Shreds of Thought: Aphrodites Flown

The part of me interested in social media, marketing and metrics is very different to the part through which the prose flows. If I hold off looking at these things for the first hour after waking, and instead allow my still dreaming mind to externalise, I make a very different experience of the day. And – bonus – I have something like 777 useable words down before it even really starts.

See, the muse doesn’t care for social acceptance, book sales or writing advice. She doesn’t even care for thoughts, because she is a beast of intuition that merely plays with our language centre as though is were a harp.

If the prose isn’t flowing, the sure ways to attract it (for me, at least) are:

  1. Run a bubble bath hot enough to forget the world outside the door. And don’t take a notepad.
  2. Take a drive that will last at least an hour, and listen to music. Anything will do.
  3. Meditate.

Ray Bradbury described the muse as being like a cat that will resist attention and then follow on quietly as you walk away. I like that, because cats also like to scratch at an occupied bathroom door, climb into cars, and climb upon the stillest, most relaxed person in the room.*

The muse has no sense of completion. There is no beginning and there is no end. She will offer up ideas that have no obvious connection to one another, or tell a story in a nonsensical order. But I find if I don’t follow her natural trajectory, and instead force a story into a mould, I’ll end up with something substandard. I’ll produce works that feel mechanical and without heart.

If I have ideas as to how I might later sculpt her secrets, I must keep them on the peripheries until she’s curled up sleeping. That way, by the time it’s done, she’ll no longer care about those particular whispers. Her passion for them was spent by the very act of me listening without judgement, and she’ll have moved onto a new whim. Strangely, the pieces produced when I’m all ears are the ones that need very little in the way of editing.

I have many blog posts, flash fiction pieces, short stories – hell, even novel outlines – that never got past the concept phase. Scraps of prose, fragments of awareness, semi-conscious notions. They are evidence of the times I dared to turn my head away from the muse before she was done with me: betraying her with thought. The time for those pieces has now passed. I won’t hear those secrets again. Just like poems, they have expired.

Sometimes I wonder, could I revive them? But they’d be nothing more than shells, their Aphrodites long flown.

*If you’re not a cat person, consider that your muse might be a dog. You put a leash around her, set off along the path you chose. But, to the ground she wants to sniff, you will always go.

Additional ways to attract the prose that occurred to me post-script, as a direct result of the script:

4. Write a stream of consciousness.
5. Read poetry aloud.

Everything and Nothing

Some people find comfort only in the most complex of situations. They will try to engineer the circumstances under which they believe meaning to arise; often destroying their relationships with others and leaving an ugly trash pile of rejected consequences in their wake.   

Life really is much simpler than that. Meaning has never been something to hunt down, for it is everywhere, all of the time. It cannot be detected using instruments and tools and mathematical formulae; what they create for us is at best a map. But meaning can be experienced through the senses, and they are our best shot at being one with the territory. 

Of course, meaning itself is a man made concept. It is not absolute. Repeat the word ‘meaning’ enough times and it loses all… meaning. And therein lies the trick. Surrender yourself to your senses, to the here and now, and you will soon find that meaning is in fact meaningless. Furthermore you will laugh at yourself for ever thinking otherwise. 

Everything and nothing, wisdom and folly: they’re all the same.

Searching for the Self: Somewhere

The beach. Where water meets earth. It is damp, flat, open here. There are steep, grassy cliffs leading back up to civilization. I think I’m supposed to feel something in this place: happiness, excitement, or humbleness towards our great planet. I think creativity is supposed to bloom here, born of a new found appreciation of the small things and just being. Of smelling the ocean air, of feeling the sand between my toes. But the truth is, I don’t feel any of that. Instead of beauty I think of soliloquies, Stephen Dedalus and sulking. I feel uncomfortable; my mind awash with greyness and a longing to be Somewhere Else.

I look along the coast to the bustling amusement arcades and eateries. That isn’t the Somewhere either. I’m starting to think the Somewhere doesn’t actually exist.

Children play happily on the beach. They don’t mind the cold wind that tangles their hair into impossible knots or the stony sand that clings to them head and toe. They don’t mind the long walk back to comfort that lies ahead of them, or the grains of earth in their sandwiches that they grip with their seawater-soaked hands. Is childhood the Somewhere? The mind of the child has experiences without the multi-layered analysis we all apply years later. It is a home no one can return to.

Run. Breathe. Centre.

A walk across the rocks. Find the balancing point, make a stack. All the colours, all the textures, all natural. Then the water comes forth; aggressive, ready to swallow up the manmade designs into its chaos. No more sandcastles, no more stone stacks. Keep it random, the sea says. Entropy will always trump empathy.

