So what makes me think I’m right about this? Why do I think this is the way the universe works? Because I can count. And because I can observe the general function of life around me and then apply the law “as below, so above”. If we look at the way human life is created, we see that both male (positive, giving, yang) and female (negative, receiving, yin) energies are required. Take this further and consider the way we live our lives. Our entire existence revolves around the interaction of these two forces. We engage in a period of activity (positive) followed by a period of rest (negative). We wake and then we sleep. We’re happy and then we’re sad. We’re creative and then we’re stuck. It also makes me think about the nature of human beings and the nature of the universe itself. We sleep and then we wake and go about our day. Does that mean the universe itself also has periods of rest followed by periods of intense activity? And are we intimately connected to that? Does human nature, like human activity, have sudden growth spurts followed by periods of stagnation? Does our species, technology aside, naturally experience periods of intense awakening and creativity corresponding with the activities of the larger universe? Maybe that’s what the Renaissance represented. During that period we were lifted out of the darkness of the Middle Ages and catapulted into modern history. What began as a cultural movement in 14th century Italy spread to the whole of Europe, affecting every aspect of life. Maybe this is how real revolutions happen. Somehow we are awakened from our cyclical sleep and we take a leap forward only to sleep again as a part of a grander operation. If our activity is really connected to the rhythms of the universe maybe we should consider thinking about astrology in a different way.
Where’s The Beef?
Now that you’ve stuck it out and your brain has been bent into a pretzel, let’s come back to the creative process. The process by which art is made is both mental and physical, so these laws must apply. Any artist knows that creativity happens in spurts. And we’re frustrated by that. But if that’s the way of the entire universe then why should we be any different? And that’s what we experience in the rest of our lives, isn’t it? Things go along swimmingly and then suddenly the shit hits the fan. Births and deaths happen in threes. You have an unexpected inflow of money followed by an unexpected expense. We have periods of great happiness only to be frustrated by its impermanence. So what’s the trick? How do we survive this without going insane or engaging in some form of escapism, whether it’s shopping or drinking or video games or whatever? We live in the moment, that’s how. We fully participate in the cyclic nature of existence by staying present in this moment only. Disappointed in my solution? Maybe you were expecting some great revelation or some grand, new insight. But before you dismiss it look at it in the context of the entire universe. And then stop expecting something else. The trick is to be prepared for it and to fearlessly walk the razor’s edge between the two governing forces; not looking down, not looking too far ahead, not looking back. Just living this moment, this reality. And then remember that what we perceive isn’t reality at all. It’s our mind’s construct and interpretation of reality. Only reality is reality. It’s at the top of the pile and we only see a small piece of it. Next, there are symbols and archetypes which describe reality to our unconscious. And then there’s our quickened mind, which confuses the entire matter by hanging words and thoughts on the ineffable. We try to define the undefinable and in doing so, we rob it of its mystical power and force ourselves down into the prison of only what we see in front of our faces with our waking eyes. Let’s clear something up. I’m not advocating not working because you’re in a low or unproductive state. If I’m right and two opposing forces are required to manifest anything, then working when you’re feeling unproductive is incredibly important. Let’s say you’re a woodworker. There’s you and there’s the block of wood. Again, two forces. You bring the inspiration (positive, giving) and the wood brings the potential (negative, receiving). But both you and the wood have to join together to make a beautiful piece of work. So you end up with three things: you, the block of wood, and the finished piece. Those three things represent one thing: your vision for your work. Three different manifestations that all describe one thing. That’s a trinity. I bet that sounds familiar, but that’s a discussion for another time. What the wood offers is resistance (potential). You must bring the proper amount of force (inspiration) to create something beautiful. If you overwhelm the wood, then you end up feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. The wood couldn’t contain the amount of energy you brought to it. If you’re uninspired then the wood overwhelms you. You didn’t bring enough to the exchange to create anything worthy of being called “your work”. But when you and the wood are in harmony, the result is a leap into the unknown thing we call beautiful and moving art. The problem is that we never know when that harmony is going to happen. Why? Because creative energy, like all energy, is cyclical. It ebbs and flows. And we can’t predict when there is going to be harmonic convergence. At least I haven’t figured it out. So you have to keep working. One state doesn’t abruptly end, giving way to the other. They flow into each other. So you have to be ready. What if the harmony is there and you miss it? Then you’ll miss the magic carpet ride. All because you didn’t feel like it. How’s that for a reason to keep working every day? The hard part is staying mentally, psychologically, and spiritually open, especially when you don’t feel like it.
Once I realized this, once I stopped grumbling about how down I was feeling and got back to work. It’s kind of like jumping onto a moving train. You have to be moving at the same speed, grab on, and then leap. If you’re standing still the train will pass you by. If you’re moving too slow and you try to grab it, your arm will get torn off. If you’re moving too fast and you jump on, it’s gonna hurt. Simple, right? The other thing I realized is that if I’m stagnant I lose my creative vision. Why? Because vision is a living thing. It too, is cyclical. It evolves from moment to moment. It morphs and turns over on itself. It can become something else when you’re not watching. But if you’re moving along with it, if you’re actively participating with it, if you’re in harmony with it, then you never have to chase it because you are it and it is you. It’s another way the dual forces manifest. You and your vision. Don’t look for it. Be it. Work with it. Evolve with it. Then you never have to try to find it or wonder what it is. So walk the razor. Be courageous and fearless. Expect disappointment and stagnation as much as you expect progress and joy. And revel in all of it. Because life is short and time is long. Explore the fabric of now. That’s where art happens. As an artist, you have the opportunity to use the present moment to make a connection with that ineffable thing that exists in all of us. When you succeed, you lift us all above the words and thoughts of our waking lives into another realm. And maybe in extraordinary circumstances, just for a moment, you touch something even higher and deeper in us: a piece of that initial joining of the two forces that operate on every level of the universe. Now that’s a reason to make art if there ever was one.