No Black Robes for Me David Martin
“A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.” “In democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count who votes.” “A backward poet writes inverse.” At Fine Lines, we have fun with words. While developing poems, stories, essays, and books, we discover creative corners of our minds that we did not know existed. Metaphorically, we take our journals under “shade trees” and talk together about issues that matter. We swim around important “buoys” in our educational journeys. We row boats to “lighthouses” that show us our pathways through the morning mist. We take our minds for “jogs” to the library. We learn to write more, faster, and better. We create time to dream about ideas and celebrate the power and beauty of vocabulary. In this publication, we share poetry and prose by writers of all ages in attempts to add clarity and passion to our lives. Composition is hard work, and we celebrate its rewards in each issue. Writing of life’s experiences brings order to chaos, beauty to existence, and celebration to the mysterious. Communication is composed of different methods: words, tone and non-verbal clues. Some are more effective in delivering messages than others. In a conversation, words are 7% effective; tone of voice is 38% effective, and non-verbal clues are 55% effective (Albert Mehrabian, “What Is Non-Verbal Communication.” Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1972). While talking, speakers use 93% of communication that does not focus on words.
Spring 2012 LORD POLONIUS [Aside] How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter: yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger: he is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered much extremity for love; very near this. I’ll speak to him again. What do you read, my lord? HAMLET Words, words, words. Poor Hamlet. Polonius thought he was insane because of the way he talked, his reasoning, and his choice of words. Little did Polonius know, Hamlet’s words were insightful and correctly placed by Shakespeare. Speakers have the luxury of using hand gestures, raising their voices for emphasis, and eye contact. Is this why we have so many “talkers,” and writers struggle with facing the blank page while emphasizing words, which represent only 7% of total communication? Writing as meditation allows for sculpting thoughts into poems and prose that take us on journeys, where living in the present moment makes us feel as though we are cast adrift. The creation of any art form can be as much a meditation as a vehicle for self-expression. Energetically splashing colors of paint onto a canvas can be like casting the weight of the world off our shoulders, while raising our voices to hit the high notes of a song can inspire us to release our fears, so we can reach new heights in our own lives. Like other forms of meditation, writing poetry requires that we stay fully present during the process, rather than focusing on outcomes. In doing so, we release inhibitions and ideas of “what needs to happen,” so our thoughts flow freely through us. When we write, we are able to see the reflections of our innermost selves imprinted on the page. The word “educate” comes from “educe” in Latin, which means “to draw forth or bring out, as something potential or latent.” It was not until Shakespeare that this word was used in the sense of “to provide schooling in Loves Labours Lost.” Writing in many forms brings out ideas trapped below the surface of our subconscious. Using this art form is a way to “educate” ourselves and “draw forth” our artistic potential. If writers want to experience poetry as meditation practice, they might want to try this exercise. Set aside twenty minutes in a quiet space. Look at poems other people have written to see if there is a style of familiar poetry worth imitation. Try writing in freeform. The structure of the poem will then 16
Fine Lines organically reveal itself. When ready, sit down with pen and paper and let the words flow. Do not think about what is coming next, and do not worry about spelling, grammar, and logic. Instead, be as descriptive, visually precise, rhythmic, and lyrical as possible. When complete, put the pen down, and read over what was written. Appreciate this work of art just created. Thoughts and emotions repressed before will make themselves known, so the writing process can release them. Writing poetry as a form of meditation lets us slow down our minds long enough to get out of our own way and play with words, so our souls can freely express their deepest yearnings. One of the most important books people can find for their library shelves is In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell. This free thinker shows what virtues there are in day-dreaming, looking out windows in a trance-like state, wishful thinking, and finding a way to play at work, no matter what age a person might be. It might sound strange to say so, but imaginative people find their source of creativity in what appears to be lazy behavior and doing nothing. Research shows that overbearing micromanagers kill the spark in most creative people, and a relaxed, helpful, collaborative attitude allows the cognitive process to percolate and brew original thoughts. We could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism. Somehow, the brain invents the best and the most, when not dealing with stress in the environment. Too many of us are traveling at 33 rpms in an iPad world. Companies have their brain-storming, think-tank sessions at retreats, away from the normal, daily diversions of business. In several WWII government projects, studies proved that casual clothes, a community of relaxed friends, pleasing surroundings, and a collegial passion for a project allowed the percolation process to develop, and new, better creations appeared, magically. When we are released into joy, humbled with gratitude, shaken by beauty, and choose to make a difference, great service will come from our hearts. The measure of creativity is to create without measure. The artist in us knows that not all who wander are lost, and just when the caterpillar thought its world was over, the creature became a butterfly. The Druids had something when they went into the forest meadows and prayed to their awe-inspiring trees. These “steeples of nature” created shade in their outdoor churches and classrooms. Today, many people with green thumbs feel closer to God’s heart in gardens and corn fields. One of the values of gardening and digging in the soil in any form is the chance to reflect on life, while we let Nature do the work. “The Minister of Tomato Plants” takes over, carries the load, and gives people a chance to reflect, 17
