, I still feel like a failure. But it's got nothing to do with writer's block. (And the other half of the time I'm a rock star from Mars, so it comes out in the wash.) 

I'll shake my head at those that think my first published work was my best, but my point is, if my life was just writing, I still wouldn't be making a living at it. I dream of that. I dream of writing and creating characters and worlds that are turned into comics and movies, and having absolutely no other financial concerns. To collaborate with teams, to be able to choose them and not have collaborators drop off the planet ever couple weeks because a higher paying job cropped up or their electric was shut off. That is my dream. The Dream, to create and collaborate without waging a constant war against this invented world of dollars and cents, which represents a very real world of material goods that writers and creators need as much as anyone. I've literally seen people, friends and collaborators, drop off the map as I've said, they've died, people close to them have died, some pretty harsh obstacles have arisen, some of which were overcome, some of which couldn't be. Never one did a co-writer or artist come to me and say, "sorry man, I've just got this writer's block." (No, that's not true. Sometimes they do, but I talk to them for a few minutes and sure enough the truth is they have plenty of ideas, they were just stuck on this idea that they had writer's block and had nothing to write about, when it was really all around them. Sometimes that's my "job," to remind people that they're surrounded by inspiration.) 

But the fact that I've already reached tens of thousands of people in the process of learning my craft, in the process of discovering my voice -- that's an ongoing process, by the way, and should never stop or you're dead in the water even if you sell a million copies after that point. Maybe that's a form of success, even if it's so easy to overlook when you're still wondering how you're going to pay your rent next month. Landlords don't take traffic stats in payment, and traffic stats still don't, in my experience, easily translate into ad revenue or sales. 

But writer's block? No. Never. Writer's block is just life telling you to live a little more and come back soon. Come back when you have something new. And if you never come back, what were you doing writing in the first place? 

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.