Why is it We Imagine We Can’t Do Things? (R12+)


So often one hears, “I can’t draw…” “I can’t write…” “I can’t figure this out…”

Many adherents of the Gurdjieff canon have a general belief that human beings are simply unable to DO anything because there’s a belief that we are asleep, not in control of our lives. Certainly any attempt to DO is futile when we’re sleep-walking through life – just as in night dreams it’s normally impossible to influence the way things go – yet it’s patently obvious that many people are able to DO various things: awake, they are able to change our notion of the world, make us see things differently, by what they draw & paint, compose music, how they write novels & poems and philosophical tracts.

How is it that some people do all that with apparent consummate ease while others spend their time engaging in the self-fulfilling prophetic words ‘I can’t…’?

That’s worth thinking about. Without knowing exactly themselves how they do it it’s at least possible that, in their other-than-conscious mind, craftsmen & women, poets, artists & composers & writers of plays, and those who deal in philosophy go lightly through the following virtual internal dialogue following the steps depicted in Gregory Bateson’s concept of Logical Levels:-

Scan0008
A Shakespeare, a Chomsky, a Tolstoy or a Beethoven might say to themselves, following the rings of the diagram from the outside in, without being in the least consciously aware of it, “These are my favourite places & times for doing exactly what I do; in addition there are a lot of other things I could do, given time & space & intention & mind-sweep; and then, in summary, this is what everything that I do says about me – what I believe about things, about my identity, my self-image, my management of my I-system; and beyond that I know there’s an ‘I’ capable of making sense of it all, a Meta-I that can observe everything in an objective kind of way…”

That’s internal dialogue, giving oneself a virtual talking to.

Is it what they call positive thinking or deliberate self-talk? Or just the difference between ‘I can’t…’ (which takes us up a cul-de-sac) and ‘I don’t know how to…’ (which offers the possibility of taking steps to find out what it will be like when I do know)?

Getting somewhere else could be as simple as taking Paul Klee’s advice to, for instance, a budding artist: just ‘take your pencil for a walk…’  take your various ‘I’s walking with an idea and find out what each, in a dialogue, thinks of it; if you’d like to compose music take a tune for a walk, one note following another. Then something in you might say, ‘From right here in this moment now I can easily do this and find that I could do much else; this gives me a different view of what I believe about myself…’

And that’s Meta-I talking…

The Process

Then, pre-supposing that there’s something compelling you to drive the important things along, some kind of sense is pretty well certain to emerge eventually.  This is my experience anyway; it took me a very long time to realise that I was a sort of master of language flow. Even now I don’t really believe it! In 1971 in a hard-back exercise book – the first of many – I set myself to write 500 words a day on any old thing – along the lines of the Yeatsian idea of automatic writing. Eventually (pretty soon) this became a page a day and then by the mid-80’s large chunks of stuff. I always thought that the contents of these books would make notes for longer pieces but I’ve only just started mining the Notebooks to tip into ROOM books.

So, since it’s obvious that it’s not all plain sailing, what is it that stops us?

Probably some impoverished not having the time or energy ‘I’, or a complete I-system, left over from the past.

There was a prefect at school whom I admired greatly and aspired to be like. One afternoon, on the steps of a wooden pavilion after hockey, he said to me a propos of nothing as it seems, “Do you know, Blundell, you’re a fool!” There’s a part of me, a significant set of ‘I’s, that, when I let it all hang out, has never got over this: “I am a fool to imagine that I can do anything…” This was a great preparation for accepting the Gurdjieff idea that we cannot DO without asking the important question, ‘Sez who?’

But, on the other hand, it’s likely that everything I’ve done since that afternoon has been, as it were, a concentrated effort to prove him wrong. So, thank you, Austen, for your ignorant taunt. (Where are you now, Austen – and what have you accomplished?)

There’s a need for an ‘I’ that can shout out ‘Sod the Self-imposed Restrictions!’ and one that can look for positive outcomes in-spite-of…  And another that notices how the Self-imposed Restrictions actually help to avoid too rash decisions. I avoid actions that make me seem to be a fool!

