BOOKMARKS OF EXISTENCE
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Okay, here we go.
No one is absolutely sure of everything all the time…
Except a robot.
And this is the premise of much science fiction, in which android races and molds and fungus and giant worms and other psychopaths try to take over a galaxy because, well, that’s what they do, that’s all they do, and what else is there for them to think about except The Mission and the Program? They’re quite sure about their entire existence.
On the other hand, when you live through and by imagination, the whole question about absolute surety becomes moot and quite irrelevant, because you’re creating what hasn’t happened yet, you’re not repeating patterns, so how in the world could you be absolutely sure about exactly what’s going to happen? Moreover, why should you care?
There is something to learn here.
When a person tells me, “I’m not sure, I don’t know, I’m the dark,” I say, “That’s terrific, that’s absolutely right—IF YOU WOULD ONLY TAKE THAT TO THE LEVEL OF CREATING SOMETHING AND THEN CREATING SOMETHING ELSE…BUT IF YOU DON’T, YOU JUST STEW IN YOUR JUICES.”
And this, in various ways, is what I’ve been trying to point out for a long time—the difference between what a person thinks and feels when he is NOT creating, and when he IS…because exactly the same set of premises and thoughts and feelings yields completely different results, depending on where a person is operating.
Who cares what you think when you are just thinking it and going around and around in circles with it? Only you care about it, and you would love not to care about it.
But with those same thoughts and ignorances, when you step up to the level of creating, inventing something, like an adventurous future or an adventurous painting or an adventurous piece of music or an adventurous play or an adventurous who knows what…when you do that, the lack of knowing is PERFECT FOR THE JOB, because you’re starting out from a blank slate, which is exactly where you want to be.
Suddenly, what seemed like a deficit becomes a major advantage.
I know, it sounds ridiculous, but there it is. And it’s one of those secrets of the ages that nobody talks about.
But I’m talking about it.
Okay. So are you exploring the unknown by inventing and creating and creating again, or are you thinking about what you don’t know as if it were a sign of negative significance?
We tend to assume that when a very, very talented person invents something unprecedented, he “knew it all along.” He always knew it. He was in perfect command. He was quite, quite sure. He was on top of everything.
But you see, he could have been a compete idiot. Which would have been his strength. He knew he didn’t know. And he didn’t care. He didn’t care SO MUCH that he was willing and eager to jump off into the unknown and create there.
Yes, this seems backwards.
But it isn’t.
Someone tells me, “I couldn’t possibly paint a picture. I don’t know anything about painting. I’ve never taken a class. I have no talent. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Believe me, don’t believe me, these are wonderful qualities, these are qualities that can make you into a painter. IF YOU WOULD JUST PAINT.
How much effort do people put into becoming quite sure about a subject, so they can work for the rest of their lives going over and over it, so they can settle into years upon years of boredom? Those people are Quite Sure—and they’re paying the price for it.
And there you are talking to them, and you’re thinking, “Wow, these people are really smart.” Yeah, they are, and what a tragedy. For them.
Quite possibly you have no idea how much sensational and inventive stuff has been created by people who were looking to avoid being bored out of their minds. That’s all it took. The boredom was so thick and so pervasive, the person said, “The hell with this, let me start from zero and CREATE. Because if I don’t, I’m going to curl up and become a drone…”
A man sits in a room and thinks, “I’m bored……suppose there is a substance that is obsessively desired by many people on many planets, and they believe they just can’t live without it, and they have to have it, and it’s the biggest commodity anyone’s ever seen, and it’s a…spice.”
And then he writes Dune.
Sure, he wasn’t a chimpanzee, he had facility with the English language, and so on, but lots of people know the language very well, and they spend their days cooking up ads for bras and panties.
This man, Frank Herbert, decided he could be a riverboat gambler and shove in all his chips on a wild idea out of nowhere.
And yes, he worked very hard to write Dune, but he was galvanized by the whole creation he was going to flesh out in empty space, where nothing had been before.
He wasn’t going to believe everything good that happens in this world is accomplished through slow accretion, like rain wearing away stone.
Deciding to create isn’t really harder than thinking you’re average.
