Monday, May 14, 2012

The Kitchen Table

"The observation of atoms has very little to do with gazing at stars…" – Me

(Okay, I've been reading Proust and Kafka again, read at your own risk)

The mind continues to clear, the heat continues to rise, and time continues to persist. As summer arrives, I find myself grappling with the hours between going to work and where I sit at this kitchen table. I'm wanting to be somewhere else, anywhere, but unable to manifest a departure. So I will write. I'm contemplating a new life, but then I've done that a thousand times before, as I'm sure many do each and every day. The life, however, that I imagine doesn't really exist, nor do I really want the things that I casually dream about. I was explaining to a friend who was going through a particular bad time that when I married at twenty-one, I imagined the life that I saw other children growing up aspiring too, and in spite of the humble nature of my prospects, I was able to marry someone from a good home and family, perhaps to manifest this life I dreamed about in observation. However, reality fools us all! I found myself between clean sheets in a real bed, rather than on a couch or on a mattress on the floor, wrapped in a bedroll or a sleeping bag. The starched sheets were uncomfortable to me, and I found myself staring at baskets and paintings on the wall, quietly suggesting that I had found the reality of the home that I was looking for, horrified at its prospects! 

The subject is not an indictment of how I grew up, for there was freedom there, perhaps even too much freedom, rather it is an observation of how years of conditioning react to the fantasy of the imagination. And yet we continue, imagining the life that has somehow escaped us, the dreams that collapsed in the face of this reality, continuing to plot the perfect place, with the perfect weather, our bodies feeling in tune with the world. As time persists, the bodies we once imagined sparkling with invincibility begins the demise, sometimes subtle, and sometimes, in glaring levels. The dreams change in our spirits so as not to defeat us too deeply, and we gradually begin to realize that the perfect place does not exist. Now, that may sound glaringly pessimistic, but I submit it is rather the contrary, for it gets at a deeper truth, that perhaps so many of us choose to live in a fantasy laced world, rather than face the inevitable march to the stars. We can either ponder atoms, or ponder stars, or stay in the gentle surface between, of how society conditions us, full of dreams and aspirations, staking our claim on each level of a life, however, never really stopping to examine what it even means.

Or perhaps, it is just the condition of each person's perception. I remember as a young teenager being so enthusiastic about such simple things, to the point of trying to ignore the realities of each scenario. I remember the constant quest to get to the Salt River here in the desert, running around procuring inner tubes for the voyage down the rapid filled waters, filled with the excitement of the adventure. My mind would persistently go over the magic of the journey downstream. Alas, however, I was bound by my observations, the garbage-strewn banks, the alternating turn of the brutal sun and the pounding cold of rain. The miles and miles of humanity, strapped together with inner tubes, bleeding red sun burnt bodies, drunk and ready to fight, jumping off cliffs to early demise. Don't misunderstand, the adventure was still intact, it was just a different adventure than my mind would at first imagine. And, I am not subjecting us all to the wretched nature of these kinds of observation, I am only speaking for myself, and the truth that I observed.

When I was just a third grader, I would find myself observing the emotional fluctuations of my teacher. While she was teaching us syllables, I was wondering what had happened to her the day before that changed the nature of her teaching. Do third graders observe their teachers in this manner? When she grabbed my arm roughly one day for no apparent reason, I forgave her, and thought that there must be some tragedy in her life that rendered her unfair treatment of me. Or perhaps, when she looked at me in the eye, she became enraged because I had somehow found her out. I kept these thoughts to myself, and in fact, attempted to expunge myself of this habit of speculation. What were the equations that she was attempting to solve?

That was my fascination with art and theatre. The equations. The keen observation of human nature as it related to reality and imagination. I was interested in stories, but I was more interested in changing the dimension of realities. And, I didn't want to just talk about these equations, I wanted them to exist within the plays. I am happy to say that I believe they do, and no one knows the constant hours I spent inside them, some of the math I was consciously aware of, but some I was not. There was a beauty in this exploration, and it was obvious to me why I sought refuge in the theatre in the first place, because I seemed to easily find out the false dimensions of religion and dogma, that these beliefs plied easily on the weaknesses of human nature and the search for answers. In art, there are answers too, but they are only perceptible to those who really venture there with the notion of finding some great reality of truth. Perhaps, however, art is like the many ways we search for answers too, only perhaps, we can individually control the experiment. I believed, (and occasionally still do) that art and theatre can change the perception of the spirit in the same way a good alter call can, but it is rare, in the same way that true spiritual epiphany at the foot of an evangelist is as well. The beauty of a great play is the rendering of a great truth in the span of two hours, and the notion that a great connection has been made between an audience and the artists who have altered their own perception of reality in a true conviction of the work.