There are misguided teachers who tell us we can’t draw, can’t write, can’t do this or that. They create the Being-feeling-&-taste-of-can’t-I’s in us. Fortunately I never came across any such teachers in relation to art & music & language – the important things of the soul. The very eccentric art teacher at Kingston Grammar School around 1950 whom we called ‘Techy’ – ‘the world’s most rejected artist’, as the Sunday papers called him – was in a world of his own and just left us to it; the eccentric young music teacher just played us strange music and left us to it; and there were eccentric English teachers who seemed to think a lot of my essay-writing, imitative of Charles Lamb & Thomas Carlyle whom I’d picked up for myself from the various books of Collected Essays that had been handed to us without comment and without ever being referred to explicitly.

Teachers who really know their job are so well-educated in themselves that they just push things your way, keeping a watching brief to make sure that you’re picking things up. This is what I have acquired by imitating the teachers that mattered to me. Nowadays I’d talk about ‘modelling excellence’ but Plato had the basic idea long ago! The result, anyway, somehow or the other, was that I developed a very energetic Do-it-yourself-I which persists to this day and might even team up with Being-reckless-I on occasions.

How Did Plato Do It?

I’ve been reading Plato and Platonism by Walter Pater (1893 – you can’t beat the old books even though they start to fall apart as you read them!). There’s a rather nice section on imitation and the ethical influence of aesthetics.

“You have perceived, have you not?” observes the Platonic Socrates, “that acts of imitation, if they begin in early life, and continue, establish themselves in one’s nature and habits, alike as to the body, the tones of one’s voice, the ways of one’s mind.”

Walter Pater sets the effect of imitation in the context of Plato’s aesthetic doctrine which combines intellectual astringency, power over oneself, patient crafty reserve and control.

Imitation then, imitation through the eye and ear, is irresistible in its influence over human nature. … We, [who might even now be] the founders, the people, of the Republic, of the city that shall be perfect, have for our peculiar purpose the simplification of human nature: a purpose somewhat costly, for it follows that the only kind of music, of art and poetry, we shall permit ourselves, our citizens, will be of a very austere character, under a sort of ‘self-denying ordinance’. We shall be a fervently aesthetic community, if you will; but therewith also very fervent …ascetics.

By comparison in every way our own ‘republic’ fails miserably: things have not been simplified – quite the opposite, and unnecessarily so; under the reign of post-modernism the aesthetic impulse has been abolished; the ‘austerity’ that’s been forced upon us has come to mean that the poor get poorer while the rich make hay – in Plato’s Republic it is made clear that the Power Possessors get no rake-off at all in order that their objectivity be not impaired.

…according to Plato’s view, souls are the creatures of what we see and hear. What would probably be found in a limited number only of sensitive people, a constant susceptibility to the aspects and other sensible qualities of things and persons, to the element of expression or form in them and their movements, to phenomena as such – this susceptibility Plato supposes in people generally. It is not so much the matter of a work of art, what is conveyed in and by colour and form and sound, that tells upon us educationally – the subject, for instance, developed by the words and scenery of a play – as the form, and its qualities, concision, simplicity, rhythm, or, contrariwise, abundance, variety, discord. Such ‘aesthetic’ qualities …transform themselves, in the temper of the patient, the hearer or spectator, into terms of ethics, into the sphere of the desires and the will…

Run your life on studied concision with observable degrees of abundance & variety, simplicity built on complexity, rhythm and its interruption, the quest for patterns, and pattern-breaking discord… then desires and behaviour, each ‘I’ with its own dynamism, will acquire those very characteristics.

Imitation – it enters into the very fastnesses of character; and we, our souls, ourselves, are for ever imitating what we see and hear, the forms, the sounds which haunt our memories, our imagination. We imitate not only if we play a part on the stage but when we sit as spectators, while our thoughts follow the acting of another, when we read Homer and put ourselves, lightly, fluently, into the place of those he describes: we imitate unconsciously the line and colour of the walls around us, the trees by the wayside, the animals we pet or make use of, the very dress we wear.

