Beyond all structures
by Jon Rappoport
June 23, 2014
We are fascinated with structures and systems because they work, and because some of us feel an aesthetic attraction to them.
They work until you want to do something different.
Many people want to grab a structure and pull it around them and sit there like a bird in a cage. They want to go from A to B to C and feel the satisfaction of knowing it works every time.
Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all.
But go into a corporation and say you want to teach them creativity and they’ll say, “What’s the system?”
Once, at a party, I told a personnel chief at a company, “The system is to stand on your head.”
“Literally?” he said.
“No. That would be too easy. People would find a system for that. But figuratively, that’s what you want to get people to do.”
He scratched his head.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“Exactly,” I said. “That’s where we start. I say something and you don’t understand. Then we have a chance.”
“What are you?” he said. “Some kind of Zen teacher?”
“No,” I said. “If I said I was, you’d pigeonhole me. I teach non-systems.”
He laughed in an uncomfortable way.
“We don’t operate on non-systems at the company.”
“No, but if you let three or four people do that, they might come up with a product you never dreamed of.”
That he could understand. Vaguely.
Here’s how things work at some companies. The second-tier honchos decide it’s time for a new product. They call in the chief of production and ask him what could be done. He suggests a whiz-it 4, which is basically a whiz-it 3 with a few more bells and whistles.
The honchos give him the green light, and he goes to work. He triggers the structure he already has. He gets underlings to make sketches of whiz 4, and with those he assigns compartmentalized tasks to various departments under him. The timetable is eighteen months.
He appoints a project supervisor to oversee the whole thing.
The project supervisor pretty much knows what’s going to happen. The six departments in charge of bringing in the whiz 4 on time will do okay—except one key department will fail miserably, because three guys in that dept. are lazy. They find ways to delay operations. They ask meaningless questions. They let work pile up on their desks. They meddle in other people’s business.
Twelve times, the production supervisor has tried to get these idiots fired. No go.
So everybody settles down to grind of bringing in whiz 4 on time.
Manuals, rules and regs.
This can make magic the way an ant can fly to the moon.
So long ago it was in another life, I taught private school in New York. There were six kids in my class, all boys. I was supposed to teach them math. They were all at different levels. They had no ambition to learn math. No matter what I did, they performed miserably. Add, subtract, multiply, divide, decimals, fractions—it didn’t matter. If they managed to learn something on Monday, they forgot it by Tuesday. It was rather extraordinary.
So I took them to an art museum one morning. They were as lost there as they were in the classroom. But I wasn’t. That was the key. I was already painting in a little studio downtown, and I was on fire.
So I began to talk about the paintings. The Raphael, the Vermeer, the Rembrandt. The De Kooning, the Pollock, the Gorky. I had no plan, no idea. I just talked about what they could see if they looked.
And then we walked back to school and I set them up with paints and paper and brushes and told them to go to work. I said I didn’t care what they painted. Just have a good time. Do something you like.
All of a sudden, they weren’t making trouble. They were painting. No more whining and complaining.
I walked around and watched them go at it. I pointed to this or that area and mentioned what I liked.
There was no way to measure or quantify or systematize what the kids were doing that day, but they were coming alive, out of their sloth and resentment.
Then we got back to math, and it was as if they’d all experienced an upward shift in IQ.
That night, back in my studio, I made a note in my notebook. It went something like this: Give them a non-structure, and then follow that with logic; it works.
So that was that.
There used to be something in this culture called improvisation. People understood what it was, even if they wouldn’t do it themselves. Now the word has almost vanished. Same with the word spontaneity. The moment when eye, mind, and brush meet canvas. When mind meets the new. When the inventor suddenly gets up from his chair and trots over to his workbench and starts putting pieces together.
This becomes magic because imagination jumps into the fray. The urge to invent takes the foreground.
The trouble with all these imported Asian spiritual systems now is that they have a long and distinguished history, and the history tends to infiltrate everything that’s happening. It’s venerated. You need a clean slate, a wide open space. You need Now.
You need Now, which is dry tinder to the spark of imagination.
Magic isn’t really a return to the mystical past. Alchemy was what people did in the Middle Ages to give themselves a Now, on which they could inject the flame of their imagination.
At its highest levels, it wasn’t a system. Not really.
But if you have enough history at your back and you stand away far enough, everything looks like pattern and structure and system. That’s the illusion. That’s the deception.
Systems allow people to see and also make them blind. If they can’t fold an event into a structure, then for them it isn’t there. This is very interesting. This is where all the myths of Hermes (aka Mercury) sprang from. He was the figure who flew and passed through walls and had no barriers in the space-time continuum—the tin can we call universe. So people pretended, at a deep level, that they were unable to comprehend him. He was invisible to them. He was a trickster. He toppled idols of the hidebound, rule-bound, system-bound society.
Mythologically, he ranked very high in the pantheon of the gods. There really was no reason he couldn’t be considered the king of the Olympians.
But he didn’t want the throne or the lineage. That was just another structure, erected by his god-colleagues, who were bored out of their minds and desperately needed the entertainment and distraction it could provide.
Hermes lived deep in the fire of his own imagination and speed and improvisation and spontaneous action.
He didn’t need metaphysics or cosmology. He already embodied them, and much, much more.
To him, the notion of shared, consonant, and brick-by-brick reality as the longed-for ultimate goal became an enormous joke.
The word “art,” across the full range of its meanings, is what happens when, from a platform of structure, a person takes off and discovers that consciousness doesn’t particularly want to wait around a railroad station looking at What Is forever. Consciousness wants to invent what isn’t there.
So it does.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at www.nomorefakenews.com