Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Note to The Reader

All the characters in my stories are based on real people and other peoples’ fictional characters. I have stolen them all and mutilated them in my own sadistic ways. All the places in my stories are based on real places and other peoples’ fictional places. None of the events in my stories are original inventions; they are all based on real events and on other peoples’ stories. None of the ideas expressed in my stories are original ideas; the ideas are all collected from other people. Any mishandling or mangling of the ideas, people, places or events is purely my doing. I only take credit for the particular and peculiar configuration of these stolen elements. This admission of artistic thievery may not be common, mainly because lawyers write the disclaimers at the front of books, but I think most artists will secretly agree with me. As a writer and artist I will beg, borrow and steal anything and everything I need to tell my story.

You should not read my stories (or blog entries) if you are looking for flashes of creative originality. I do believe in creative originality, but I have found them to be brief, unpredictable and extremely rare. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a few of those lightning flashes of originality, personally and in others. The light from those rare events is blinding and indescribable. For a brief timeless moment the boundaries of who we are as individuals and as a species cracks and expands and through those cracks comes a dangerous and elemental light that illuminates what was previously in shadow and causes us to flinch away while at the same time we hunger for more. The lightning proves for one radiant moment that the limitations of who we are is only the boundary of our previous unfolding and that luminous glimpse reveals an infinite space that we may one day hope to grow into.

My stories are not original. Lightning cannot be captured by words or concepts. If I am lucky I can feel the rumble of the thunder and cast back a few weak echoes tangled up in the limited glue that is language and image. What gets captured is never the actual “thing.” Defining anything limits that thing; it puts boundaries around it that do not exist in the real world. But these limited perspectives, these stick figures and thin outlines have to be enough. Hopefully my thunder echoes are enough to orient your inner ear and eye toward the thunder available to you in your journey of unfolding. And I sincerely hope that you will not flinch too much or run away when the lighting cracks the boundaries of your life and your concepts.

One of the greats of jazz, I think it was Dizzy Gillespie, once said something very interesting. I am not going to go to the trouble of looking up this saying and confirming that it was actually Dizzy, for me the idea is more important than the source. The fact that the idea has stuck with me and become part of my inner collection seems much more relevant than the mundane facts of who said what on what day to whom. And I guess that reveals something about how I work, how I collect ideas and images, how I tumble them around in my head until some of them pop out shiny and beautiful even as their origins are lost to the hazy fog of memory. Any way, the saying that might have been Dizzy’s placed in quotation marks that do not imply precise citation in any way: “Don’t go into jazz unless you just cannot imagine living life without making music every day. Only do it because you will not be you if you do not. Don’t go into music expecting to make a living, or to be appreciated. People will not appreciate what you are doing and the industry does a horrible job of supporting musicians. The life of a musician is too hard. If you can avoid it, stay away. But if you can’t imagine your life without music, then good luck to you. You are on your own.”

I have heard similar statements from writers, politicians, painters, clergymen, architects, dancers, from almost every profession and definitely from every type of artist. Don’t create art, don’t go into this job, expecting it to support you and your ego’s needs for attention. There are much easier ways to make a living. Only do this thing if you cannot avoid doing it. But if you are going to do it, give it everything you can and magical things might happen.

So I tell stories. I can’t help it. I speak them. I sing them. I draw and paint them. I write them down. I even think stories to myself in my head when no one else is listening. I admit to secret wishful stories where I am a famous and respected author or artist. But when I am being as honest with myself as I can be, I know that my compulsion to tell stories does not place any obligation on other human beings. As much as I look over my shoulder while writing or drawing, hoping to see a receptive face, I realize that you do not have to read my words or look at my squiggles. Yet here I am, typing, putting words together trying to capture echoes in a thin net of grammar and syntax. If you are reading I must confess a secret desire for a reaction of some kind: let me know if you love it or hate it. Apathy is the hardest silence to endure as an artist. But know that I know this: my act of creative collage, my collection of semi random bits of the universe displayed in words and images, puts you under no obligation whatsoever. None.

So take it our leave it. Your life is your own. You can collect your shiny bits in any way you see fit. My stories are here because of me. They don’t have to mean anything to you. But still, I secretly hope that you will see the sparkle of light caught in their clumsy presentation and that the echoes of the thunder will cause you to gaze at the horizon and hope for a glimpse of the lightning.

Still with me? My apologies. Go and unfold your life as well as you are able. I wish you well.

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