On the one hand this is about identification; on the other hand it’s about modelling on excellence. Become so conscious as to prevent the loss of self in identifying; consciously take up those aspects of successful & effective behaviour, of a well-ordered environment, of relationship, that you can make work for yourself.

It’s about learning to manage the I-system – the dialectical give & take between ‘I’s. Walter Pater describes Plato’s dialectic in terms which can easily be related to multiple-I’s.

…In that long and complex dialogue of the mind with itself, many persons [inside it], so to speak, will necessarily take part; so many persons as there are possible contrasts or shades in the apprehension of some complex subject. The devil’s advocate will be heard from time to time. The dog also, or, as the Greeks said, the wolf, will out with his story against the man; and one of the interlocutors will always be a child, turning round upon us innocently, candidly, with our own admissions, or surprising us, perhaps at the last moment, by what seems his invincible ignorance, when we thought it rooted out of him. There will be a youth, inexperienced in the capacities of language, who will compel us to allow much time to the discussion of words and phrases, though not always unprofitably. And to the last, let us hope, refreshing with his enthusiasm the weary or disheartened inquirer (who is always also of the company), the rightly sanguine youth, ingenuous and docile, to whom, surely, those friendly living ideas will be willing, longing, to come, after that Platonic law of affinity, so effectual in these matters… the dialectic method [thus engaged], will also have its felicities, its singular good fortunes. A voyage of discovery, prosecuted almost as if at random…

This dialectic method, this continuous discourse with one’s self, being, for those who prosecute it with thoroughness, co-extensive with life itself – a part of the continuous company we keep with ourselves through life – will have its inequalities; its infelicities; above all, its final insecurity.

Taking Ownership of the Dialectic

The conversation between the different parts of oneself which starts at birth can so easily fritter itself away. The momentary insights, the sudden perspectives & illuminations, the individually unique patterning of things – lost and gone forever unless one takes hold and shouts STOP! repeating the simple mantra, “This is me, being me, here and now!” I take ownership of this thing that’s ME, hologram constructed just now out of manifold influences & impressions coming from all directions. I take ownership of this event now and make it into a poem, sketch, tune or a paragraph like this one just ending here.

The minutiae of existence get lost unless one takes ownership to preserve them whatever their quality – let that take care of itself… It’s probably a  feeling thing. I suppose I’ve prized the things I’ve thought, more so when others (no matter how small the number) have seemed to get something out of how I’ve recorded them… And then I forget…

So just how is it that some people seem committed to having the confidence to say what they believe to be the case without bothering what others may think, seeming to be so sure of themselves, able to make an oral statement with a string of sentences that somehow add up, or writing as though the next word appears to just flow – and the next and the next…?

Of course, a popular demagogue, stirred by passion & conviction, can make words flow to have a convincing effect on the listeners: Hitler was rather good at this though grossly flawed ecologically; currently, Owen Jones (who watched in awe as ‘the Right transformed a crisis of the market into a crisis of public spending…’) has flow with absolute humanity and integrity. Or study Noam Chomsky.

A Permanent Centre of Gravity

What’s needed to have integrity? In the Gurdjieff canon it requires a permanent and well-formed centre of gravity. The whole integrated I-system is pulled inside one’s Being and assimilated to what could be called Real-I.

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I found this diagram somewhere – it’s a nice graphic version of the same thing: the fragmented self exists when the multiplicity of ‘I’s is not recognised and so they don’t relate together and only function on the periphery, fighting amongst themselves; and while they bicker continually we pretend to Unified-I which is senseless; as we begin to understand how multiple-I’s work and relate together we become more unified; when we choose to be able to move from ‘I’ to ‘I’ as appropriate for the task in hand and become a spectator of the constellations in Meta-I a whole integrated self begins to emerge.

