Friday, July 30, 2010

there he goes again: “symphonicity”—laughter

Jeffrey Brown of the PBS News Hour interviews Sting today, who’s touring with parts of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra:


JB: But is something lost? I mean, as someone who grew up with rock ‘n’ roll, including your music, much of the power of that [to me] is the rawness and the edge.

Sting: Yes.

JB: What happens without that?

Sting: You have to make a trade between having this huge, very rich palette of color to work with, which is the symphonic—symphony orchestra, as against having this edgy, kind of spontaneous, almost improvised feel of a rock song. So, you give that up.

But, in exchange, you get this huge, almost like a continent of color. And so it’s an exchange I have been willing to make. There are compromises you have to make. Classical musicians hear time in a different way. Time for them is much more elastic, whereas time for rock musicians in modern music is very, very strict, in strict tempo.

Time in classical music is—it’s much more—kind of breathes more. And so you have to learn how to do that.…


JB: You know, you were talking about the ego of having the orchestra. You know, in some quarters, they’re—they’re—people roll their eyes, right? They say, there he goes again, right?

Sting: Yes, I like that.

JB: You like that?

Sting: Because there I do go again.

JB: Uh-huh.



JB: Even if you get accused of various pretensions for the lute, trying the lute, and now the orchestra, and the...

Sting: I love that word, “pretentious.” I’m not quite sure what it means. It means pretending. And, for me, it’s about experimenting and taking a risk and putting yourself in the position of a student constantly, where I’m here to learn something.

I’m here to learn how to play the lute. I’m here to learn how to sing in front of an orchestra. I’m here to learn how to arrange for an orchestra.

I’m not a finished product. I never will be. I’m a work in progress. If that’s pretentious, guilty. I’m card-carrying, bona fide pretentious.


JB: There is the—inevitably, the aging—well, there’s the aging baby boomer. There’s the aging rock star, right, trying to do it gracefully.

Sting: I always found that phrase odd, “the aging rock star.”

Aging to me doesn’t seem to be particularly a pejorative. And, in many ways, I have enjoyed this decade—I’m 58 now—more than any other.

JB: Because?

Sting: So, by extension, I’m hoping that my next decade will be just as much fun.

But I think it’s really about flexibility in the mind, you know, being able to take on new things, learning new skills. That’s—that’s how to stay at least young in spirit. And I think I have managed that.

But the cliché “young in spirit” is just an easy way of referring to the creative edge that has nothing to do with youth per se at all. Potentials begin in youth, and time at its best ages that, like gaining a vintage. No vintage wants youth again. But the creative edge!

Learning never ends. And experimenting is intrinsically “at risk” of pretentious pretense in pretending to validly act, to write in the improvisation, as so—becoming at best some edgy continent of color in elastic time, even breathing others’ vintages, like poets imbued with echoes, into something truly one’s own.

Monday, July 26, 2010

one as yet

Originality is difficult, improbable. It’s best to just seek to express what you have to express, let others worry about the originality. Is what you have to show fullfilling?

The road to that may be long. I go through periods of feeling I have nothing to say anymore; also, periods of knowing I have something I deeply want to say, but don’t know what it is. Elated, I write to find out.

Other times, deeply wanting to say something, I’m not ready to try: Words just don’t arrive, yet. But that doesn’t mean I have some general problem with expressiveness; only that what I want to do is yet to arrive.

This is common with writers. Ironically, the writer may write slowly (though conversely, the writer may zip along, inspired). It’s common that words are difficult for someone drawn to write.

A talent may be substantial, but its creativity is not yet producing (especially when one’s younger). This might be especially the case with talents that aren’t yet venturing the road they need to live first, or they’re not yet at home in their medium, e.g., a visual talent or a musical talent in a world of words, too much away from their own means. So, she (I choose a gender) goes years believing she’s inept, when, in reality, she’s not in her element.

And also, she may have not yet finished a dark night of the abyss through which she finds her own light. The well-known psychiatrist, Kay R. Jamison, who writes extensively about her struggles with depression, quotes Herman Melville:
The intensest light of reason and revelation combined, can not shed such blazonings upon the deeper truths in man, as will sometimes proceed from his own profoundest gloom. Utter darkness is then the light....Wherefore is, that not to know Gloom and Grief is not to know aught that an heroic man should learn.
Jamison quoting Melville is quoted by a psychological researcher, James R. Averill, writing about “emotional creativity.” Averill has been working for years with an assessment tool he developed, the Emotional Creativity Inventory (discussed in “Emotional Creativity,” Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2009, ch. 23).

