Late Night Jazz

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.

9/15/18

The day’s been dark and peaceful. An hour and a half of yoga. Soft jazz. Writing longhand in my notebook while rain pelts the windows and long gusts of wind rumble through the trees. It’s almost time for chamomile tea and a cat in my lap. Looking forward to finishing Maslow’s journals before bed. Now, excited to begin the Memorial Volume of his writings, along with Carl Rogers’s On Becoming a Person. I find that varying my reading materials not only keeps my mind fresh, but also feeds my creativity. I often wonder if other creative types–visual artists and poets, in particular–are inspired by the sciences like I am. Maslow, May, Rank, Jung, Freud–all can be turned to gold. Their empirical statements transformed to art, to the poetics, the rhythms, of daily living. The existentialists/humanists (my natural inclination), in particular.

Brought up this point while discussing creativity with a friend yesterday. The separation of arts and sciences is so unnerving. So unnecessary. (Not sure who makes these decisions.) That discussion had me re-examining Rollo May’s The Courage to Create this afternoon, looking mostly at his thoughts on poetry, in particular, the construction of metaphor as an exercise in meaning-making–a unique and highly personalized redefinition of self and world. I hadn’t thought of it that way myself, and yet, rereading his discussion now, after having done so much of my own metaphoric redefinitions on The Used Life, I understand exactly what he means.

Also fascinating: May’s understanding of creative activity as an encounter, as a confrontation of non-being–of reality, of the silence, of nothingness.

The poet’s labor is to struggle with the meaninglessness and silence of the world until he can force it to mean; until he can make the silence answer and make the non-being be…The greatness of a poem or a painting is not that it portrays the thing observed or experienced, but that it portrays the artist’s or the poet’s vision cued off by his encounter with reality. – Rollo May

I think about this experience as it relates to my own subjectivity. The encounter with reality. The confrontation of silence with only the spark of a vision, an all-consuming desire to create, absent the certainty of what I will bring into being. And the music. The musicality of a poem spontaneously created. That which generates its own internal rhythm, which seems to compose itself from a single flash of inspiration. A fusion. Of reality and the subconscious. Of being and non-being. Soulfulness. Of all that is contained in a singular moment of insight.

Returning to May. He argues that creative individuals must constantly confront anxiety. The anxiety inherent in creation. And, to my mind, that which often comes afterward. Even when we play freely and create with abandon, how many of us still experience brow-beating insecurity? What is this? Is it even any good? Oh, my God, it’s not! It’s the worst poem ever written, EVER! Delete! Delete! Delete! A phenomenon I like to think of as the flinch. I simultaneously love and hate my work. Am proud of it, long for the world to see it, and also want to bury it in the backyard. I think May is right. We confront it. All of the chaos that’s inherent in a single act of creation. And, if we didn’t, how many of us would never write a single word again? The desire to make–that life-giving impulse–is stronger (at least in most of us).

My thoughts come back to metaphor. Aristotle saw metaphorical thinking as the highest, noblest expression of the intellect. I see it always as a fusion of two dimensions. The thing and its essence, it’s potential. It is rare that I look at an object and don’t also see something else. Or, at least, get a powerful enough snapshot of its potential that I must work to understand and name it accordingly. Some of us can’t function (or hate functioning) in only one dimension. It is the ability to perceive a thing, in all of its possibility–often in many directions at once–that makes us unable to tolerate that which is abstract and orderly without wanting to mess it all up. Old problems should always be looked at metaphorically. Growth and innovation in any field depends on it. Additionally, and most importantly, I think it must be impossible for people who don’t think in metaphor to also believe in magic. Because magic always lies in the connections. And people who believe in magic are the most wonderful kind of people.

14 thoughts on “Late Night Jazz

  1. You have given me much to think about here. I love this. Your words “also want to bury it in the backyard” speaks to me deeply. Perhaps what I enjoy most about reading your work is that you are not afraid to be yourself. For someone like myself who spent decades being unaware of himself in a most fundamental sense, having the guts to be oneself is more than important or meaningful. In a way, it is life itself. I wish you the best with Carl Rogers’s On Becoming a Person. I have a vivid memory of reading that book in a coffee shop when I was in graduate school studying psychology. I remember it as an important work. If I may ask: are you thinking of training to become a psychotherapist?

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    1. You’re right—being who we are is life itself. I am glad you enjoyed this post. You are possibly the only other creative writer I know who is deeply inspired by psychology, and you do such an unique and exceptional job of transforming psychoanalytic theory into a deeply personal artistic experience.

      I look forward to reading Rogers…As for my thoughts on becoming a psychologist/psychotherapist (what a question!)…I struggle with this question very much. Mostly because I don’t know that I would fit well in the field. I fear I would face the same struggles I faced as an undergrad psychology student struggling to choose a speciality and feeling like nothing “fit.” Only now, I know myself. And I am not sure where or how I would find a niche in a field that is so overwhelmingly scientific. I am, maybe, too much of an artist. I couldn’t be stuck in a lab all day. I guess I just don’t know that there would be a place for someone with my inclinations in “the sciences.”