Right work on oneself begins with the creation of a permanent centre of gravity. When a permanent centre of gravity has been created everything else begins to be disposed and distributed in subordination to it…  realisation of the mechanicalness and aimlessness of everything can create… a permanent centre of gravity…  Ouspensky: In Search of the Miraculous (p259)

I tend to think that it all began for me when I was about 21 and first read Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy : that made me choose to understand that at the base of all ‘religions’ was a common impulse. Once that idea is embedded it acts as a magnet to attract and repulse whatever swings into one’s orbit. A common impulse runs through everything.

chainWhen I feel I have something I want to express,  to start with I begin to go into a fairly smooth ‘chain reaction’ of ideas & thoughts, one thing leading to another over several hours. But first of all, before putting pen to paper, I think of an appropriate image or metaphor, usually visual/kinaesthetic: so ‘chain reaction’ is an image that seems entirely right to this Glob; everything is connected, as Ouspensky says, so the task is to uncover the links in the chain – which can be a pretty scrambled business.

I think that this has been an infinitely transferable metaphor for me: I chain-read & have done for 55 years; I chain-paint pictures – there are four in my workshop awaiting the finishing touches; I chain-link musical notes together.

I know for sure that the impetus comes from within, from some somatic hidden dynamism, an I-tag that says, “Right, go!” never mind anything or anybody else. There is an I that sometimes wonders whether anybody out there has the energy or enthusiasm to read what I write, look at what I paint, listen to what I compose but for the most part it gets drowned out by all the other ‘I’s that clamour for expression.

For the past four weeks I’ve been reading Walter Pater and I’ve been writing a chain of commentatory poems that suddenly seem relevant to the ownership of ideas and thinking – just doing it never mind the consequences…

Crystallisation and Magnetic Centre

According to Gurdjieff, the result of focus on what you happen to be interested in, or concerned with, results in some CRYSTALLISATION somewhere inside you – how can we describe it? Some I-tag or somatic marker… I like the idea of something crystallising inside you – an unspecifiable something or other that, once established there, drives you onwards.

Mr G describes how his father used to tell stories to him as a child.  Later on he happened to read an article in a magazine about Babylonian tablets with 4000 year old inscriptions some of which contained the legend of the Epic of Gilgamesh which was one of the legends his father had told him:

…particularly when I read in this text the twenty-first song of the legend in almost the same form of exposition as in the songs and tales of my father, I experienced such an inner excitement that it was as if my whole future destiny depended on all this. And I was struck by the fact… that this legend had been handed down by ‘ashokhs’ [=local bard, of whom his father was one] from generation to generation for thousands of years, and yet had reached our day almost unchanged. After this occurrence … the beneficent result of the impressions formed in my childhood from the narratives of my father finally became clear to me – a result that crystallised in me a spiritualising factor enabling me to comprehend that which usually appears incomprehensible…        (Meetings with Remarkable Men p36)

For me, this is exactly what happens when you read a text that somehow moves heaven & earth around you. You know for sure that life will never be the same again. Thus it was for me when I first read Richard Jefferies’ The Story of my Heart; something crystallised within me, became uncompromisingly hard and polished. Then came a whole series of texts that I’ve catalogued elsewhere which helped the polishing process.

Mr G: ‘In order to be able to speak of any kind of future life [for oneself] there must be a certain crystallisation, a certain fusion of people’s inner qualities, a certain independence of external influences…’

As things are, we are so at the mercy of external pushes & pulls, media brainwashing, political subversion, advertising gimickry, the News of the Day, being in e-touch, that independence is a struggle to achieve unless you have a confirmed sense of purpose.