Part of the results of his research indicate that a potentially very creative person who is having difficulty with emotional expression may show assessment results that are the same as a noncreative person who has a disabling difficulty with emotional expression. (If the creative person tends to devalue herself, she can easily mistake the difficulty of expression for a disabling condition, rather than as a sign of her need to venture her own way for a long time before she’s fruitful.) He writes (252):
People who are emotionally creative as well as those with alexithymia have difficulty identifying and describing their emotional experiences.... However, the source of the difficulty is different for the two conditions. For people with alexithymia, the difficulty stems from an impoverished inner life; for emotionally creative persons, it stems from the complexity and originality of their experiences.
For example, reading widely in literature may fill one’s sensibility with so much wealth of yet-unshaped material that one may feel like running away from the overwhelming feeling, just to have peace of mind, when the reality is a wonderful sensibility—an improvisational assemblage of feeling, like unarrayed points that are not yet given to their gestalt.

“Like a tree,” notes Averill (253), “language sends its roots deep into the soil from which it draws sustenance.” I would say that of emotion, where the soil may be given so much more than the fruit its current expressibility can bear. And anyway, “language” is so much more than words, emotion so much more than what a given repertoire may yet be able to capture (calling perhaps for a “language” of dance or drama or music or canvas, etc.), “and the soil may be transformed in the process. Yet even at their poetic best, words are often insufficient to express some of our most profound and creative emotional insights, including those that we might label mystical.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

to whom it may concern

Posts may seem arbitrary, as a matter of what purpose the blog serves (“Whatever you choose, evidently”—and why not?), but there is a plan—though little time to carry on.

I sometimes respond to appealing ephemera, you know (e.g., appearance of an appealing book) or to some issue suggested by someone’s presence. Yet, a stable agenda exists.

I have an enduring interest in better understanding creative growth, you know, relative to making good lives, understanding the range of “loves,” and for making good sense of our ultimate condition.

I’m a literary-philosophical psychologist wanting some lasting sense of our humanity—beyond my capabilities, perhaps, but the venture can stay fruitful (given time).

Also—and modestly—I want to capture a tangible art of living that may grow to belong to oneself easily. I want a lasting hold on conceptions of happiness, beyond the living happiness that makes conceptions of it possible. And I want that to belong naturally and intimately to advancing humanistic union globally, not Romantically, but really.

Can there be something new to say about senses of The Good or conceptions of the beauty of days going by? What may be lasting purposes in elations of solitude?

Autopoiesis in nature leads to we humans who can live in light of autotelic appeals, like some self-begetting writer pretending to be living into a long poem worth more than the idiosyncrasy of one more Earthling, first half of one more evolving century.

Anyway, there are many kinds of writing, obviously: essayistic (non-fictionally narrative), confessonal/autobiographical, poetic/fictional, conceptual, discursive.... My intention to someday weave them all into a singular ongoingness must involve many pieces along the way for later deeply engaging an intergenric Intimacy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

empathy for persons with little empathy

Some people don’t easily empathize, so they may be alienated from those who do easily empathize. The non-empathizer may be ashamed of their lack of empathy, not realizing that empathizers would want to understand the non-empathizer’s lack of empathy and would accept the non-empathizer as they are. This acceptance is very alien to the non-empathizer. It can cause chronic avoidance of others which is misinterpreted by those caring others, because the non-empathizer’s lack of communication leaves others trying to imagine the non-empathizer’s behavior from a common point of view, which may look rude and narcissistic to others, though the non-empathizer is not intending to be rude.

Non-empathic persons can be easily loved, but that’s scary to non-empathic persons: how they could be easily accepted when they don’t understand their own confusions of feeling.

The non-empathizer might also find alien that others may learn quickly from being wrong about them, and easily look freshly, in order to understand better. The non-empathizer may feel that gaining any total view of something is so elusive that wrong or right is secondary to having coherence—a total view gained is done for good, unchangeable because a total view is so elusive, thus so difficult to give up, once gained. Starting again to understand is just so difficult. Others’ ease with new beginning is alienating. It may be better, in the non-empathizer’s view, to insist that the wronged or/and the caring who were wrong just go away.

But background is rather irrelevant to going forward, inasmuch as learning to articulate, share, and trust is always feasible. Backgrounds may explain difficulties, but good potentials are proven by one’s desire to enjoy self-expansion. One has intrinsic desire for good flow of feeling and expression, higher or deeper appreciation, good friendship, easy love, and Flow of natural creativity that others in one’s life haven’t appreciated about oneself. To have the best intentions of oneself taken for granted in all events (until proven otherwise—unlikely) is basic to being loved.

