Tag Archives: my novel

… turning a stone – compelled to look deeper …

The year before the millennium, a then dear old friend of mine, Sitara Brutnell (I wrote about her in another post) found a stone on West Wittering beach during one of the little outings we did together. We both loved stones. I sometimes invest my finds with magic power. Those who have read my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ will know a black shiny stone becomes a vital talisman to my protagonist.

As we wandered close to the purling waves brought in by the tide, mesmerised by the sound of pebbles tumbling over each other, we were open for treasures to signal us. I had already discovered a few smooth stones, white, marbled, pink and black, for my collection.

selfie that day, with Nikon suspended exposure

The one stone Sitara picked was uneven, jagged, with the odd spot of glassy flint shining through. Folding her palm around the slimmer end, it could have served as a tool to spark a flame with. She stood a long while contemplating the contours and varied colourings of the stone, turning it over and over.

I became intrigued with Sitara’s jagged stone, which seemed to me a metaphor of her concern for others, their troubles, their sharp edges. An exceptional friend in my life, her special grace was the capacity to forgive, always seeing a person’s character from many sides. The urge for genuine forgiveness shaped her personality, was her path.

Feeling prompted to explore her stone; I was given it on loan, to attempt a few drawings. The recent comment by a Swiss friend, regarding stones, made me dig up my sketches of Sitara’s stone, which explored its charming irregularities.

An ancient story came to mind, probably of Asian origin:

The two Pots

A water bearer in China had two large pots on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered the full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. This went on daily, with the bearer only bringing home one-and-a-half pots of water.

The perfect pot was proud of his accomplishment. But the cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, and miserable about accomplishing only half of what it had been made for.

Two years it endured its bitter failure, until one day it spoke to the water bearer by the stream. ‘I’m ashamed of myself, because the crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.

The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that flowers grow only on your side of the path? That’s because I’ve always known your flaw and I planted seeds there, and every day while we walked back you watered them. So I’ve been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.

So, all dear crackpots, myself included, we have functions we know nothing about.

Enjoy the full moon. And if your sky is clouded, enjoy at least the special energy.

8 Comments

Filed under Blog

… the value of inner conflict …

Democracy starts inside us. One way to explore our inner crowd is through allowing the different aspects of our personality to have a voice, including ones we dislike or suppress, like parts burdened with shame, self-loathing and self-hate. Together with their inner persecutors and defenders, they tend to pop up involuntarily with strong emotional force during stress, or an experience that all too often had its first traumatic installment way back in childhood.

During a 1980s training with the Psychosynthesis Institute in London, we gave names to what we called our sub-personalities. The concept encapsulated what I had sensed for a long while, that I host various distinct entities inside me that can spring to live with their unique voices, interests, sensitivities and defenses in response to circumstances.

Take a dwelling that houses a family of all ages. From day to day there are debates, intimidation, fights, making up, tenderness, fun, humour, but always reoccurring conflicts, like an angered sibling can easily spark a massive row. Then ask who is in charge? A family with conflicting needs lives inside each of us.

As baby, toddler, teen, young adult and so on, we succeed or fail in overcoming obstructions. We learn, or unlearn. Ideally we mature and the understanding of ourselves deepens. Some memories we cherish, others we bury. Yet each time a traumatic condensed experience re-occurs, dormant anxieties may explode and cause us to overreact to situations out of all proportions.

The needy child seeking attention is easily recognised. Where early hope for safety and acknowledgement was frustrated, the inner child in the adult draws on an arsenal of acquired strategies, be it nagging, crying, pleading, pleasing, withdrawal, or, equally, rage. Stonewalling and sarcasm can serve as defense. The little person in us may have been confused by contradictory demands, manipulated by a toxic parent or severely damaged through abuse, yet still struggles for acceptance and love.

Another well-worn sub-personality opts for control, a no nonsense character, who detests, let’s say, hesitation and vulnerability. So when a firm response to a present situation is required, this despot may simply order the child to pipe down and shut up. End of story. You get the drift.

Internal conflicts can be harsh. Without awareness of the warring cast in us, we tend to blame others for our upsets. Alternatively we punish ourselves. Identifying and befriending judgmental players is vital before we can reach the vulnerable and fearful part that has become numb and possibly unconscious, or discover the creative dreamer that was ridiculed. Or, indeed, lift a dis-empowered warrior, who must learn to say ‘No!’