Fusion, inner unity, is obtained by mean of friction, by the [inner] struggle between ‘yes’ and ‘no’…  If you live without inner struggle, if everything happens in you without opposition… you will remain such as you are.  But when a struggle begins in you, and particularly when there is a definite line [aim] in this struggle, then, gradually, permanent traits begin to form themselves, you begin to crystallise…   (Ouspensky: In Search of the Miraculous p32)

The something or other that draws things to you like iron filings Gurdjieff calls Magnetic Centre. That’s a powerful metaphor that seemed to work itself through his own life. In G

…one felt a [complete absence of pretension] absence of personal interest in anything he was doing, a complete indifference to ease and comfort and a capacity for not sparing himself in work whatever that work might be… Sacrifice is necessary, said G, if nothing is sacrificed nothing is obtained… Sacrifice is necessary only while the process of crystallisation is going on. When crystallisation is achieved, renunciations, privations and sacrifices are no longer necessary. Then you can have everything you want. There are no longer any laws for you, you become a law unto yourself…   (In Search of the Miraculous  p33)

How does Magnetic Centre develop? Early choices about the meaning of existence leading to a drive to make sense of the universe; choosing to encompass those things which seem to feed some internal space – valuing particular kinds of books and pictures and music. On the wall of my bedroom when I was very young my parents had hung a couple of paintings depicting a field of bluebells with a path leading down to the sea. I used to stare at these scenes and wander down the path towards sea and sand. This was how my psyche was first nurtured – how it was prepared to accept things of value to it in the future.
…Being prepared means that one must already know oneself to a certain extent; one must know one’s aim; one must know the value of one’s decisions; there must be a certain elimination of lying to oneself; one must be able to be sincere with oneself…  (Ouspensky: The Fourth Way p95)

A Collection of Poems

When Magnetic Centre is formed ‘correctly’ all sound influences begin to link up, connect, and become strongly centred… And so, reading Walter Pater, for example, I found myself making connections that seemed more and more to fall into the shape of poetry.

From elsewhere I had in mind the question – How does one start the writing & thinking task? How does one keep it going? How do we know when the task is accomplished? Well, for Plato it seems that

there are no absolute beginnings

for this or that doctrine or idea of Being;
fix it where you like – the moment when –
somebody will always be able
to discover some prior inkling
some previous expression of the same thing

the most elementary act
of mental analysis takes time to formulate;
the ins & outs of speculation
must grow with a studied unease

so the concept παντα ῥει
(everything flows) once startling in its novelty
takes easy root now because it’s already
something lodged in the mind –
part of the universal zeitgeist…
except for those stuck forever in fixity

so the  eloquent Plato is an eclectic critic
of older theories – the minute relics
of already ancient ideas
rather than the figure we have chosen
to be encouraged to call ‘the father of philosophy’ –
his teaching a palimpsest      a tapestry;
nothing there but the life-giving
principle of a personal cohesion is new –
a novel perspective
in which familiar thoughts attain expression
in hitherto unanticipated juxtaposition

                                                ⊗

Plato evolved his philosophy in an attempt to counter the likes of Heraclitus who famously asserted that ‘you can’t step into the same river twice’. Everything is in a state of flow, constantly changing. But Heraclitus had dug his heels in, as philosophers are wont to do, making a stand on a particular way of thinking. By contrast, Plato fancied immutability.

We do a pendulum between fixity and change; we would like to pin things down but are aware of things changing around us. At the bottom of the pendulum swing, perhaps, there’s purpose & aim. This can keep us on the path direct.

in Ephesus

Heraclitus walked amongst
irreflective actors
in a rapidly moving show
so entirely immersed in its superficiality
that they had no feeling of self
while Heraclitus became self-conscious…
he reflected – reflection
with the characteristic melancholy
of youth when it is forced to bethink itself
and for secret moments
feels already old – the temperature
of the world sensibly colder

all things pass – nothing remains

Heraclitus had mere rags & tatters of evidence
(and so do we…)    unbent to discipline
unmethodical      irresponsible   non-rational
fluid elements on the changing
surface of το ὀν     (what is)

as thoughts fly away
so do the leaves of autumn
and the currents of the constellations;
the Alps drift down rivers into the plains;
races   laws   arts   have their origins & endings
ripples on the Great River

nobody ever passes over
the same river twice: the flow
of the river is model and type
of the passenger’s own identity –

old Plato wasted his time
opting for immutability –
the only unchangeable element
is Change itself

