Monday, August 27, 2007
"What is in my mind is a sort of Chautauqua - like the traveling tent-show Chautauqua’s that used to move across America, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster -paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply to dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale, and platitudes too often repeated.
There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and “best” was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for."
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
Now that the project has ended, or at least is going to grow without needing me - well, what's next? Should I end this blog? I haven't been the most faithful blogger, and I honestly don't know what's next. But it gives me pleasure to see the process of the past few months archived here.
I know I called this journey a "vision quest", but it would be better to call it, as Robert Pirsig wrote - a Chautauqua. I happen to be in Chautauqua county again, at this very moment, enjoying the green saturated, moist light that inhabits this place, a peculiar place of geomantic potency that has been called “the burned over zone”. Because so much religious fervor, utopian dreams, and spiritual experiment has occurred here in the past 150 years, from the Suffragettes and Lily Dale school for mediums, to the Shiloh Community and the origins of Mormonism.
I hit the road looking for vision and adventure, and succeeded, although mostly its been about weaving into a more harmonious pattern various loose threads and frays of my self. Among other things, a lot of shadow work - getting to know on a more familial basis my demons, and realizing the real value of the conversation. I think I understand now why the fallen angel was called "Lucifer", which means "Light bearer". Because the shadow brings so much illumination, if we can but engage the dialogue.
But this has, now that I think about it, been a Chautauqua for me. Bringing forth what I know and have to share to a new community. It hasn't been easy, which is what makes it most valuable for me. I've learned a lot.
So, the question that rolls west with me now is - how do I define myself as an artist now, what is next? If I'm going to continue with my Chautauqua, then it will require a rigourous discipline on my part. Matt Burke, the other resident artist I made good friends with this summer, shared not a few conversations with me about this subject. The fact is, very few people do care, even those who are close to you. After years of returning to Tucson with my new work and adventures, I've become used to few if anyone I know acknowledging what I bring back, artistically or intellectually. That's how it is these days.
You have to let it go, and not concern yourself with how many people care about what what you're doing, not care about how much money you make or don't make, not care about what any institution or magazine or even colleague thinks art "is". Ultimately, it has to become your spiritual path, your meditation, your thread that weaves you into harmony and depth.
"The truest art I would strive for would be to give the page the same qualities as Earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence would teach this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness, and despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life"
"The Solace of Open Spaces"