Musings: On Riding the Tech Wave

The feeling of surprise and joy washed over me.  It took about a half an hour, but I finally found the way to activate the drop down menu on the web site, in order to post a submission.  The site design was classy, sophisticated – I admit.  However, the GUI tricks were new to me, and for one of the pencil-paper generation, definitely not intuitive.  I began to wonder – Why do I feel happiness when I muddle through the techno-gizmos of the early 21st century internet, when others are overcome by (understandable) frustration?

Perhaps it can be attributed to one of the paradoxes of creative people [1] – the tendency to be both playful and disciplined.   Seeking the solution can be as much fun and as rewarding as gaining the end result, and having the persistence to muddle on to the end.  This trait is not a function of biological age.  It can explain the tremendous surges of new work in the last chapters of an artist’s life, as when Philip Johnson delighted in the experiments of the younger Charles Moore and other (soon to be titled) “post-modernists” and designed the ATT building in Manhattan with a “Chippendale” top.  As a young designer at the time (yes it WAS decades ago), I was inspired.  The apostle of apostles of the Modernist architecture was openly blaspheming the very “principles” that built his reputation.  Perhaps the building itself wasn’t as thrilling as the Taj Mahal, but the moment in architectural history was seminal.  He rocked.  As he said himself at an informal talk I was so fortunate to hear those so many years ago – “You can’t just keep doing the same thing forever.  Life keeps changing, so so must you.”  Or words to that effect.

I have a few decades yet to reach the advanced age Mr. Johnson was on that spring day in 1978.  I have taken his life lesson forward with me.  I listen, watch, look, and read with as much interest the musings and works of the peer group of my niece as I do to those who have been sanctified as “the masters”.  The next great idea is just around the corner, and perhaps is in that discarded notebook left at the bus stop.  The journey includes checking out the texting, tweeting, and Facebooking universe.  Occasionally it means learning something new on how to operate a web site.  Success may not mean a Pritzker or a Pulitzer, but it feels good nonetheless.

[1] This is one of the ten paradoxes of creative people itemized by the psychologist Mihaly ….{cut/paste} Csikszentmihalyi

Art as Vehicle

“We can see the performing arts as a chain with numerous links, where at one extremity one finds art as presentation (theatre in the strict sense), and at the other extremity, art as vehicle. It s something very ancient, rather forgotten. For the persons doing, the doers, the performative opus is a kind of vehicle for the work on oneself, in the sense that, as in certain old traditions, the attention for art goes together with the approach of the interiority of the human being.”
Programa Fondazione Pontedera Teatro : the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards

Taking that Leap of Faith

Positively ages ago I put that quote from that guy whose name escapes me about following your bliss and opening doors – it wasn’t Rollo May. …. found it:
When you have seen the radiance of eternity . . . when you follow your bliss, and by bliss I mean that deep sense of being in it and doing what the push is out of your own existence . . . doors will open where you would not have thought there were going to be doors.”—Joseph Campbell

I have been absolutely floored by an opportunity to work with an early childhood learning center that came about just because I signed up for the one day UVA Alumni volunteer day in the REad Aloud program. I have been absolutely terrified to contact the director and education coordinator again – it is that fear of leaving the comfort zone.

Today I shook that fear and bought some books. Tomorrow I am going to compose an email – if I wait for time at the college I get absolutey hugely depressed beyond words and become an inert immobile blob. Regardless how scary “something” different may be if I stay too much longer where I am, I will be spiritual toast. If not beginning to collect a folder of reprimands. Of which currently in 20 years I have “zero”.

I am going to do a flower based activity set to test the waters before I prepare my Nagual set. I found the most wonderful books on animals. Perfect for kindergarten.
I am just going to jump in and go. I am going to make my pink/orange volunteer apron (the reading volunteers wear blue). Part of me so longs to go back, and part of me is nearly paralyzed by anxiety.

Since returning from Montana, I have somehow come to the realization that I am really finished with architecture. I don’t want to discuss it in advising students, I am no longer interested in what is going on in the BArch schools. I am not interested in teaching some core courses in my program – I have thought about construction drawings and residential design as much as I really want to in this life time and I have had enough. I don’t care what the students pick out – not so much as I don’t care about their work, but I no longer can care about the subject. I don’t want to grade papers, because I don’t want to use up brain space and energy to think about the problems. It is finished for me.