There is an accepted role called Average & Normal, which, when played out, forces you to imagine you’re in a muddle and your life is a bust and you need what can’t have have and you’ll never keep your head above water. Is that a good reason to demean your sense of adventure?
A person says to me, “I’m asleep. All the time. And in my sleep I think all sorts of thoughts about how miserable I am, and this is probably a state of hypnosis I’m in. Day after day, year after year…”
And I say: “Great. Splendid. So what I’m doing now is putting a brush in your hands and before you leaning against against the wall is a 20-foot blank canvas, and on the floor are cans of paint. So I want you to dip the brush in a can and put some paint on the canvas. There are a whole bunch of brushes there with the cans. Just keep going. Put paint on the canvas. And more paint. And as you’re sleepwalking through this whole process, with complete ignorance about what you’re doing, once in a while, no strain, just glance at the canvas. Just glance at it now and then. And you know what’ll happen? Occasionally, you’ll get a glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye. You’ll glimpse something that makes you feel…different. Your adrenaline will flow a little. And that’ll make the dreams you have while you continue to sleep a bit more interesting. That’s all. Just do it.”
And as long as I don’t tell this guy I’m trying to wake him up, which would stir all sorts of resistance, he’ll follow my advice.
And one day, out there on the horizon, he’ll say to himself. “I’m a painter.”
And then everything will change.
And when necessary, when he wants to, he’ll still be able to do a very good impression of amnesia and narcosis and fit right in at the dinner table with a bunch of smart folks who are trying hard not to bored out of their minds.
Okay. There is a part two to all this. And it starts with me saying: of course I know I was exaggerating in part one. I was exaggerating in the sense that you can’t take a completely dense person who wants to be a zero and make him into a star. That doesn’t happen.
And one does have to have some ability to move forward. It’s not completely random and completely creative based on absolutely nothing.
But…what I was saying in part one is a lot closer to the truth than most people think. It’s a lot closer because, if you can grasp the sensation of creative adventure, it can take you a long, long, long way. It can help you break through the repetition and routine of ordinary life, and then all bets are off.
And because I’ve been painting for 60 years now, I know something about the magic of that activity and the extraordinary things that happen when a person is really engaged in it, and is willing to understand that spontaneous actions can deliver astonishing outcomes.
The truth is, people have more straightforward capacities than they realize or think are important. They have a certain amount of facility with words or numbers. They can speak, they can assume various roles and personae. They can act. They can fix things and they can love and they can be generous. And so on and so forth.
And if they would take these capacities to a level on which they are imagining and inventing and creating, they could achieve more than they usually dream about. Much, much more.
And that state of not-being-sure, if they divorce it from worry and instead see it as pure unformed possibility, can operate as a launching pad from which they move out beyond the Ordinary. Not with stifling moment-by-moment calculation, but with what has been referred to as life-force.
This IS all about magic. It’s there. It takes a devil-may-care attitude to see it that way, to peek around a corner of the future and know that, if you are only sure about one thing—creating—the walls can come down.
This is alchemy.
I have been asked, “Are you saying everybody has to an artist, a writer, a musician, a painter?”
I’m saying the arenas in which one can create and imagine are unlimited. There are arenas no one has even thought of before.
In the Magic Theater, a person plays roles he never considered playing. And when he does that, he gains a new understanding of who and what can be creative. He begins to see creation is coming from all sorts of unlikely places. It’s abundant, not scarce.
And since this is so, what’s all this business about life being uncreative? Where the hell did THAT come from? How did THAT become the norm?
It takes a certain amount of energy to believe all the creation that exists is coming from places other than yourself. It’s a strange notion. When you think about it, such a belief feels like a rigged game. Suppose you have billions of people who have this belief? They all believe creation is coming from somewhere else. What a joke. What a crazy situation. And the result of all these billions of people believing this is…what we call normal reality. That’s the outcome. And these billions of people pounce on the outcome—ordinary reality—and they say, “Yes. This is life. This is important. We have to learn about this reality. We have to learn so much about it that we’re very, very sure about it. We need to become quite, quite sure about it, and then we’ll be all set.”
All set for what?
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