Without a mentor, this awareness journey is a daunting task.

Unable to afford Jungian analysis, my spiritual search become an escape from what I saw as our revengeful, destructive and corrupt world.

Meeting a remarkable, brilliantly creative Sufi teacher, who embraced psychology as a basis for the spiritual quest, was my turning point in the mid 1970s.  Grounding and digging started with a workshop called ‘Earthing.’

I had had a wild life up to then, a path I don’t regret. My empathy and patient listening lacked skill, but attracted interesting and eccentric people into my life. However, I needed to accept my limits, and better understand myself, others, and the absurd world we are born into, with the inherited traumas from our parents’ and generation before them.

World objects from my sand tray

A welcome to my inner journey was imaginative play, giving voice to the different parts of myself through monologues, imagery, objects, drama, art, sculpting, painting and writing, etc., all effective in daring to acknowledge conflicting needs. Due to choices enforced by my early environment, I host a philosopher and poet at odds with each other, as well as a cynic and a romantic. Their conflicts are as creative as they are intimidating.

In the digital realm people have come to make up aliases based on their ambivalent shadow aspects, like appearing in different disguises on Twitter, sometimes for the sole fun of contradicting each other. As a writer one might contemplate publishing trash genre that sells well, under pseudonyms, though it seems crass, like a soloist hijacking the performance of a symphony.

Stepping aside from internal conflict, invites my unbiased mediator. My quick route to self-remembrance is saying ‘hello’ to my body, whose every cell holds a record of old wounds. The body (the earth by implication) has endured horrendous exploitation, and to call it into awareness, with all its scars, is a huge challenge for some people.

‘You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves … ‘
from Wild Geese by Marie Oliver  

In the present global turmoil, my inner child craves empathy and compassion to endure the pain of the world, including pain I feel observing how some public figures ignorantly out-ward their inner stress through creating enemies – divide and conquer – a steely defense, and a betrayal of the heart. Then again, truth to  the face rarely convinces, it lacks depth, and blunts out the whispers from the dark.

Many brilliant books facilitate psychological understanding, but when it comes to moving through a dark tunnel (also called the Night Sea Journey) it is best to seek a skilled companion as guide. In my therapy practice I came upon heart-breaking stories of abuse, especially sexual abuse. The last few decades have shown the full horror of such deeply intrusive and traumatising incidents, and how widespread they are, across all social settings.

‘You’re not alone’ … is the message by Tim Ferris, in a recent very moving and powerful podcast he conducted with Debbie Millman.

PRESS HERE for his Healing Journey after Childhood Abuse (including an extensive resource list)

He ends with a beautiful re-framing of suffering … The obstacles are the path.

This attitude brings meaning to our mysterious existence, to our individual and collective journeys. Obstacles force us to question rules, habits and behaviour. Suffering through adversity, hardship, ignorance, injustice and violence teaches us empathy for each other, and expands consciousness towards our interdependence and essential wholeness.

I could add a list of books here, but if the above concepts speak to you, click on the Tim Ferris link, even if you choose not to listen to his podcast, scroll down his page and find a list of books and resources.

To end this post, despite all grounding over the years, I’m still at heart a space cadet, exploring time travelling in ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors.’

18 Comments

Filed under Blog

… an odd rush of energy …

Sun, finally, bliss. I sit in the garden, reading, among Robin friends flitting through the apple blossoms. After two hours in the heat my body needs shade. I resolve to clear some cobwebbed drawers in the shed.

The moment I lift a weighty plastic bag, I know it contains German pfennige (pennies,) about 2 kg in weight, at least. These one & two penny coins were meant to buy my wedding shoes. It escapes me how I came to start this collection. In any case, the coins were never used, though the wedding took place, and the marriage lasted for a good while. Two eccentrics … but that’s another story.

For the rest of the day I fell into a kind of Scrooge Duck hallucination, since, as I learned from Google, some two pfennig coins had acquired high iconic value. Up to 1968 German pennies were of copper, from there on steel was added, which made the coins magnetic.

So, equipped with a small magnet from the door of my fridge, a magnifying glass, various breakfast bowls, a glass of water, and another glass of wine, I returned to my sun spot and commenced with methodical sorting, looking for two ghosts – a 1967 coin marked G (printed in Karlsruhe) that had already steel in it, and a 1969 late limited edition of still pure copper, marked J (printed in Hamburg.)