The only subjects that still interest me are design -the exploration of ideas, drawing as a discipline and skill that can be perfected, and the ideas that relate building to culture and history. Who were those Anasazi people who built those irrigation systems? What were they thinking? How did they figure it out without formal mathematics – or maybe they did and just didn’t use any recorded symbol systems. What are the cultural and aesthetic values one invokes when they build a certain way in a certain location?

And since I was crawling around Borders Books looking for a flower story book, all of a sudden I feel energized and connected again, like I felt in NYC at Aole’s workshop. Talking about my authentic ideas, revealing my authentic self. Not my fake architect self who I never could embrace. Somehow I knew alll those years ago that this wasn’t anything more than a job for me – and my authentic self intervened in the only ways it could to prevent me from succeeding on the ARE. How else can you explain the mysterious high fever (102 degF) that just showed up the day I was to drive off to Pomona, to sit for the exam? I was so non-self aware then, that if I had become and RA (registered architect), I would have gone on and done all those things that I thought I would be “supposed to do”. I was a little more self-aware in the late 80s when I reached a sort of “do it – or lose it” situation with my documentation with the licensing boards. At the same time the opportunity arose to study flamenco, and work in the theater, which I had longed to do all my life. I knew at that time, I probably would be choosing one over the other. Everything I have done in investing in myself in the arts since 1991 is everything that has opened the current door. I have always been an artist. I was never raised to be permitted to consider myself one, or that I should permit myself that freedom.

Now this multidisciplinary creature I have become- competent enough to work with K-3 kids in singing, dancing, drawing, and now acting as well. With a strong “outsider artist” bent, and a committment to real multiculturism and cultural fusion in works.

I realized I didn’t have to figure it ALL out before I went back to St. Michaels Day school. Remember one of the most major lessons from Per Brahe. Life is a journey; if one is seeking – follow the path as it unfolds. My mind and spiritual wisdom can really embrace this. There are part of my wounded child spirit that believe that I am guaranteed to fall if I step off the path of the known.

Muddling Through

Learn your own process – trust your process.

In creating, once the work reveals its own identity, however obscurely, success is more often found, then seeking to reveal this identity, rather than imposing upon it one’s own feeble notions.

I need to allow this bird dancer to become the best expression of what this set of circumstances will permit. There might always be a “next time” for the wildness that I was seeking, that this bird does not seem to want to be. Softer palette, more reference to classical tutu that I have been consciously and subconsciously fighting.

However, once I sketched out a preliminary maquette, I saw a “something” there, that I hadn’t really originally envisioned. Need to allow the construction process to permit working the design as it moves forward.

Egad – it is really getting time to CUT!

About The Paw

Some have inquired why the web address for this blog is "thepaw.catzilla.org"

Why the Paw ?

As part of the requirements of our first year field project in the Creative Pulse program at the University of Montana in Missoula, we are required to footprint our process. This is the exact wording of our request – footprinting . As it happens the grizzly is the UM mascot and the "GrizPaw" logo is a common decoration on UM related gear. I myself have I have a pair of pajamas with a large grizpaw on the butt. At home, "the paw" is also a recurring them. "Not the Paw" is one of my most repeated phrases in training of my Samoyed, Lady. She wants to show her love through touching – and getting "the paw" is a daily event. "No Lady – Not the Paw!!!"

It was a natural synthesis – footprinting – grizzlies – the paw. Hence the ID for this blog at:

thepaw.catzilla.org

In meandering the internet in search of the visual of the GrizPaw, an accidental typo led to the link to the Explore North web site dedicated to the exploration of the circumpolar North of Murray Lundberg, among other things a historical tour guide to the Alaskan Highway. This photograph captures the essence of the footprinting in Buskers, Bloggers, and Being. It is traveling through uncharted and risky territory, whose native denizens are fearsome creatures demanding great respect.

Footprinting in the Sand

Busking and Blogging

Masquers and Mummers
Mimes with few Jugglers
All manner of Buskers
Art Squatters
and _________ers.
Drum Circles
Pyrotopia
Theatrical Graffiti
Guerilla Improv
de dah
and Flash Mobs
….

and where else but in San Francisco would you have the Professional Street Performers Assn
the ASCAP for the street performer

or as one member put it when they went down to City Council to express the sentiment that we all have the “right to commit Mozart in public” or Coltrane
or fly like a plane

Passing Muster and Meeting the Bar Harbor Guy

An informal drum circle had begun about a month ago on Monday nights at the Cafe 4W5. Have drum will play. Or even, have no drum, come and play. I have gone every week, although I have not drummed each time. One week I had to make a proposal for the calligraphy class which I had the opportunity to teach. On the 11th of October, the Green Willow organization had sponsored a concert in the open space, which I chose to listen to rather than play in the drum circle, which had been relocated around the corner. Next week another concert is being sponsored by Green Willow, and the drummer will probably be dislocated again.

