Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Artist's Way

My roommate is a serious writer. Not like me. She is a writing major. This Summer she fell in with the this book, the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. She became an enthusiast. I became curious. It seemed the sort of book my mother would read.

She told me about morning pages. Morning pages? Well, I never manage to get up in the morning so that probably would not work. But it did seem like a good idea, except for being encouraged to rant about everything you hate every morning. I wonder if we are honest and happy at the expense of being good.

She told me about Artist dates. You go out and do something by yourself or rather 'take your inner artist on a date'. Sounds like incest. These seemed like a artsie-fartsie (and I use this in the most derogatory way) way of saying something obvious, spending time by yourself in places you love is important.' Time is important. Everything she told me rang both true and wrong. True in that I recognised much of it from my own habits and what I considered important, wrong in that each time the wording was not quite right. I do not think that taking your inner child on a date healthy, I think that going places, forests or cafés or gardens, where you temporarily modify how you view the world, is important. Returning from the café you bring the feeling of it with you, and in the café your thoughts are different. You taken into an atmosphere which requires you to be a slightly different person, and carefully you modify yourself. It is interesting and true. It is not what the book says.

The Artist's Way is useful. I can see that. The stories are good. Her stories about her grandmother sound like awareness of qualia. I like qualia and as such like those. Very existential. Most of the book isn't. What I clearly need is the Existentialist's Way for Art. Nonetheless it bothers me. I know there are others who agree. It is repetitive when it could be embrace brevity. The repetition of the word 'crazymaker' bothered me particularly. That is how mental health patients speak. Assigning all woes and bothers to one person or one idea is dangerous and frightening. In this way the books frightens me. The book is sweetened with artificial sugar and water. You cannot argue with it. It asserts without argument so you must either accept or flail.

Furthermore the religious connotations are heavy and unavoidable. These connotations are not mixed. The religion is not that of many cultures and many viewpoints. It is the God that one meets wandering into the a priori. It is the first idea. It waits in the shadows of abstract reality to devour those who wish to acquire knowledge. It need not be there! It is not even the honest God of the medievals. That God, the God of Plotinus of whom there are slight echoes here, is worthy. The Great Creator is not. Tell me that it is the One, the well-spring of being. The Good, Just, and Beautiful. Tell me to look up and become part of the world soul, ever reaching for pure Parmenidean unity. Tell me to look away from the shadows for fear that I will see beyond them into the nothingness. At least that is beautiful. It may not be true but it has power. There is something there. The other way seems filthy. It is a trap. It is not honest. You are asked to accept a God so that you can be a better person. You are not asked to do so on any rational grounds. Beauty is a rational ground for accepting something. Self-care is not. 

I know that I do not live in a stable way. I procrastinate and fumble. I expect too much of myself and achieve too little. I think outside of myself no longer because I love the external world but because I chose a discipline that requires focus and I want to avoid it. I think this book can help me with that. But I also think it is just like Toastmasters. I recognise it as something that might be destructive and as such embrace it. I do not like myself and hope that if I become another person that person will like themselves better. This is both disturbing and strange. Disturbing because it sounds like mental suicide. Strange because I am really a very interesting person. 

I see that there is value in this book, and the cover is also very pretty. I plan to find what is of value, and what is dangerous. What is of value I will keep for myself and what is dangerous I will post here. If I become brainwashed please send a troop of flying monkeys to rescue me.

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