With hundreds of pennies, the odds seemed promising, at least compared to the lottery ticket I buy once a week.

I felt a rush of energy I hadn’t felt for some time. Purpose with a promise is a high energy state, I thought, giggling to myself, a habit of late, due to the surreal atmosphere since the corona virus lock down. What if? What if I find a penny worth £3000 to £5000 to collectors? I could afford to market my book, regain confidence to publish the sequel, have some work done around here, fix the shed roof, asks a painter in, buy a number of books, and leave a chunk aside for emergencies.

Well, I was as meticulous as can be, but by the time dusk chill set in, I hadn’t discovered even one ghosts. Some coins might fetch a few £s from collectors, given more research. Thing is, I’d make a good buyer for a business, having excellent taste and a knack for bargains, but selling is not my forte.

Nor am I a talented collector; otherwise, for instance, I wouldn’t have burned negatives and photographs of praiseworthy experiential novelty, including images of celebrities taken during the 1960s/1970s. Vain laurels, I thought then, devaluing my achievements. Nor would I have gifted away hundreds of vinyl records of that period, and precious books, all in a minimalist attempt to travel light into a new adventure. Profit, for better or worse, has always been secondary. And that’s another story …

The only things I collect, or maybe they collect me, are small stones. The irony of choosing to treasure such solid items is not lost on me. It’s to counter-balance my high energy states. These states, which I love, though they also exhaust, generated many satisfying projects, often in relation to groups. I gradually learned to balance the energies between my extrovert and introvert, between intense emotional and cognitive investment and periods of drifting and dreaming – incubating a new beginning – waiting for another decisive moment of clarity. How this energy seesaw was impressed in me directly after my birth is another story …

Instances of high energy in the last decade were more solitary, though I had great supporters, the co-editing Heart of a Sufi, which came out in 2011, and the writing and editing my novels, Course of Mirrors, and its sequel, Shapers. The former came out in 2017. Since then stressful events dented my spirits, a lunatic Brexit, my father’s erratic care needs, which wrecked my income, his death in 2018, and the global lock down to halt a virus, but spreading hopelessness like a trance. Procrastination became keyword for just about everything.

Somehow my short-lived penny passion brought back a taste of excitement, which beautifully sums up the essence of my first novel – finally an elevator pitch – that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.

It’s sobering that the magic carpet of journeying has been grounded worldwide. And with the present road blocks, investing energy into a journey seems pointless, unless it’s an inner journey. Here I’m fortunate to hold rich life experiences. Being reminded what a strong purpose feels like, will, I hope, motivate me to value my writing again.

Sadness pops up when I think of teens, the young, whose natural impulse is to be active and connect physically with their peer groups, and whose desire for journeying is now frustrated – in stark contrast to the inspiring decades of my youth during the 60s/70s. Old or young, we’re all missing spontaneity, direct contact, stimulating discussions, hugs. One can never have enough hugs. Too many people struggle at present in isolation, or, indeed, in strained togetherness.

How do I cope? I don’t watch TV, haven’t done so for years. I prefer to read coherent articles and watch movies on BFI. And I’m lucky to have a garden, with nature to touch and absorb. The lilac tree waves, the laurel hedge sparkles; Robins build their nests, tulips nod in the breeze. Oh, and to end my ramblings, I just picked some delicate violets and forget-me-nots from my garden. They both have five leaves.

It’s time for me to read my odyssey once more, to attract the wind of light required for refining the sequel. You, too, might enjoy the read, for a taste of

that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.

Links regarding Course of Mirrors appear on my  book page

8 Comments

Filed under Blog

… there is a place …

Imagine a circle of people, 20 to 40, adding their voices to the drone and tune of a reed organ, repeatedly singing a phrase for an hour, or longer, with short intervals when the organ’s tune breaks into musical improvisations, only to return to the melody and phrase. In the end the sound slows and fades, leaving the echo of your voice as an indispensable part of all voices.

Then imagine a deep silence.

One of many musical tunings my spiritual Sufi friend created went with these words:

There is a place of beauty –

There is a place of peace –

There is a place of harmony –

In me

Before you grunt at the sheer illusion of such place, consider the evocation of beauty, peace and harmony as an ideal, a means –  not a goal – a means towards the hub of the mill, where the grain is ground to flour in a process of transformation.

