Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Long Curve of Descent: Excerpts from Forum

Brian George

In the forum for “The Long Curve of  Descent,” my new piece on Metapsychosis, John Dockus commented on the final paragraph, which reads as follows: “All periods cohere in the one moment of my Memory. With a shock, one notes that the old becomes new. By the power of my austerities I have vacuumed up all of the water from the ocean. Cities shine there. I am Death—the Shatterer of Worlds. My weapon liberates multitudes.”

Among other things, John wrote, “That ending is extraordinary, with not just the appearance of Death, but the audacious embodying of it by the poet, who perhaps intoxicated by its power dares to proclaim, “I am Death--the Shatterer of Worlds.” Looking beyond Death and its ominous shadow, and suddenly seeing cities shining is startling, which seems to signal that Death is all-leveling and all-consuming but still finite and limited, and possesses a double movement, not only toppling and killing, bringing to an end, but also clearing and preparing the way for new beginnings.

I responded:

That leap into an archetypal voice at the end of the piece took me by surprise as well. Since it is a bit grandiose, perhaps, I wondered for a moment if I should keep it. I felt right, though, and I do my best to give full attention and respect to statements that come by themselves. Such statements can, of course, just as easily be gibberish or self-delusion as revelation. A big part of my education as a writer has had to do with learning to decipher who or what is speaking and where an image or intuition comes from. This can take a while, although I am much quicker at such things than I used to be. In the early 1990s, under the influence of a dramatic influx of spiritual energy, I wrote a book called “The Preexistent Race Descends”—about 60 pages or so—that seemed to be dictated by a kind of omniscient voice. This voice turned out to be anything but omniscient, at least in terms of its ability to sense whether or not its statements had any literary value at all.

Once the spell that I was under broke, I looked at what I had done in horror. Out of the whole book, there was barely a line worth saving. I kept the title and very little else. In retrospect, I have come to believe, somewhat paradoxically, that the voice that I heard during the writing of this book was, in fact, the voice of an authentic guide. The problem was that I had no way of knowing that its strategy was that of a trickster, and its goal was to thoroughly embarrass me. To gain the knowledge for which I had asked, it was indeed necessary that I open myself, injudiciously, even recklessly; at the same time, I was being pushed to perfect a kind of interdimensional bullshit detector. When I was studying to be an art teacher at the Massachusetts College of Art, I had a course in which we had to stand in front of the class and make an idiot of ourselves for ten minutes, with the idea of pushing through anxiety and self-consciousness to some sort of an open space beyond. This harsh and quite time-consuming lesson by whatever guide it was also helped to transpose my vantage point, so that, even as I was writing from direct personal experience, I was able to turn this experience to examine it from a multitude of angles.
 

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Image: Brian George, Hawk Mummy Floating on Ocean,
 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Long Curve of Descent (Excerpt)


Brian George

I have a new piece up in Metapsychosis called "The Long Curve of Descent." In it, I ask whether humans have been evolving or devolving over the past 12,000 years. I also compare and contrast the roles of the "healer" and the "catalyst." Take a look if you have a chance. Excerpt:

One morning, when I was four years old, I was sitting on the third-floor back porch of my family’s three-decker. It was 1958, and Worcester, Massachusetts, was still regarded as the industrial heart of New England. Looking out, I could see smoke puffing from tall smokestacks, a freight-yard and a railroad bridge, hills with houses perched on them that rolled into the distance, and, a few miles off, on one of the highest hills, the gothic architecture of Holy Cross College. How wonderful the day was! I could not have asked for a more perfect moment. My grandmother had given me a large chunk of clay. And then, I was no longer looking out over Worcester; no, I was hovering above the Amazon, making snakes, canoes, and villagers out of the substance in my hands.

As I worked, however, I became frustrated. It occurred to me that I had succumbed to a creative block. I grew angry. I could not believe what I was seeing. My hands were small. My mind just barely worked. My imagination seemed like a blunt instrument. As absurd as it sounds, I remembered what it was like to create real snakes and villagers.
 
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