Eldritch

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Do you ever feel as though you are looking directly at something, but it is just beyond your perception? An eldritch presence that you can sense through intuition and the hairs on your arms…

That is how I felt at the location of this photograph.

When I looked at it later, I saw a face in the bark of the tree left of centre. Then I saw two more in the same tree. Then I saw the outline of a figure by the tree on the far right hand side that looked ghostly or made of rock. Then I saw two or three shadows of people in the centre peering between the two trees. Each figure I saw felt more creepy than the last, because it had remained hidden for longer and therefore presented itself to me as more tricky and sinister.

This is the Pareidolia effect, which interests me so much I made a whole series of paintings to explore it.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the man in the moon, the moon rabbit, and hidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at high- or lower-than normal speeds

It is the brain searching for something familiar in the obscure. In this case, probably searching for something remotely sensible to which I could ascribe this feeling of oddness and otherworld. Eerie the thought that there are not only things that are unknown to us, but also things that are unknowable.

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Hanging on the edge
Of contact with the
Unknowable
It is the strangeness
That pulls you in
Not the phenomenon itself
But the eldritch aura it emits
It reels you in
The more you stare
The more it reels

To shake it off
Simply reaffirm
Your deep-seated belief
Of what is possible

To open unto it
Is to witness a thing
That will change you
Forever
Though
You may forget it

Instantly
(of course)
Due to its
Inherent oddity
That has no place
In a human mind

Allow yourself

To treasure

The peculiar

But

Allow yourself
To become fearful
And it will

Consume you

Welcome the Night

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I watched the sunset this evening. The colours were magnificent: oranges, pinks, greys. Like fiery embers in parts, like a charcoal drawing in others. I quickly thought:

I must get my camera!

but something stopped me.

Nature is not nearly so beautiful through the eye of a lens…

I thought. And instead I just watched. And the more I watched, the more I felt a profound stirring inside. I experienced beauty directly and I treasured it. I considered that a photograph is, in part, an attempt to make something more permanent; but permanency is just a lie we tell ourselves, no more than a concept. Beauty is now.

As the sun went down, I let go of all my thoughts and worries from the day. I imagined Khepri, the ancient Egyptian scarab, pushing the sun below the horizon. I imagined Ra, the sun god, and remembered his missing eye. I saw dragons in the clouds, breathing fire and writing their names in smoke. Long, elaborate names. I thought about the concept of the Earth’s Boost and the heightening of perception from the book I just finished reading: The Fire from Within.

I was there to welcome the night. And I felt calm, peaceful and utterly content.

The Tunnel

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I say goodbye to a waving crowd, and enter the dark tunnel with just my lamp to guide me. There are shallow pools of water at my feet; I hear them as I tread.

Splash Splosh.

It’s quiet in here, which is kind of welcoming. Yet I can’t help but feel a little sad for the vibrancy I am leaving behind.

The tunnel opens out into a secluded beach, I believe, where the sand will snuggle between my toes and I can swim in the calm blue waters all by myself.

I am not disappointed.

I breathe with the waves; they are a demonstration of the power of the mighty moon. She is in her approach just now, and I could use her help.

Deep

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Please don’t ask me if I’m ok
I appreciate your concern
It’s just that
It’s a complicated question

If you see me
With a faraway look in my eyes
Or a frown on my face
I am swimming deeper
Than most dare to go

But I know these waters
And I navigate well
Don’t fear for
I’ll be back soon
And I will bring treasure

Hyperion

 

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Writing is where I settle and ignite.
I wander.
But when I get back home to Writing
The thoughts that mutate and strangle me
No longer seem so wild
They are captured, rationalised
I feel closer to earth

Yet Writing is also where I can dream
Definite dreams
Bring distant ideas to the forefront
To consciousness
And let them live
In poems without rules
Caught between melancholy and expansion.

Lanterns, they are

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It is the morning after
The dark night of the soul
Another orbit is complete
And sight has returned
Stronger now
All is projected outwards
All is reflected inwards
And lanterns they are

Powerful friendships showing themselves to me one by one.
Strength built from mutual respect and separate but shared inspiration.
Shapes that overlap but are ever in flux…

I adore unique people with ideas and passion. I will always forgive them for not pandering to me, pitying me or wallowing with me when I throw myself into the mouth of the shadow. Such is my art and my work. I love that they live their own lives and their light continues to shine whether I am there to see it or not. I love that they accept my movements in and out of their circles. They turn around on the dance floor to find me gone: they shrug and maintain the flow and the smile, not out of lack of care but out of utter acceptance. They look up from their sketchbooks and notepads and keyboards weeks later to see me back from my pit of depression and despair, and they continue the conversation as though it were never broken.

And I feel that it is ok to be among the blackness, because when I emerge my lanterns will be there.

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