A Muse, defined in the dictionary, is as follows: noun–the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like; and as a verb–to think or meditate in silence, as on some subject.
Being a professional artist for the last few years, and having worked my entire adult life in the creative arts, I have been able to witness how the world-at-large views artists–they are separate, different, they march to a different drum. To some practical degree, this is true. People who work in the arts are, well, artistic. They move to creative rhythms, they think in different patterns, they are in the business of bringing things into being that weren’t there before. But I’ve always been uncomfortable with the separation–I don’t think its accurate. Culturally, we have come to define people as artists and not-artists, but watch any child at play and you will see that we all begin life by being artistic. No one ever has to teach a child how to pretend or use their imagination. It is inherent in their nature–which has to mean that it is inherent in every adult’s nature as well.
We are addicts. Its true–look around you. We are addicted to ‘what is’. We talk about it, we call it ‘the truth’ and spend entire lives making statistical lists about it. We defend it, we war over it, we kill for it. We predict our future based on what has happened to us in the past. We believe that there is one reality that we all share and go to many lengths to establish that common reality–what else are 24/7 news channels doing if not establishing a ‘common reality’? Look down through history and see what has happened to people that dared to say they saw things differently. It is quite striking–we are highly invested in the idea that there is one world, and we all need to see it the same way. We even go so far as to say that some people that see it differently, or experience it differently, are mentally ill or insane.
I went through a period of my life where I felt insane. I was highly invested in ‘the truth’ and it was pulling me apart at the seams. I behaved in ways I never thought I could–I hurt those I loved. I hurt myself mostly. Then one day I went for a walk in the woods and felt the wind on my face and I knew everything was going to be all right. I found a thread; it was small, but it felt a little better than powerlessness, and I held on to it. Now, fast forward about 16 years and about a million threads later, and here I am….sane, stable, happy. How? It started with a moment of disregarding ‘what is’ and instead, feeling as if everything was going to be all right. And then another moment, and then another.
There are as many different worlds as there are perceivers. I’ve heard this before, and now I’m beginning to understand it. Two people can be walking down the street and, depending on what they are thinking, are experiencing the same street differently. I have a few friends that are highly invested in the idea that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, so to speak. They have all the proof. There are statistics that make it clear, they say. Its ‘the truth’, they say. I used to buy into it–after all, their evidence is pretty convincing. There’s this disease, there’s this war, there are these terrorists, this evil political party, this evil religion, this corporation, this pollution, this soul-crushing technology, and on and on… but I can’t buy into it any more. I know what’s going on when they are telling me ‘the truth’–they are simply telling me their interpretation of the world, and I just have to smile and say that I just don’t see it.
And I mean, literally, I don’t see it. I won’t see it. I can’t see it and believe what I want to believe at the same time, because finally I have made my choice. I want to be like a child again and see the world as I want it to be. Some people say this is burying my head in the sand, and some have even gone so far as to say it is ‘irresponsible’. That’s ok. That’s the way they see it, but I doubt it makes them feel better to see it that way, and I’m all about the feeling better.
These days I approach my life much like I approach a new painting–first, it’s an idea. It is color and feeling and texture. I swim in it and dream about it for awhile, and then I pull out the canvas and the gesso and, more through intuition than anything, I begin letting my hand go where it needs to go. When I’m really in the zone, I don’t even think at all, I just feel my way. When I don’t like what I’m seeing, I try to keep feeling for it instead and disregard what I’m seeing. I ‘pretend’ and ‘imagine’ and eventually I see something that begins to match what I’m feeling. The muse (the inspiration, the mediation) begins with just a spark–a hint of a direction, an idea, a feeling. The craft is in going with it–letting go of that incessant voice that constantly demands to know ‘where are we going with this?’ It works for me, and the wonderful thing is that I’m the only person that it needs to work for. I don’t require that anyone else see it my way for it to work…but I wonder, if we were all able to think, even for just one moment, like we did when we were children, would we ever go back to wanting to see everything just the way everyone else does? I can’t know for sure, but I’m guessing ’no’. We are all creative–we were born creative with powerful imaginations. I’m thinking we weren’t ever supposed to leave that behind for something as mundane as a ’common reality’.