Musical tunings are regular events among Sufi friends. Their rhythmic repeating, with or without words, produces a trance-like state in participants – not aiming at escape, but at a homecoming. Fazal Inayat-Khan’s teachings broke rules, exceeded conventions. While honouring the value of traditional methods, he introduced  contemporary phrases, like the one above, and responded to his audience with spirited musical improvisations.

The purpose of such events is remembrance of the Self, or the One. In traditional Zikr it would be Allah, God, though in strict Islamic circles music is not allowed.

I occasionally play and sing the above tune on my reed organ, especially when distressing incidents happen around the world and I have a need to tune mind and body. The place of beauty, peace and harmony only exists in the imagination, as a timeless inner realm, a state where duality co-exists, a state of unknowing, where the spirit of eternal potential lingers.

For me these group events were profoundly renewing. The body, my temporary home, became a tuning fork brought into resonance with the ground and the marrow of my bones. Suffused with consciousness, any mind-chatter merged with the yearning sounds, and my atoms realigned in new constellations.

A darker cover for my novel I wish I had used.

Intention does not bring us to this uncharted and unmeasured inner place. And even glimpsing a truth flashing from there may shock the angels in us. Catching such truth can happen equally through other means … nature, art, dance, literature, drugs, breath work, praying, guided imagery, computer programming, psalm singing, sport, silence, fasting, dreams, etc., but resonance is needed, and a deep desire for truth must lurk in the heart.

While practices towards this ungraspable inner realm may have repetitive elements, the place is never repeated but ever fresh. It is where the breath of life pulses, just not at our timescale.

Returning from the inner realm to the contemporary flow of time, we get on with life. Yet such deep memories remains and will respond to a sincere recall, where we detect once more how matter is revealed in its essence and shine. For the psyche this is gold. This inner place shows that while we embody birth and death, light and darkness, good and bad, past and future, in true essence we are pure consciousness.

To remain grounded and prevent the fate of Icarus, I tolerate the company of my little devils.

My angels like it so, agreeing that while the obscure company I keep makes living complex, painful, a challenge, it also makes existence more interesting for that, and aids the psyche’s expansion of consciousness.

10 Comments

Filed under Blog

… book pages let loose …

A few days ago, waking at dawn, I had retained a dream vision:

I saw the entire content of my novel, Course of Mirrors, 400 pages in all, displayed on one huge panel.  Astonished, I pondered how this expansion graphically showed that writing a novel involves massive work, time, and fierce motivation.

To put this into context, I must add I lacked motivation and confidence for some time now, having to deal with existential problems.

The 21.5 cm height and a 13.5 cm width of each page poured out onto a single panel would create a near 100 meter high and 52 meter wide installation.

Even if the panel size were halved by using front and back, it’s still a crazy idea – right?

Maybe the dimension of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall could suffice, but only a Turner price gets you there. In case you don’t know, the Turbine Hall is the place that allowed visitors to touch the sun, like my son did during an Olafur Eliasson’s weather project exhibition a few years ago.

As regards my high-rise panel of book pages, any visitors keen to engage in reading could only do so at average eye levels, unless they had means to levitate. Now that would be another idea.

Well, imagination being such fun, I played on.

Much smaller double-sided panels could each display the pages of one of the 29 chapters, broken up into moments, occasionally interspersed with slivers of mirrors, where the body of a reader flits by, or maybe images that enhance or contradict the mood of a scene. You enter the story by stepping into a cave-like enclosure. The text on panels is lit from within, not spreading much light, to achieve a twilight experience, which was done in caves long, long, long ago, with the imprints of hands.

This cave could be entered from four sides. One may choose to start at the end and read the story backwards, or wander through and pick chapters randomly, more in the way one reads poetry. In any case, the title image at each entry/exit gate would evoke an enchanting journey at the edge of consciousness, between rational and the mystical states.

Normally, a writer’s work is condensed and hidden between the neat covers of a book, or captured on e-book screens, one click by one click. The concept of spreading the pages out in real space fascinates me, and ideas keep tumbling in. Like making the text respond to the concentration of the reader, or the lack, in which case sentences would ripple, as if floating on water.