Spring 2012 meditate, and worship the sunshine and growing leaves. There are not many locations in life where we get such an opportunity. We should praise idleness, leisure, and the time to be ourselves, wherever we find it. Many churches have an Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not question.” I need a holy place whose goal at all times is “to know thyself,” and questioning is necessary for that to occur. If I must be cloaked in anything holy, let me be clothed in a garb of thoughtful, humble questions. No black robes for me, please. I wish to leave something behind, when I go, and I hope it is more than a tombstone. Collecting words to understand my journey on Earth is enough. This joy makes me “a latter-day-writer,” and my pen pal letters to God are a humble attempt to find peace. When I put everything together in my life on the page, it spells “Mother.” She let the light shine with her words and smiles. She encouraged me to grow and thrive. I felt comfortable asking her questions about anything, and she was happiest when I asked her questions that she did not know the answers to or had not thought of those possibilities. I am positive she was a medium. I could sense her getting into a zone, when she felt like sharing with me the lessons she learned in life, and I saw her channel the good side of the force into positive developments for our family. Ralph Waldo Emerson became so mad when reading books written by others that he vowed never to read anything again, unless he wrote it. Many of us cannot go that far, but we can feel what he was saying. What is true for others is not or does not have to be true for all. Henry David Thoreau, Emerson’s protégé in Concord, took one step farther when he declared in his book, Walden, that each generation must create its own bible. Mahatma Gandhi declared all religions have some truths, and yet, there are also errors in them, too. His view of the trinity appeals to me. If there is a trinity in any religion, he said it must be freedom, reason, and tolerance for all people. Religions are like languages. One is not any better than the rest, if the person using a specific one is able to communicate the way he desires. Languages are different ways of talking to the spirits. Leonard Bernstein’s well received and inspirational 1960s youth concerts showed all music may be appreciated on specific, emotional levels. Religions may be appreciated in the same way, too. There are different forms of wondrous music to satisfy different tastes and abilities. Music is just one of the infinite languages of life, and religion is another. No one has the only way of speaking and seeing. Art, dance, writing, photography, music, and religion are avenues to understanding the mysteries of life. One may not be any more important to grasping the prodigious Great Mystery than another. 18
Fine Lines “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research” (Albert Einstein). Every day is another chance to “research” our world. Placing words on blank pages is an effective way to study life, and writing a little each day opens doors I do not see until I start pushing ink across the pages. I write into new spaces and always find myself there. Every line increases my awareness that no one knows but me. I look at the page and say, “I start here, but I can go anywhere.” With a #2 pencil, I can travel the world, and I always feel better having written. Creative people exist on the edges of life in order to find their reason for living. From their perches, they can see into the unknown, shadowy corners of life where the truth lies undiscovered. Their passions drive them. Their dreams guide their passions. Their intention compels their dreams. They believe in their art. It is their spiritual nature coming alive. The medium chosen by each artist may be different, but what happens in paint, pastels, powder, pixels, and pen defines the person. When I gave up Beethoven for baseball, I became more creative in center field. When I let my brother have my chemistry set, I found more time to spend with Charles Dickens in the library. When I sidestepped my father’s suggestion to learn the mechanics of tractors, I found warmblooded horses, cattle, and dogs to be my friends. When I tried to model my mother’s uncanny ability to listen to others, I found myself driven to write my thoughts on paper. When I surrendered something of myself to others, to causes, to time, and when I volunteered to close a window of myself, I felt new doors open that led me to a revised me. I tell everyone who will listen to me and all of my friends these facts. Unfortunately, few people listen, and my two friends are out of town. To compose anything is a mystery of creation. To see new insights with metaphor is to touch a free flowing stream and hear the water cascading over the mountain rocks that make up its riverbed and banks. To realize the power of intuition is to see a burning bush on the side of the road and feel a desire to remove one’s shoes. To journey through life in one’s chosen art is to know we are not alone. Language is a combination of myth, logic, and form. This triad brings creative power (renewing) and palingenesis (sensual plus spiritual rebirth). This artistic expression combines liberation, illusion, fantasy, and truth. When we wish to create, we must remember to play. We must dream, and do what we love. Giving hope to others becomes a bi-product of these steps. Salute! Here is to the creative spark in each of us. Dream it. Live it. Write it.