Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Creating

The Blind Leading the Blind – Learning to Atually See and to Say What We See

Have you looked carefully at Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind? It was painted in 1568, and yet, it still speaks clearly to humanity’s goat-like tendency to thoughtlessly follow the crowd. Following the crowd can have severe adverse effects upon any of us who would like to create.

In most cases, we follow the crowd because, for one reason or another, the crowd seems to offer us some kind of security. Perhaps we like the crowd because it seems to be the popular place to be and has the seeming safeness of numbers. We think, “There are more of them than there are of me; therefore, ‘they’ must be right.”

When we create, the crowd becomes part of what Julia Cameron calls the Censor in her book the Artist’s Way, where she said that people have logical and linear behaviors embedded within them. She says that this logical behavior is part of one’s survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same–or part of the crowd.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

When I was a kid, a teacher questioned crowd behavior, asking: “If the crowd was jumping off the cliff, would you do the same thing?”

In Bruegel’s painting, the blind man seems to be leading the blinded crowd behind him off the edge of a cliff. What if the blinded crowd were actually a bunch of sighted people who refused to see? What if those who seem to be blindly following along are a  bunch of minds with their lights turned off? If those who refuse to see and those who deliberately dull their minds are desperate enough for acceptance, they may very well turn off their own lamps–simply to follow the crowd. Those people will have difficulty creating something original.

Before we can begin to be authentic creators, we must dare to step away from the crowd, and we must dare to see and to think and to create from what is true to our own selves. While being an individual can be scary, it is the only way to create something new. Furthermore, creation, by its very definition MUST be about something new–the scary, the unproven, the unsafe, and the different.

A couple of days ago, I began to question whether I truly wanted to create or whether I was merely playing at creating. I was tallying all of the excuses we make for not wanting to go out on the limb with our writing and our other creating. While we are great at finding excuses for not taking risks, the bottom line is that we love to live in denial. We love to be safe. We resist change, and we love speaking in code so that others may not guess too much of what we actually are–so that even we don’t see too much of who we really are.

Image result for kids drawing of a house

When we were very young, someone that we accepted as authority told us the “correct” way to draw a house and a sun and clouds and trees and flowers. Afterward, we learned those images and accepted them as symbols to represent the simple things in our lives. in the same way that the letters “H-o-u-s-e” spells “house,” we learned to draw boxes with triangles to say “house” in another way. Our simple little drawing says nothing about how we feel about the house, it simply says “house–the house that everyone in the crowd accepts to be a house.” If we want to write about a house or to paint our feelings about the house, we must move away from the code that the crowd has taught us. We must dig deeply within ourselves and find a way to say something that actually is deeper than words. We must move beneath the external and into our own internals, and sometimes that journey is scary.

As we mature, we tend to find more and more complex codes to reference things that we have difficulty saying, and that we have difficulty acknowledging to ourselves. As we become better and better with language, our codification grows complex, but any time that we reach within our tricky selves and pull out a pretty phrase or groups of paragraphs to replace the act of digging deeper for true meaning, we are still using code. Creating requires of us that we remove our own blinders and to shine a bright light on who we actually are and to speak from what we see–and not from the pretty phrases that we have banked to keep us from saying what we truly see.

©Jacki Kellum April 10, 2015

Blindly

The More We Give, the More We Receive – Why Blog? – Create to Discover New Ideas & New Creations

Yesterday, in my writing class, we talked about hoarding. I am not sure how the conversation began, but it quickly evolved into a discussion of the clutter that has amassed in all of our homes. Everyone agrees that the stuff that we hoard eventually strangles us and that we need to learn to let go. Many years ago, I read a short parable about the Dead Sea and about the damaging results of its refusal to give.

Two-Seas

The Parable of the Two Seas

“There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play…..

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.

What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

The Bible talks about Giving:

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

Initially, when I read the above scripture, I assumed that it was simply telling us to give of our money and of our groceries to actually provide those groceries for those around us. But I believe that the hunger and  the feeding in the Bible were about more than something that goes into our mouths. I believe that the Bible also talks about the pervasive hunger of the human spirit and of the needs of the soul.

William Blake was an English poet during the Romantic age of literature. He was a Christian, but he wrote about an emotional hunger that was broader than that described by most traditional Christians. In Blake’s early poems, The Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience, he contrasted the child’s spirit with that of the adult, saying that the adult had become hardened and insensitive and that the adult was no longer spiritual. I find it interesting that the Bible also speaks about the child.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘ Matthew 18:3

In Blake’s early poems, he was talking about more than childhood. Blake was talking about an emotional youth or spirituality.[I believe that the Bible is also talking about more than childhood]. Ultimately, William Blake described a Heaven and a Hell for people who either connect with their emotional spirituality or innocent imaginations or who choose not to connect with it. Blake said that the Imagination was the path to his Heaven, and he also wrote about a Christ-like figure Los, who was the embodiment of the Imagination. In Blake’s writing, the Imagination [Los] leads one to Heaven.

One may or may not accept that Blake’s teachings were Christian.

But Christianity is not the only religion that raises the issue of the needs of the hunger of the spirit or of the soul.

homesick.jpg

I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists . . . .

Many of us identify with the statement: I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists.  If we substituted the words
“hungry” and “food,” we would probably also acknowledge that we are starving, too.

I am hungry for a food I am not sure even exists.

The Tao draws ideas from Buddhism, and the first of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that mankind lives in a state of yearning. The Buddhists believe that by aligning oneself with the Four Noble Truths, that yearning will cease, or at least, it will be lessened.

“Tao or Dao (/taʊ/, /daʊ/; Chinese: 道; pinyin: About this sound Dào (help·info)) is a Chinese word signifying ‘way’, ‘path’, ‘route’, or sometimes more loosely, ‘doctrine’ or ‘principle’. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of “life” that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one’s everyday being.” Wikipedia Here

[The Tao Te Ching–or the Dao–can be found in its entirety by Googling the words: Tao Te Ching. It is a beautiful writing.]

The Hindu religion talks about the soul. “Atman means ‘eternal self’. The atman refers to the real self beyond ego or false self. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and indicates our true self or essence which underlies our existence.” From BBC Religions Here

I realize that I am over-simplifying all of these religious beliefs and schools of thought, but my main objective is to say that the Christians are not the only people who have identified a hunger and a need to be filled. I grew up as a Christian, and because I am slightly more comfortable talking about the Christain perspective, I return to the need to give, as it is discussed in the Bible. In an odd sort of way, I believe that humanity’s hunger has to do with the difficulty he has with giving:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Again, I admit that this may be an over-simplification, but I believe that as we create, we give. Think about it: When we post to our blogs, we “share.” Creating is a way that we empty ourselves, and as we empty of ourselves, we allow space for another creation to begin.

The act of creating works like a bellows.

 

bellows-define

What Is A Bellows?

A bellows is a device that can be used to fan the flames and to build a larger fire. When the arms of a bellows are pulled apart, air is drawn into a bag. When the arms are squeezed shut, the air is rushed out, and the oxygen fans the flames. This increases the size of the fire.  Once the air has been emptied from the bag, the arms are pulled apart again, and fresh air is drawn back into the bag. When the arms are shut again, another blast of oxygen is expelled, and the flames leap higher. A bellows is sometimes called a blast bag.

Writing Is Like Using A Bellows

When we initially begin to write, our thoughts may be nothing more than a tiny flicker. Our thoughts need oxygen. We must fan our reflections to help them grow. We begin by pushing out the stale air which has been sitting inside our bags or our minds. When the whiff that was initially inside the bagblows out, the flame may flash for a second or two, but it needs more than a draft of stale, oxygenless air. Once the bag is empty, however, we can pull apart the bellows, and fresh ideas, renewed memories, and other invigorating thoughts will fill the bags of our minds. When we push that new bag of fresh air across the flickering light, the flames will begin to leap into the air. But in order to fill our bags with that vital and fresh oxygen, we must expel the insipid air that has been trapped inside.

Relate Using A Bellows and Creating to Emptying in the Teachings of Zen

The Full Teacup is a Zen story that illustrates the need for emptying. A man who was believed to be powerful and wise came to the Zen master to learn something new. Apparently, the student began by reciting to the master some of the things that he already knew. Apparently, he was trying to impress the master with the depth of his knowledge. After the Zen master listened for a moment, he said, “Let’ begin our session with a cup of tea.”

The master filled the student’s cup with tea, but he did not stop pouring. Tea flowed from the cup and ran across the floor. The student said, “Stop, the cup is full.”

The Zen master responded, “Exactly. Your mind is like the full cup of tea. I cannot teach you anything until you empty your mind and open yourself to something new.”

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 11

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

When we sit down to write, we often feel that we have nothing new to say. That is because our minds are filled with stale, lifeless thoughts. Before we can begin to discover what we want to write, we must expel what is inside ourselves and we must create an empty space within our consciousnesses.

Please return to the idea of the Dead Sea, the body of water that does not empty of itself.

The Dead Sea – “Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.”

“What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

“This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

“The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

“The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

:There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

Allow me to add to this parable. There are also two kinds of thinkers. One type of thinker explores his thoughts and shares. In doing so, he is continuously emptying his thoughts through writing, through painting, or through producing music. Fresh ideas will continually flow inside the generous thinker’s mind, and the new ideas will replace what had previously been there. The other type of thinker will not empty of himself–he will not give. The thinker who hoards will not allow what is inside his head to flow outward. Therefore, his brain  becomes parched and dried. The grass is no longer green in this thinker’s mind, and the children no longer come to play. Nothing will change until the thinker allows what is inside himself to flow out.

We Must Create to be More Creative:

When we don’t give–when we don’t create–
We allow our inner selves to stagnate;
And stagnation leads to withering,
Which ultimately results in a type of death.
When we don’t create, we become like the Dead Sea. 

I often write about my reasons for blogging. For me, there is no money in blogging. I don’t blog to increase my wealth, but I do blog for other selfish reasons. I blog to empty my mind and to be re-invigorated through that emptying. I blog to control the chaos that results from the stagnation of too much information, and I blog to be blessed with something new to say. I would not say that I am a generous person. A generous person gives for no reason at all, and I do have a reason for giving through my creativity. I create to be more creative.

©Jacki Kellum September 23, 2016

Generous

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