Intrigued by this vision of visitors wandering through the chapters of my novel, I thought of the remarkable characters, all archetypal part-mirrors of me, of you, of anyone really.

How if readers could scan a paragraph about one character, place it on an empty panel and temporarily type a scene of their own imagination about that character?

If you feel the fun and have any additional ideas, please share them here.

What I like about the interactive setup, is the random strolling. Just while writing this post I opened my novel at an arbitrary page and hit on a romantic instant after Ana met her first love. He gives her a heart-shaped ruby as a promise – half a page at the end of chapter six. Here the excerpt …

Luke dropped the jewel back into my palm and pressed my hands close. “You’re the true heart for me. We’ll meet again. We’ll journey together.”  He glanced at the travel-ready troupe, waiting for him. “I won’t fasten the chain round your neck, though I’d love to.” His face was close enough for me to catch the scent of his hair, the pond, grass, wood smoke and musk. I longed to touch his lips, steal and take along his smile.

“How can I contact you?”

“Find a messenger to deliver a note to Tatum and his Magic Theatre. His troupe is getting known along the river.”

I felt drawn into the loop of his mysterious fate. I wanted to be held, forget myself in his arms. Instead, I stared at my feet, pondering this indelible moment of intimacy and suddenly dreaded the journey ahead – without him.

Last week Course of Mirrors had a lovely review by Cath Humphris, which I’m pleased to share:

https://cathum.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/course-of-mirrors-an-odyssey-by-ashen-venema/

A magical tale, in which a young woman embarks on a hazardous search for The Real.

Since I have presently no way of realising my crazy interactive vision, you can only enter the world of my novel condensed in its covers, here: Courseofmirrors  This Troubador page connects to other platforms, too. Then again, any bookshop can order the novel.

The image on the left was an early cover idea from authonomy days, not used in the end.

For the time being I’m having a hard time surviving, which hinders my deepening edit for the sequel to Course of Mirrors … Shapers … from which I share some chapters on my Patreon page. If it is within your means, and you can tolerate or even like struggling fools, please support my creative spirit on Patreon. Here the link.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241

13 Comments

Filed under Blog

… loss and restoration …

This time of year I like reading in the garden. Last week I forgot to take a book inside – ‘The Hand of Poetry,’ collected poems from Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz, translated by Coleman/Barks, with introductions taken from talks by Inayat Khan. During a short but heavy shower that night, the book greedily feasted on rain. I found it blown up, like a balloon, to double its size.

Restoration would atone for my failing. Gently lifting page after page, I placed toilet paper between each, twice and three times over. On the third day I hung the book by its spine on the washing line. Once dry, I managed to press the volume with a heavy vintage iron into reasonable shape again. The ordeal required my undivided attention. The re-read pages during those hours lodged themselves with refreshed presence in my heart.

I recalled a scene from ‘Shapers’ –  the not yet published sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’ The story starts with a shipwreck.  Surviving this tragedy, my protagonist finds her diary drenched to pulp. The irreplaceable loss gained her unexpected access to internalised memories, and the ability to exchange virtual letters with her soulmate of the future, scripts made visible in the thin air before her.

This phenomenon happens to me frequently these days. Just before sleep, or waking, I see screens with writing, sometimes even Twitter pages, which later turn out real. Beats me – explanations are welcome.

Memory is fluid. The child in us not only imagines the future, but also re-imagines the past. While I was lifting apart the soaked poetry pages during my restoration, it struck me they resembled crumpled and discoloured reminiscences of my father a trailing grief about our dissonance brought to light in dreams, with messages to abandon this nonsense. Can you miss a surreal projection? Yes you can – releasing a feeling of rejection that ruled years of your life takes getting used to. Had I not taken my dad’s anger with the world, and me,  so personal, I might have implored deeper into his heart pain, and mine, since, after all, deep down, our sensitivity for beauty and nature, even our humour, were much alike.