I have been coming regardless, to maintain some continuity of support to keeping the Cafe open on Monday nights. Polly [the cafe’s owner] has successfully grown in this last year a weekly “jamming” of bluegrass and blues musicians who come on either Tuesdays or Thursdays. It is a venue where if you bring your instrument, the musicians either take a turn on the small stage in the open room, or you may find little jam sessions in corners of the adjacent cafe or out on the sidewalk. This fall was the debut of the drum circle. It seemed a tiny bit fated. Here I was – fresh on my return from Missoula and an apprenticeship in West African drumming. How unlikely I thought it – to return to the beginning of a new drum circle just when I got back to Delaware. It must be something I was meant to do. Or at least try.

This last Monday night, it was an interesting experience. It was the beginning of the truly cold weather, and rain was threatening. We did have to quickly move inside after a short time. It is truly an informal event, and although 7:30 pm is the “official” start time, folks show up and sometimes fool around “early”, and sometimes or leader designate, Roldan West, isn’t always ready to begin on time. The drum circle truly operates on a flamenco-sense of time in the universe. There are a lot of people who show up regularly, and every week there are folks who hear us on the street and stop by to investigate. It is interesting to watch the self-consciousness of some of the young boys who have “dropped in” for a bit. They are unwilling to show how much they like it – or how “right” it feels. They laugh at themselves, and each other. They do not stay too long usually.

This evening the drum circle attracted the attention of a gentlemen waiting for the train at the Amtrak station a few blocks down the street. He dropped in and jammed the whole night until the last train to Boston left for the night. It turns out he is from Bar Harbor, Maine and had brought his boat south to winter on the Chesapeake Bay, in Chestertown Maryland. He was returning via the train to Boston and home. He had heard the drumming while we were still outside on the sidewalk, and had come up to investigate. He truly wished there was something like it in Bar Harbor, and I could identify. Until a few weeks ago, there was nothing like it in Delaware either.

Roldan and Duane own most of the drums that are brought each week. There are a lot of fine instruments, and one that Roldan, a painter, has also turned into a work of art. There also is one that has been built in true Carribbean fashion from an oil drum. It is our “bass” drum. It has only a few voices, but even so, it always seems an essential part of the ensemble. It seems also that it is a somewhat a fashion to own a small African type of drum. Somehow, I missed this article in the NY Times style section. There is quite a parade of young women over the weeks who stop in for an hour or so with their little drum. There also is another older woman who owns a fabulous djembe drum. Then there is Claire (I think it is her name) who is a talented musician and singer. She can play rhythm on anything, and a few times has tried to get us to sing a little harmony. Neither of these “regulars” was there night before last, although that doesn’t mean anything. They probably will be back.

However, the core of the group seems to be Roldan, Duane, and Anthony. It is probable that these were the guys that proposed the idea to Polly. I am one of the few others who has been a “regular”, though there are always at some point in time at least 10 players. After the rain started on this last Monday, we had to move inside to the open space adjacent to the cafe. We set up on the little stage. When I looked up after I had gotten myself and my entourage (my dog) settled, I noticed that we had lost most of the others than the “regulars” and the Bar Harbor guy. We played on.

It was a new experience for me to play drums on a resonant stage. For the first time, the experience of the rhythm was completely kinetic as well as auditory. The sound reverberates through your feet and the whole body as well as resounding through your ears and hands. For the first time, I was getting confident enough to release myself from finding a basic rhythm and sticking with it. Up until now, I had like the security of fitting in on the oilcan drum. Now I was playing a tall djembe (if that is even its name) standing up with it strung on my body with its strap – just like it is played in processions in Africa. I was free of the chair – free to move and drum at the same time. It seemed a natural for me. Part of me would respond physically to the rhythms of the other players, while fitting in my part on the drum. I seemed to suddenly “hear” better as well. All seemed to make sense – alternatives and variations on the rhythms seemed completely obvious, suggesting themselves directly out of my musical intelligence directly to my hands, completely without hindrance from any analytical thought.