Monday, July 05, 2010

aging is fun

revised Sunday, 7.11

I might regret to inform you that my idea of fun, on a day off from work, is to read some chapters from The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, but I have no such regret.

I hoped to have something awesome to post today, but I made things more complicated for myself this weekend than I’d planned—normal me. I’m clarifying some essential aspects of loving practically (as well as—earlier expressed—truly, which isn’t, by the way, romantic, for me—nor Romantic, since, I’ve concluded, that’s essentially narcissistic, which was nonetheless partly valid: an often luscious confusion of overriding and overbearing self-absorption).

Speaking of daemonic ideas (Friday)….This review of Speak, Nabokov (link opens a PDF; be patient) is not only fascinating, but reveals the narcissistic genius to have gone to his grave absorbed in that pursuit of the boy-man’s search for the archetypal feminine of his era that returned in Ada and was supposed (formally Willed) to be burned [notecards for The Original of Laura (dying Is Fun)] when he died. But alas, his wife betrayed him; then his son published the stuff.

Friday, July 02, 2010

a little formidability

“So, you think I’ve got some problem, wanting to research love and intimacy”—as if our narrator is pursuing some absence mirrored in the dance of life, yea!, in the house of some summer night where we were writing our cosmos of poiesis….

So, Vendela Vida is married to Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), founder and editor of McSweeney’s (San Francisco). Dave, this weekend, is coincidently reviewing the just-published novel of one alleged genius, David Mitchell, of whom it was written, in 2004, that this other Dave (British) writes a novel (Cloud Atlas) that “finds itself staring into the reflective waters of Joyce’s Ulysses.”
It is a devious writer indeed who writes in such a way that the critic who finds himself unresponsive to the writer’s vision feels like a philistine. So let it be said that Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.
And now, British Dave’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is reviewed by San Francisco Dave, titled “Empire of Desire,” the genius now advancing “an achingly romantic story of forbidden love,” in Edo-era Japan (early 19thC). “After a brief encounter,” writes Eggers,
during which [the Japanese woman, Aibagawa Orito, reflecting what draws the Dutch de Zoet] hands him fruit from her garden and he blurts out his interest, he climbs the island’s watchtower, his head swimming in thoughts of her. And here Mitchell’s incredible prose is on stunning display. It’s worth a long excerpt, so here goes:
Hollows from the fingers of Aibagawa Orito are indented in her ripe gift, and he places his own fingers there, holds the fruit under his nostrils, inhales its gritty sweetness, and rolls its rotundity along his cracked lips. I regret my confession, he thinks, yet what choice did I have? He eclipses the sun with her persimmon: the planet glows orange like a jack-o’-lantern. There is a dusting around its woody black cap and stem. Lacking a knife or spoon, he takes a nip of waxy skin between his incisors and tears; juice oozes from the gash; he licks the sweet smears and sucks out a dribbling gobbet of threaded flesh and holds it gently, gently, against the roof of his mouth, where the pulp disintegrates into fermented jasmine, oily cinnamon, perfumed melon, melted damson . . . and in its heart he finds 10 or 15 flat stones, brown as Asian eyes and the same shape. The sun is gone now, cicadas fall silent, lilacs and turquoises dim and thin into grays and darker grays.
….It’s a novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between.
That’s me: fallen—but no genius; just happily possessed by daemonic ideas.

You wonder why I bother here to note another narrative of displaced longing, now reviewed by an author of voluminous jest married to an author of displaced grief.

I don’t know. Today’s a relaxed vacation day, and I love to read and write. Also, I’m enchanted by notions of intimates living some complementary artistry, by the pretenses of literary longing, and by ideas of genius (our secular angels).

Thursday, July 01, 2010

for a deeper prattle

Today, W.S. Merwin was made Poet Laureate of the U.S.

This is greatly satisfying to me, since he’s been one of my favorite poets for decades—no mere coincidence of private taste, but recognition early on that became part of my mindal fiber. He reads on the PBS News Hour today from The Shadow of Sirius I wanted to swim through in my own narrative way.

It would be vain to claim a pulse of humanity coursing through my sense of things (or in my affection for worn tropes, sometimes echoing archetypes).

Street life, the office, couldn’t care less.

You might have thought my play with pointillism implied there’s no real road I’m on, since I exuberantly draw tangents into my tree, as if I won’t make choices or can’t stay on course.

Stay with me. The years will betray neither my pretense (I hope) nor your good faith.

Someday you may deeply know how lucky I was to meet you, lovely persiflager.