I had resisted my father’s expectations and boldly followed my heart, which, while gratifying, brought its shadow of existential anxieties. My rare brave attempts to cross the dividing bridge were met with contempt for my quixotic worldview. Bridges then became imaginary sanctuaries between varied realities, a neutral zone for my rebel to gather strength for the next quest ahead. Bridges became a major theme in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’ – see book page on this site, or my twitter page @mushkilgusha

Rejection can add fuel to a journey. But what if a regular fuel runs out? Consider the weird silence when a monotonous background noise stops … suddenly. I identified my inner background noise as the subtle lament of blame that long ago slyly settled in my unconscious. Blaming something or someone can achieve an emotional distance, displace resentfulness, a hurt,  – but now – this peculiar silence …

The symbolic intelligence of psyche’s inner dimension communicates not only through dreams, but also through our surroundings: world events, people, objects, images. My restoration of ‘The Hand of Poetry’ resonated. Compulsive energies shift when time slows,. Familiar scripts may assume fresh meaning, and re-write themselves with different rhythms and new pauses for the spirit of surprise to enter.

Meanwhile I enjoy some treasures close by …

 

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to share a Hafiz poem from the restored collection. Hazrat Inayat Khan says of him:

The mission of Hafiz was to express, to the fanatically inclined religious world, the presence of God, which is not to be found only in heaven, but to be found here on earth.’

THE BANQUET

A gathering of good friends

talking quietly outdoors,

the banquet being served, a dry Rosé

with a bite of Kebab afterwards,

a wink form the one who pours,

Hafiz telling some story,

Hajji Qavam with his long laugh,

a full moon overhead,

the infinite mystery

of all this love.

If someone doesn’t want the pleasure

of such an openhearted garden,

companionship, no, life itself,

must be against his rules.

Hafiz

14 Comments

Filed under Blog

… as writer or reader I drift and dream …

Writers and readers have their unique (often indirect) discernment of text and image; a fluid perception spots moods in the sky, or envisages what’might be happening behind doors.

We look towards individuals to interpret our humanity, or the lack of it. But given the electric maze of mirrors that has come to represent our interlinked minds, what attracts us, what makes sense?

Global media outlets thrive on sensational reports of events, and equally sensational opinions. What merges to cohere and assumes meaning in our inner world swings day in day out  from the shocked, incredulous to the sarcastic, while many of us yearn for resonance with something deeply felt, be it a past, present or future versions of reality. We hope for a truth just around a corner, or a poetic hint towards the hidden place of our own chest of treasures. Food for thought comes through the stories that spring from our collective psyche, asserting we’re not alone, but part of the bliss, and part of the pain of existence.

As a writer, I struggle to express what is not obvious or visible – an insular task, with pitfalls and doubts. Readers who respond with sensibility to imagination that springs from dark and private places of solitude are rare. What wings into the air from solitude, poems among them, fleeting and shy like butterflies, can at times trigger unexpected flashes of light and shift our thinking and feeling.

Imagination is the cornerstone of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors.’ Combining fragments of my life into a fabric of mythic realities – probabilities wedged between rational deduction and magical alternatives, the story is however psychologically embedded in universal experiences, the ambivalent realities familiar to any reader.

Feedback to my writing sustains me, especially now, once more, the feedback to the ‘Shapers’ manuscript from beta readers/editors during the process of polishing. For such gifts, I give deep and heartfelt thanks to my angels, Zohra, and Susanne.

This question has been put to novelists: … When you write, what readers do you have in mind?

I pass … I’m the only reader I know.

What I write flows from my perception. Words I put into the mouths of characters are based on how I imagine myself into their skin and psychological existence. I follow their trials, immersed in the narrative, just like readers will be immersed in the movie they make in their minds while reading, along with the sensations evoked.

As a dreamer, my writing is playful, personal, fed by unconscious processes, like sharing a dream with a friend in a walled garden, not going on stage to entertain the whole town. In other words, the shape of my novels evolves with no thought of addressing a broad generic group of readers.

Pre-plotted novels can be page-turners and offer welcome entertainment, but they tend to preclude my emotional involvement, which is not to say that I don’t admire the art of wordsmiths wherever I find them.

Intuitively drafted novels, with or without plot, have a different feel for me, with elements of surprise. Intuition applies to my life in general. Writing is an inner demand. I’m most alive when I drift and dream.

Can you, writers and readers out there, add to these reflections?