I was no longer thinking – “gee this is structured more in the tangos-tientos type family so what goes with this might be ……” The music was talking to me and I was talking back. It was as Rollo May tries to describe in Courage to Create – an experience so far beyond the ordinary definition of “joy” that it is hard to describe. I will spare the reader of my attempts to verbalize it. Dorothy Ling comes close. I was truly happy and calm and at peace. I had found a home of sorts.

This was

Mumbling about May and Metaphysics

Have been perusing Courage to Create over time – reading isn’t the proper word, as at times, I want to zoom over the printed page faster until the author, Rollo May starts saying something that doesn’t seem so obvious.

In beginning of book, he seems to be taking all the time he needs to identify all the notions of creativity that readers might have prior to reading the book, and clarify exactly where in the continuum of concepts-misconceptions, his position is. He even to care to distiguish between the conventional sense of the word “myth” as in “urban myth” or “urban legend” – of something that is not true versus the more cultural sociological sense which he defines as:
“a dramatic presentation of the moral wisom of the race” and something that utilizes the “totality of the senses rather than just the intellect”.

What is interesting in May’s clarification of the components of creativity is largely being borne out by the last decade of research in creativity done by Mihaly Czemitchi…..(long polish name I can never spell without having it in front of me). The iteration of research findings I reviewed a year ago are perhaps more detailed than May’s perspective published for the first time in 1975, but in terms of attempting to identify what it exactly means to activate “creativity” or participate in a creative act, but the fundamental essences seem to be the same.

One correlation is that creativity is simultaneously an act that involves spontenaiety, impulse, and a degree of subconscious thought, but also requires to be objectively and analytically engaged as well. A common misconception is that creativity is the opposite of analysis, or that being creative is to be lost in some sort of spontaneous reverie. It is not. My experience is identical to what May describes, that: “Reason works better when emotions are present” or that the more fully I am connected with my creative center, the more fluently I can utilize my objective analytical processes to further the work in progress.

I also recognise the difficulty in actually describing this experience, as the words “joy” and “ecstasy” may be useful, but are equally applicable to other experiences in the human condition that are not really similar. May defines “joy” to describe an emotion that correlates with a heightened sense of consciousness, the “mood that accompanies the experiences of actualizing one’s own potentialities”. Chinese Buddhist philosophers and scholars have given this human condition its own name “engaku” when describing the various human life conditions. It is one of the “higher” life conditions. Hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility, and rapture are the ordinary conditions of life that we experience, depending upon our inner life condition and external influence, without much effort. The higher life conditions require effort to achieve, these being knowledge – the seeking of learning, engaku, bodhisattva, and enlightenment. The life condition of bodhisattva is one when the focus of one’s purpose in life is directed toward the betterment of humanity as a whole, versus only oneself, and enlightenment is the attainment of the understanding of the true nature of life throughout past present and future.

The state of engaku is also sometimes described as partial enlightenment, or the reaching of a moment that is similar to enlightenment, but relates to only a miniscule part of living. One of the effects of five weeks of compressed continual study during the Creative Pulse residence courses, is that one can enter the engaku state and actually live there for an extended period of time. All the classes are interrelated, so even though the student progresses from one activity to another, she isn’t distracted as if in another type of curriculum of moving from geology to philosophy, although those courses do have connections, too. My experience at the Pulse for my first year, was that after a short period of time, I was immersed in it, and although I never “named” it, the engaku, or engaged creative state became predominant, even during the time I was not in class.

I experienced such satisfaction at a deep level, that I have had inner spiritual “tantrums” when now the majority of time in my week seems to demand that I spend it relating in the more ordinary spheres of humanity. I didn’t expect as much need to pursue my drum circle activities or practicing of calligraphy as I did. However, it seems that these two activities are my only connections to my engaku state that I can squeeze in to my more prosaic experience.

Hurricane Jeanne flooded my basement and combined with the damage done last year by Isobel, I am spending most of my time outside of work just in working on my house. I don’t want to be puttying cracks in my basement, I want to be working on my art books, on my sculpture – you name it. My two hours a week at my drum circle and brief bits of time here and there with calligraphy alphabets are the only “food” that I can feed this very hungry part of my soul right now.

In the last month, I have felt almost suffocated, like a crewmember of the Enterprise when encountering the SKin of Evil has become completed encased in a inhibiting constricting shroud. It is not a menacing experience like in the analogy, but the usurpation of one’s life into the potentially endless bog of the necessary minutiae of everyday existence.