On the Road
Hello friends – back from a whistle-stop time in New York teaching and meeting. Many friends made, not forgotten, seeds planted for future work. I had a birthday too, thank you for your ribald and touching notes.
Next week i’m on the road again: looking forward to bringing ideas and stories to Zu studios in Lewes on November 4th, and then the Crick Crack club in London on November 5th. LINKS:
here’s a couple of ideas i will be working into at Lewes : with story, poetry and good old fashioned wild speculation. I am aware that this is just a brief sketch, but you’ll just have to come see us to find out more.
ENTERING THE BONE-HOUSE
What if the family you were born into, the place you live, the body you steward, the artfulness of your day – what if all were of great significance? More than some exotic, faraway life that you are meant to be having. Not obviously heroic and individuated. What if they were the essential tuning from which to steward your life? What if you accepted your place in the difficulty of your family as having a sacred design, and that patch of street outside your window as requiring tending, the drooping skin under your chin as the soulfully elected terrain of your descent into the true depths of the lived experience? Sounds ghastly. But this is not to suggest martyrdom, but rather to attend to its depths.
From Platonic sources and confirmed in much hermetic material, there is an insistence that we do not float in some arbitrary sea of circumstance, but that the strange ordinariness of our surroundings is the very ground we were always searching for. And that this ground is not telling us we can be “anything we want”, but that we maybe required to be something quite specific. Destiny and fate fight for the scraps under our table, which is often piled with junk. This grounding does not exclude great voyages and abrupt changes of fortune, does not exclude fighting tooth and nail for a life you regard as significant, but is insistent on attending to the immediacies of our body, family, land and artistry. These four modes can provide sacred parameters, like a magicians circle.
1. The Bone-House
Growing down and accepting the stoop of gravity and decay that comes with aging. We settle into our body and the enormity of its passage through our time. Plastic surgery is usually a form of lying.
2. The Parental Bow
The reluctant admission that you abide in the same strange tree as your wider family, with its young buds, sturdy roots and many rotted branches.
3. Rooted and Tasked
The anchoring into a specific landscape by the uses of custom, duty, obligation. You don’t own the land – the land owns you.
4. Circumstance and Display
Giving back just what circumstances gave you by a full, creative declaration of attachment to the world. The very impossibility of repayment dictates true humanity.
Here’s a second image:
Your Abandoned Twin
On the day you were born, minutes before you arrived, your mother had another child. It slithered out from between her thighs, and its dark shape was not pleasing to those gathered. Someone gathered up the hairy little bundle, opened a window and threw it out into the roughness of this world. All present knew that this must never be spoken of.
The ancients knew about this wild twin, this companion, and that when you signed up for your arrival here, this very being was the one that would whisper its mantra of remembering into your ear, to re-orientate you to the shape you had elected to grow into. So the assembled acted out the part of aborting that very twin. After all, if they didn’t, how would you begin the adventure of trying to find them?
The twin sometimes takes up residence in a piece of music, woods at bottom of your garden, a muttered phrase from a London tramp, or a dreaming-wind that alights just moments before you wake up – reminding you of your pre-birth settlement, to accomplish yourself in some display of attachment to the sobriety of living in this world.
Alignment with the lost twin is what Blake had, and is the root of our capacity to behold. In this light, the “local” – where we find ourselves – is more than a fluke. Egypt, chakras and Ayahuasca smoothies may have to wait, we have a garden and some growing to deal with, there are rowdy kids in the town that could do with a trip to the wild. James Hillman’s beautiful image of this is of a tree upside down: its roots in the heavens, intermingled with star constellations and succulent darkness, but its branches descending deep into the fertile stuff of earth. The stuff of earth is specific, named, imaged – without it our own tree will get no purchase in the mud of living. He reminds us of the direction a child’s head is heading at birth: down.
Relationship to the wild twin creates a firm grasp on what James Joyce called “aesthetic arrest”. In other words, the images, scents, emotions, colours, appetites that deeply touch us; the full sensual range. Not the stuff we got trained to like en-masse, but the thrum of cello, lift of lap-wing, or slug of dark beer curling round your mouth. Loyalty to the road of the senses is what marks out the ground of the artist.
The bone-house dictates a beholding, not just thin-lipped seeing of the shape of our lives, whilst loyalty to the wild twin instigates the discipline required to move towards being not just from, but of a place, whenever you arrived there. Discipline was always the dance partner of wildness.
Copyright Martin Shaw 2014