Monday, April 20, 2015

Participation Mystique

I'm now fully moved into my new art studio alongside, my true friend of over ten years, Szag Randahl and like-minded new friends, owner of Studio Unknown, Bruce Miller and Kevin Anderson.
We have been working non-stop getting the place ready for our opening on First Friday, May 1st, 2015. Bruce has been working like a madman repairing the over 100 year old textile mill general store which houses our four studios, and Cerbu music studio and a killer common area. 
As Bruce describes it, when you open the front door, it's like Betelgeuse, you never know what you'll find.  Out back is paradise and the middle is Castle Annandale. And how true it is.  Bruce has a love of all things medieval as I do so the place indeed feels like a castle.  All the windows have been filled with a cement block walls so its dark until we turn on the overhead fluorescent lights.  I didn't like them at first and knew they would change my colors when I painted but I just take a break, step out into paradise and recheck my tweaking.
The minute I walked into this place I felt a sense of peace and an odd sense of purpose.  Odd I say, because during the past year when I battled with ovarian cancer, I didn't think about things like purpose.  I just took one step after the other on the days I could walk, lived chemo to chemo and binged watched all the TV shows I missed because pre-cancer I didn't watch any TV except the news.
Now that I'm in remission, I feel this incredible push to create - painting for now but maybe poetry later. I want to communicate what I can't say in words because cancer may have been the best thing to ever happen to me.  Prior to my diagnosis I was often depressed and at times suicidal.  I couldn't handle the fake aspects of our societies, the rampant greed, the constant abuse of the people who just want to get by. Even immersed as I am in Carl Jung's theories, I found little comfort when I looked around me.  What good is the subconscious when society just gobbles up everything that is humane? Pre-cancer, I stopped writing, stopped painting, even stopped reading, having lost faith.  The last thing I gave up was music, which was hard, but I didn't want to feel anymore. And music, especially IAMX which I listened to over and over, 100's of times on a constant loop. because the angst in Chris' voice was the angst of the world.
I didn't feel anything when I had cancer.  I never cried.  I never thought I would die.  The doctors told my daughter I almost did three times.  I grew to hate my house, my collection of things I'd collected over the years, each one having either a symbolic meaning or emotionally-charged memory.  i even hated all my books and wondered why I surrounded myself with material things when nothing mattered at all.  I became a shell, vacant and a burden on my family, a hopeless constant reminder laying on the couch of a body without a soul. Both my daughter and I were pretty sure that even after the promised remission I would never come back.
But I did. When Dr. Griffin said he'd have me in full remission in nine months, I thought he was nuts.  I tried to stop chemo twice, since quality of life for a meaningless shell of a person is zilch and I didn't want my daughter, Beth, my son,Jeff and my granddaughters, Kendall and Deven to remember me that way.  But Dr. Griffin was wrong, in November of 2014, I went into remission, six months after my first diagnosis.  Sure I was still tired and he told me he was stopping the chemo three months early. Even though the tumors were gone, he always did a little more just to be on the safe side. But he was afraid the chemo would kill me.  I'd already lost 42 lbs. and been hospitalized five times for blood clots in my lung, dangerous magnesium loss, a collapsed lung. By January 2015 I was listening to music again.  Yep, you got it IAMX.  I started painting and couldn't stop.  Eleven paintings in less than three months, the most prolific I've ever been since I started painting at age 52. I discovered a new found love of life, every minute of it, every nuance, the sounds of the Canadian geese as they flew overhead at my daughter's where I lived while sick, the taste of cheese or chocolate, the hugs of my granddaughters.
My subconscious erupted like a waterfall after a sudden streak of thunderstorms heavy with Gulf tropical water or a fissure opening in the earth releasing all the poison gases held back for years by compressed shale, limestone, granite. I felt the slow resurgence of knowing that one is universe and the universe is our core.  We can tap into anything and everything - sure it can come at a price like your debilitating horrific insomnia, but as with any shaman, you must go into the cave, suffer the peeling away of layers of conditioning until you see that pinhole of hope that leads to layers and layers and layers of meaning, memory and insight that we pack away just to make it through the daily routine of living.
My son, his girlfriend, Janine and I watched you flail yourself onstage in Atlanta in 2013.  We watched a shaman overtaken by energies no one could explain or understand.  We acknowledged it with each other, were swept up in your passionate powerful overwhelming need to "express"  to interpret what your subconscious was so bent on releasing.  You were thin as a rail, and so driven, so forcefully driven you woke us up somehow to turbulence like what they say Van Gogh painted before scientists could discover its true volume and direction.  You tapped into something we can't explain - only experience and your self- sacrifice, opened up those who were eager and ready.
I've done a great deal of studying on shamans, their sacrifice, their self education, their need to disappear into the cave and read the nightmares. They are chosen and often would love to relinquish that life for one of normalcy and banality.

The psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung" had a good bit to say about the creative person - when he says "artist" or "poet" he includes musicians, dancers, actors, - anyone whose need to create is so powerful it runs their daily life. 
"The biographies of great artists make it abundantly clear that the creative urge is often so imperious that it battens on their humanity and yokes everything to the service of the work,"Jung writes, "even at the cost of health and ordinary human happiness. The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself, quite regardless of the personal fate of the man who is its vehicle...." Carl Gustav Jung wrote. The secret of artistic creation and the effectiveness of art is to be found in a return to the state of 'participation mystique' – to that level of experience at which it is man who lives, and not the individual...Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being.
The specifically artistic disposition involves an overweight of collective psychic life as against the personal. Art is kind of an innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense—he is “collective man”—one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic life of mankind. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being….
The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him—on the one hand the common human longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. The lives of artists are as rule so highly unsatisfactory—not to say tragic—because of their inferiority on the human and personal side, and not because of a sinister disposition. There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of the creative fire.
It makes no difference whether the poet knows that his work is begotten, grows and matures with him, or whether he supposes that by taking thought he produces it out of the void. His opinion of the matter does not change the fact that his work outgrows him as a child its mother. The creative process has feminine quality, and the creative work arises from unconscious depths—we might say, from the realm of the mothers. Whenever the creative force predominates, human life is ruled and molded by the unconscious as against the active will, and the conscious ego is swept along on a subterranean current, being nothing more than a helpless observer of events. The work in process becomes the poet’s fate and determines his psychic development. It is not Goethe who creates Faust, but Faust which creates Goethe.

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