Like many artists, since I have spent the majority of my life as one, I have to believe that what my perceptions are have been contained within my plays. Earlier, I took a very modest road, (or perhaps another dimension of self delusion), that perhaps they are just the scribblings of a madman, or perhaps the observations of someone who was keeping self-destruction at bay. As I go back now and study what I have written, as I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I am satisfied with the work, although I am always changing a number here or there to make the communication either smoother, simpler, or more complex. However, as time persists, and the inevitable journey back to the stars becomes closer, the temptation to return to the splitting of atoms becomes more desperate. I persist in sending off the plays, still believing with some reservation that someone will be able to do the math of these plays and find the necessary conviction to bring them into a three dimensional rendering.

The odd and perhaps ironic notion of Under the Desert (my first full play) is that it is a beautiful play but not my best, and I have to believe that if it is done in the right circumstance, the others will follow. I have to believe that, once again hopeful, once again knocking persistently on the door of destiny. In all that I have said in these words previously, seeing one of these plays is the only satisfaction I can fully receive in the elusive quest as an artist, (except in the quietus of working on them at some kitchen table) and its also why, at this time in my life, I am unwilling to listen to the criticism of those who have not spent the time and effort checking and re-checking the equations. Although I believe the plays will stand on their own, (even after I am gone) I also believe that while an artist lives, both must be studied to have a full understanding of what is there. It's fine to want to dissect the atoms, however, for now, I'm still gazing at stars too…

Am I mad? Am I arrogant? Why should I care about either of these things? For it is I who am living this life, and most of the time in utter obscurity, unless I take the action myself, yes, finally, I'm coming upon a period where I'm uncaring about what others think about me. I fought for this diligently, and perhaps subconsciously, but now, I'm so poor in spirit that there is nothing but creation to hold onto me, and deliver my dreams in small two hour packages. I have become my own courier, but then again, aren't we all? 


Chuck said...

A lot of what you write about is the reason the fisherman fishes, the gambler gambles and the lover finds another lover. It's the thrill of the chase, the new expectation and the thrill of new feelings. Our goal, once achieved we are either satisfied or move on. I don't much meaning in the part pf painting. To me it is all technical and a means of showing skill and illustration. There is a certain satisfaction in the craftsmanship, but expectations never ever match the reality, at least not for long. It's the same when we write those few precious words that seem to shine off the written page, only to seem feeble the next day. There is a love in the act of creation, but creation for the act of eating is something completely different. Anything can become a grind if you have to do it daily. Only love of the craft can save it from becoming a drag. Once again a thoughtful post. Thank you.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

Thanks for the response. Last night while I was playing at Embassy Suites, I noticed a lack luster response from the audience at what I was doing. (This is not new, it was just pronounced) After an hour, I was ready to pack it up and just go home, for I had failed to illicit one dollar of a tip. Instead, I decided to 'up the game', I focussed once again on the little details of delivering each song, found more upbeat songs, and just changed my attitude completely. It was magical what happened, (not something new, just something I have to continually learn again and again) it took another hour, but the wallets began to open and by the end of the night I had earned about sixty dollars. It was, as you said about fishing and gambling, the willingness to keep the line in the water, the cards on the table, and that paradox of life that is always a little strange to me, "That even though as we age time becomes shorter, patience becomes longer, and more satisfying in its reward." I still don't know what to do about the time in between creating and sleep, but then I re-discover the power to write about it. Thanks for responding, Chuck, more than just being thrilled that you took the time to write, its the respect I have for you at 'knowing' these things of which I write about.

My ex-sister in law and my nieces stopped by yesterday. I have your portrait of me hanging on the wall as you enter the house from the side door. They all stopped to look at the portrait, and it was the genesis of a long discussion about art, portraits, and family, all generated from the portrait. Art does beget art, and just wanted you to know that that portrait has been the lightning rod leading to several discussions here and there. Its all in the eyes, the observation, and the curiosity. Who would want to do a portrait of me? (I could see the brain wheels turning), it meant something, and something I was proud of, no reason I shouldn't share that pride, for it was your creation that begat it...

Gerry said...

Someone who is interested in creating 'art' would like this blog entry, as I am forever thinking about what it means to create and what it means to get other people appreciating what you create. Having sisters who create 'art' too we have spent years trying to figure out how to get our creations 'out there'. Believing that the more people who see our art the more we will have accomplished our goal. I started thinking marketing was almost a bigger problem than creating and sometimes was not going to be solved for years to any great extent. So why keep on doing it? Well, because you never know when someone will come along who has access to bigger audiences and will decide that this 'art' should have a exposure.
Because when you think about it, the more depth that is achieved in a work of art whether it is a play, a novel, a poem, a song, a picture, a sculpture, the more people ought to have access to it because it will expand their vision of what mankind can achieve in the way of understanding.
So you are become part of a long line of 'artists' helping each other down through the generations to 'connect', a complicated process without which we would not advance as much as we do.