There’s a real problem in staking a claim to absolute certainty and fixity: unwilling to shift for fear of the consequences, one becomes identified with it; other possibilities are ignored.

phenomena

– real objects – grow
in reality towards us
in proportion as we define
their various qualities

but as we attribute
qualities to objects
(shape & size & movement)
we deny them
alternative qualities
and merely contain
our identification in them

a tune played on the piano
is all the keys you don’t touch

Xenophanes opted for belief
in Absolute Oneness –
pure Being prior to
all projection       closed in
indifferently on all sides
upon itself      suspended
in the midst of no-thing

hard transparent crystal ball
centre of all things –
to enforce a reasonable unity
and order        to impress
some larger likeness
of Reason – the kind
one knows in one’s own self –
upon the chaotic infinitude
of impressions reaching us
from every side:    κοσμος
order   reasonable
delightful order

It’s a terrified intellectual response to uncertainty to set up a fictional Oneness, to project one’s own way of thinking on to the universe; the resulting ‘reasonable unity’ is only the projection of how one would like things to be.

In order to forge a calm passage through all this, full of aim & intention, we have to work in an other-than-intellectual kind of way, understand ‘the curious processes at work in our own bodies’. make a combined body/mind/spirit/feelingful assault on ‘reality’ – the cosmos, το ὀν . Then, and only then, can we get the Nothingness, which is the paradoxical harbour & starting point for the New World.

when we have learned

as exactly as we can
all the curious processes
at work in our own bodies
amongst the stars    under
the earth       psyche  –
their very definiteness

their limitations
will but make them
the more antagonistic
towards that which alone
really is – το ὀν –
because it is always
and everywhere     itself
identical exclusively
with itself

make a clean sweep
of phenomena   to establish
in the resulting void
the One and only
with which      in spite of
common language
mere words   in spite of
common sense
it is impossible to associate
the Many (the hills & cities
of Greece      deckchairs
on the beach      trees
chimneys     you & me
and all we imagine
ourselves to be…)

Parmenides stumbled on
the idea that thought
and being are one and the same:
it’s all one to me
at what point I begin
for there I shall return
over & over again

infectious mania –
strange passion for non-entity
self-negation   ecstasy
variously down the ages

the quest for zero
algebraic symbol for
Nothingness brings out
fine intellectual qualities
– it is of service to those
who can profit
by the spectacle
of an enthusiasm not meant
for them
to be colourless
formless     impalpable
is the note
of a superior grade of knowledge
and existence     attained
finally by the suppression
of all the rule & outline
of actual experience & thought

Nothingness & non-being, the infinite space where everything is possible, the carefully crafted prose & poetry, the music, the works of art. A bit excitingly daunting…

and how will you seek

for what you do not know
or understand since
you do not know what it might be
– just where will you begin
on the unknown path?

you wouldn’t bother seeking
what you imagine you know already
but you might not even begin
to know how to seek that for which
you have no map or compass

but what if it had been there
forever – the knowledge of
shape & proportion & pattern
& rectitude revealing itself to you
in moments of absolute stillness

when things become as clear
as if they had been there
all the time and all you needed
was to lean back & recollect?
– truly to know is to grow

into your deepest Being
and relax into understanding
without the clutter of opinion
& dubious points of view
& argument about this and that

and anything based on the sin
of profit – there are boxes
fitting one in another on and on
and doors which open in heaven
standing outside of which

on the back of the sky you
can gaze into wide open spaces
beyond and observe the long levers
& spindles & revolving wheels
of the way things are   το ὀν

a white celestial thought
shoots of everlastingness –
by backward steps I go
into the unknown
twisting it again and again

to be at home with myself

And…

you know

when something is worthwhile
when dimwits give it a bad name –
thus having an interest
in the workings of the self
is called ‘navel-gazing’

to know oneself is the first condition
of being able to relate to others;
learning to be at home with oneself
(not how to manage stocks & shares)
is the central business of education
– to fulfill the claim of consciousness
and reason to create a world
out of itself
interest in your self
– the ground of all reality –
and your daimon
whatever that might be
is a profounder study…

flashing a light into the house
(its many chambers   its memories
and pictured walls)
so that you become less interested
in the superficial – the mere outsides
of other people & their occupations

study well your leading apprehensions
– not mere empiric routine –
by an art not managed by the left hand
not by the sinister one