My post from five years ago relates … better than the present one 🙂 I may need a holiday. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/moans-from-an-unruly-writers/

I cheer the unruly folk, including fools, dreamers, innovators, artists, poets and writers with an ear towards the hidden …

21 Comments

Filed under Blog

… poetic trash – miniature sculptures …

Miniature scupture - 2981The eye-catching miniatures created by Yuji Agematsu pulled me back to my student phase in Munich during the 1970ies, when a group of friends looked out for small items like roots, twigs, leaves, seeds, grasses, feathers, stones, shells, dried or fresh flowers, the occasional bottle top or bits of shiny sweet wrappers, and sampled such bits into cellophane bags. We then handed these tiny poetry worlds to pedestrians or people sitting outside cafes in the then student district of Munich, Schwabing. It gave us thrill when recipients expressed a shock of surprise.

Yuji Agematsu is drawn to trash. Since mid-1990, his daily ritual is collecting small debris from New York’s streets. From the harvest he creates dreamlike dioramas inside cellophane sleeves of cigarette packets.

In this delightful interview (press for link to a separate page) he shares how his passion for collecting started during his childhood. Here a few more snippets: ‘I see each object as a notation in terms of music. Each has its own sound and rhythm,’ or, ‘Each person has to find his or her own sense of scale,’ or ‘… my objects are accidental objects, already consumed. The object itself stimulates me. The subject relationship is reversed. I’d say that one is consciously unconscious, and the other is unconsciously conscious.’

The last thought rhymes with a recent thought of mine I shared on twitter … my mind is unconsciously magical, while my unconscious mind is irrationally pragmatic …  Like most poetically inclined people I embrace paradox to be able to function in daily life .

Yuji’s search for trash treasures developed into a language that emotionally embraces urban archaeology. He attracts bits of litter we may regard with a smirk, mostly ignore or simply not notice. While his miniature installations are scaled down to finger size sculptures, the mind-expanding and transformative effect equals grand scale installations. My experience, apart from the cognitive surprise, was being left with a bodily sensation, a deep feeling connection with these miniatures.

world objects 1 - smaller

World objects from my sand tray

This deep feeling of wonder can happen in sand play therapy; where in a tray of fine sand world objects are brought into relationship. The imaginary process can symbolise models of operation in the life of a client, bringing with it emotional clarity.

I have miniature installation in my home, on windowsills … unable to resist picking up feathers,  seeds, leaves, driftwood, pebbles and so on, which often hold the story of an eternal moment in time.

A small black stone, for example, features prominently  as a protagonist in my novel, Course of Mirrors..

 

You can glean more information about Yuji Agematsu and his impressive work here in this Guardian gallery, and in this article in Frieze … here.

The earlier images of Yuji Agametsu’s work are courtesy of the Miguel Abreu gallery, NY.

12 Comments

Filed under Blog

Mystical experiences & J. B Priestley’s Dream

Numerous children, if not all, bring along an openness that allows them a peek through the chinks in the veils that cover ordinary reality. Sudden insights, call them special, spiritual, paranormal, transpersonal, mystical, timeless, ecstasy of oneness … dreams … experiences that make no sense to a rational adult and may evoke fear of the unconscious. Sooner or later children may learn that a vivid imagination, as it is often called, brings no rewards and is of no solid use in a world geared to material respectability and control.

To have one’s experience belittled is humiliating. A child may react with rebellion, remain silent, or learn to deal with contradiction. At worst, the door will be shut against random revelations and curiosity about anything unfamiliar. This is a great pity, since a whole range of dimensions remain untranslated. Fortunately there are those who refuse to have their imagination squashed, who find a medium to hold and share encounters that do not fit prevailing assumptions, concepts of reality or theories of time.

They are truth-seekers – artists, writers, musicians, painters, dancers, physicists, biologists, astronomers, mathematicians, inventors, mystics … people with a passion to re-discover realities beyond appearances from multiple perspectives, including deeply personal ones. In short, anyone adventurous enough to explore the jungle of diverse interests, the way inner and outer truths mysteriously mirror each other and spark mystical consciousness. But since the boundaries between light and darkness are porous, one is always well advised to hold one’s balance, like a skilled martial art practitioner.

Having listened over decades to thousands of client stories, I haven’t yet met anyone who hasn’t shared (often for the first time) a near-forgotten mystical experience. Such experiences are the best kept secret nobody dares to talk about. For fear of ridicule, we let the poets speak for us.

‘To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.– William Blake

Take heart, it is possible to find words, like J B Priestley, to convey the indescribable …

Drawing by Douglas Fenton

I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon the myriads of birds flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds.