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  2. Thank you very much for such a compliment. And I think I remember you mentioning in a previous post about thinking of becoming a psychologist. I am very happy that I trained to become a therapist, but I knew even before I finished what was not an inexpensive training that I would not want to spend the rest of my working life as a psychotherapist. Having been diagnosed myself as a child, the last thing I wanted to do and the first thing I feared I would be asked to do (and I was, during my training) was to diagnose people, to fit them into diagnostic categories. It occurs to me that the therapists I have known and respected the most (two or three), I have sensed that they had dedicated their lives to their private practices because, in the deepest sense, the work helped them grow as human beings. I do not know any psychologists personally, but I imagine that they are also married to their work. You definitely seem married to your creative life – which is in part what makes your writing so enjoyable to read.

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    1. It seems you and I may be here on WordPress for many of the same reasons. I don’t know that I would (or should) become a therapist either. I think I’d probably be better suited for research. What strikes me, though, is that here we both are being artistic, in our own ways, with psychological theory. Pursuing an unconventional path because it’s part of who we are. I sometimes wonder if the creative work I do here will lead me somewhere else. I very much hope so…but even if it doesn’t, this blog is still an end in itself, in many ways, for me. Letting my talents and passions die simply because I didn’t get a PhD in such-and-such—that’s not an option. I suspect you can identify with that feeling.

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  3. I identify with that feeling very much so, and I agree with you that we may be on WordPress for many of the same reasons. And I hope you did not mind my question about whether or not you are thinking of training to become a psychotherapist (or a psychologist). What I seem to keep discovering in my life is that it is full of more beginnings than I would ever have imagined possible. In other words, life will show us our future, as long as we are true to ourself as creative human beings.

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    1. Oh, I don’t mind you asking me that question at all! And, you are so right about life being full of many beginnings. Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve already been several different people, lived and died many times. Thank you very much for the encouragement and the wise words this evening. 🙂

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  4. Your essay reaches deep and connects. It is also synchronous in that last week I started a “leisure” class, titled, “Gifts from Psyche’s Garden”, about Jungian symbology and metaphor. After the first class I pulled out the “soul collage” materials and created 3 new collages. Your essays always resonate and this one particularly. Glad you still have power thru the hurricane.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, so far, so good on the power situation. Fingers crossed for the next day or two…That class sounds like fun. And, it’s always so wonderful when learning experiences like that inspire us to create. Glad you’re going through a creative phase 🙂

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  5. I appreciate your use of the word “unnerving” when talking about the seemingly obligatory separation (in the minds of most) between the arts and the sciences. That separation/line has bothered me since early adulthood, when those who recognized that I seemed to keep a foot on each side of it used terms like “left brain/right brain balance” and even “Renaissance woman” to describe the fact that I was both artsy/creative and techy/scientific.

    It has always been painted as something odd, which confounds me because it feels as though nothing could be more natural. In fact, why isn’t everyone that way?? Isn’t human reality precisely about the mix of the mutable creative and the rational tangibles? Wouldn’t you think that people who put down roots on one side or the other, excluding (even rejecting) the other side would be the flukes?

    But no, they’re not- that’s the norm, it seems.

    And that honestly freaks me out a bit. Yet it also gives me hope… because if most of the world’s issues- most global, social, interpersonal problems- have only ever been addressed by those who can only see things through one side or the other of a strict and limited dichotomy… then those with dual-thinking minds (for a lack of a better way to phrase it) stand to offer new ideas and approaches to long-standing problems. And maybe even actual solutions.

    I very much appreciate your post- thanks for inspiring so much thought!

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    1. And, thank you for the thoughtful comment! It is refreshing to interact with others who are “dual-thinking,” or Jacks and Janes of all trades. Your comment reminded me of a time when I was in college, and a psychology professor told me I couldn’t write in my natural style and voice if I wanted to be a scientist. I had to learn to write like a scientist for my psych courses (what does that even mean, anyway?), and like a literary type for my English courses (I was a dual major initially.). I mean, how ridiculous is that! And, in so many of these seemingly “separate” or radically different fields, aren’t we examining all the same phenomena? Viewing the same elements/problems of the human experience, just through different lenses? And you are so right when you say that actual solutions, changes, advancements can only come from a more integrated kind of thinking. I, too, am hopeful. 🙂 Thanks again for reading!

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  6. I think, no, I KNOW, I’m in love with your mind, your writing and the soft curvature of your spout as you pour yourself onto the page. I forget that I’m reading and imagine I’m curled up a cat in the corner, privy to the stream of consciousness flowing from you.
    I love science, be it the earth sciences or psychology, quantum mechanics or metaphysical philosophy (I do have a soft spot for quarks). So much of my poetry is born in the art of science, I guess, because my mind is a Siamese twin with no dominant hemisphere.
    Nietzsche wrote about the symbiosis of creativity and destruction which was later the basis of Schumpeter’s Gales of Creative Destruction; an economic principle that describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” This occurs when innovation deconstructs long-standing arrangements and frees resources to be deployed elsewhere. Now, tell me that isn’t what we writers do? We tear down established symbols, the recognizable meaning of things like they’re lego and reuse the pieces to create new imagery, new meaning. It is the ouroboros, devouring its own tail, the solum of Autumn’s litter feeding the same tree to grow new leaves in Spring. I like the structure and embrace of science for the padded cell it affords the chaos of my psyche, a safe space to let my creativity off its leash.

    And I’m rambling 😀

    See? You got me all ablaze!

    Thank you for sharing your writing and your thoughts. I’m truly grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you, Maggie! I’m glad you were able to immerse yourself in this one. I enjoyed writing it, and the topic’s certainly a personal one for me. And thank you for the informative comment! A perfect example of how those of us who do have a grounding in both hemispheres can see a more complete picture. 🙂

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