Writing or making anything is an attempt to rescue meaning from the inert bits & pieces the world presents us with, to make them into our own possession.

make it your own

not something outside you…
when I write poems they come from some corner
of my self that itches to describe
a pattern of being…
pattern that would otherwise
just swill around the neurons for a moment
and disappear into what’s called
the mists of time

have to get out of habitual inertia
to grasp – to make a bid for
something that’s alive: idea that dances
around your mind singing –
here I am     just look at me!
watch my shape & my accoutrements

take it into yourself as I take this moment now
inside me with the evening chorale
of woodpigeons that treat our garden
as a lively haven     evening primrose
tall against the shrubbery
just where it chooses to be
before moving on somewhere else
next year    spur valerian & montbretia
just as it might be right now
on the cliffs at Boscombe
just as it was seventy years ago

taking all this into my psyche
is an idea I’ve toyed with
for many years    making the landscape
an extension of me
making the horizon part of
who I imagine my self to be…
then I must get it all down
before it escapes me to become
as though it had never been

make all things into your own possession
is an adage buried deep inside me
which I took into my possession
from a page of Alfred North Whitehead
installed there for sixty years:
don’t ever let stuff remain inert
for only that which is suffused with your own light
can be of consequence and the thing is
to shine the light further and further into the dark

when I make a watercolour
I must first of all become the landscape –
possess it deeply before dispossessing it
in the artefact itself;
when I make a piece of music
it must flow through me and I through it
before I can dispossess it in sound

when I get into a flow of words
they must flow through me
into a swirling eddy
like I saw at the landing stage
of the King’s Lynn ferry yesterday
and come out making a dispossessed sense

I write all this in the offhand manner of Frank O’Hara
(The Lunch Poems) supposing that somebody
may pick it up and read it sometime as I read words
in ancient books like this one open on my desk right now –
Plato & Platonism by Walter Pater 1893
its brown-edged pages one hundred & twenty-one years old –

and they may well say what the hell
and I may lie in the dusty back corridor
of a second-hand bookshop – always assuming
that something such will survive in this benighted
digital age that seems so goddam
proud of itself quite without reason

I know I have made my mark
on this person and that – so it goes…
except for the person and their personal leap
into something other I do not count it
important – here’s my own being simply going on
tangentially
I must pause to rescue a moth
banging itself against the conservatory roof
– it seems the most important thing in the whole world
right now: that I do not find it
dead on the floor in the morning

thus to define     to give a body to
the hollow spaces of the psyche –
to fill in the gap between the obvious
and the mysteriously obscure – mind
feeding itself on its own emptiness
in a sensuous love of the unseen…

3 thoughts on “Why is it We Imagine We Can’t Do Things? (R12+)

  1. A lazy morning and time to read your post and to take in some of the shared experiences. Feeling the landscape before painting it. I’m reminded that this is my process and is a true part of being human. X

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  2. Your quote of Paul Klee’s wonderful advice to the aspiring artist, “take your pencil for a walk”, brought to mind a favorite verse from another Paul, namely Paul Simon, in his song Hurricane Eye – “You want to be a writer / But you don’t know how or when? / Find a quiet place / Use a humble pen.” Thanks, Colin, for yet another inspiring post – and thanks for your own wonderful advice in your poem above, Make It Your Own – “don’t ever let stuff remain inert / for only that which is suffused with your own light / can be of consequence and the thing is / to shine the light further and further into the dark”. Words to live by!

    Tom

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