But now, in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and the time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek and then, in a flash, bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless biological effort?

As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us at all, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy.

But now the gear was changed again, and time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But, along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket-burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of beings.

Birds, people or creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so as this flame of life travelled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought of as tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never felt before such happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds, and I have not kept that happiness with me, as an inner atmosphere and a sanctuary for the heart, that is because I am a weak and foolish man who allows this mad world to come in destroying every green shoot of wisdom. Nevertheless, I have not been quite the same man since. A dream had come through a multitude of business. –  J.B. Priestley (Sept 1895 – Aug 1984)

In case you’ve not come across William James, read his ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’

And look up a recent sweeping epic that breaks all the rules by Philippa Rees, ‘Involution.’

And, of course, my novel 🙂

19 Comments

Filed under Blog

… story – art – quest for the cypher – symbol …

As painters or sculptors do, I frequently step back from my writing projects, searching for the core, a half imagined essence to shine through and re-animate the creative flow. Skills alone don’t do it, techniques alone don’t do it, nor style. As long as the essence of what I try to express floats in the unconscious, my efforts will baffle and tease me.

Having listened to thousand and one stories during my 30 years of working as a transpersonal psychotherapist, I conclude that when we tell our story to ourselves, or others who watch and listen, we trace a rhythm, a sound, the distant bubbling of a spring – a theme. While sourcing and shaping words we ideally become aware of how we translate experiences, string up memories and weave a pattern that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our story. We may re-weave the past and change how we perceive life. Even a single image, too evanescent to fit ordinary reality, can assume significance. An ideal may sharpen – and with it a vision of what not yet exists, revealed by the imagination.

Sensual impression, dreams, primary images and the love/hate of relationships, present a puzzle we try to arrange in some kind of order, waiting for a theme to become intelligible, and therefore transmittable. Finding a structure to express our experiences through words, images, movements, sounds, music, or numbers is insufficient. We must play with the fragments – take out bits, or add bits, until a satisfying narrative suggests itself.

World objects from my sand tray

Fairy tales, heroes and villains of myth, historical figures, cartoon characters or pop stars may do the magic by evoking a psychic resonance and providing a metaphor, or a precious symbol to ease the pressure of the archetypal demand lurking in the unconscious.

Not only those we call artists, but all creative people respond to what holds sensual and cognitive fascination for them. I include trades, crafts, makers, men and women with affinities to certain elements, who explore the quality and beauty of materials, like weavers, potters, wood workers, printers, plumbers, electricians … I include technicians, engineers, inventors, scientists and mystics. Curiosity and passion for a subject deepen knowledge and intuition as to how things connect outside, and, vitally, how they connect inside us.

Ashen – directing a film in the woods.

My fascination with creating stories was revived while doing a film degree (as career brake) during the late 1990s. I’m curious about consciousness, relative perception of time, and the interplay of characters for which I invent pasts and futures, where ideals are the means to a goal, while as soon as the goal is reached, a new ideal looms over the horizon. If this were not so, evolution, our whole story would stop. Ursula Le Guin once wrote –

‘In eternity there is nothing novel, and there are no novels.’

My ongoing writing project, a trilogy of stories, involves three soul sisters, Ana, Cara and Mesa. The first (already published) book of the trilogy, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ (see book page) narrates the quest of Ana, which is really the myth of the story teller, Cara, whose theme is seeking a balance for the enigma of clashing feminine and masculine principles. The sequel, ‘Shapers,’ (not yet published) introduces Cara in the twentieth century as she follows the characters of Ana’s myth into a far future society where emotional expressions are outlawed until the experiment breaks down under its duplicity.

In a third book, ‘Mesa,’ a work in progress, same characters move to a realm where time has slowed down to such extend that ‘novelty’ has to be rescued for life to continue. This story calls for a deep dive into the heart of my imagination.

I’m once more held in the cocoon stage. Given the ideological power games around the globe, I feel foolish about these musings, since I’ve been sharing the ups and downs of my quest here for the last seven years.

Do you, my reader, recognise the pressure to bring something into existence? How do you search for the cypher (the wild uniqueness in the soul) that informs your creative process?

*    *    *

A definition of Symbol … from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, transl. by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University

The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.

12 Comments

Filed under Blog