Musings on Bravery

As I work on reshaping this blog to a place where I can market and promote it, I’m coming across all manner of internal obstacles. Fear fear fear fear fear. Internalized judgments of others. (I spelt “judgments” wrong. I added an “e” after the “g”. If I cannot spell judgments, can they really hurt me?)

Sharing personal efforts, artistic or otherwise, is always scary, but I associate bravery with terror more than I do with confidence. The order is terror, bravery, and eventually confidence. I am not saying that the antidote to terror is bravery, or that we can leave terror behind. There is the evolution of terror that we must endure. First, we must have dual terror: the terror of change, and the terror of stagnation. Once the terror of stagnation becomes greater than the terror of change, we will find this new ultra-terror which gives us the motivation and energy to enter the unknown territory we so gravely fear. This is different than blind reactivity to a bad situation. Ultra-terror has clarity.

American poet Larry Levis tells us that “terror is a state of complete understanding.” I would say that terror is an opportunity for complete understanding, but most of us have practiced denial to the point of mastery, and resist understanding even in terror. We often keep going along a path we dislike despite the moments where the pain of such a life hits us deeply. At this moment of global terror, we simply have to evolve from dual terror to ultra-terror. See how our choices have lead us to a place we dislike, and decide from a conscious, thoughtful place, how to move towards something we want.

When and where does confidence enter? Only once you’ve enacted the feared deed a dozen or so times. Or it can come and go. Or it will be there immediately and stay forever. Or you will have to ride out more uncertainty and doubt than you ever thought imaginable. It depends. But back to judgments for a moment. Your confidence can only manifest once you’ve learned about the nature of your own terror. Once terror evolves into bravery of action, we must use some of that bravery to look back at the initial terror. If you don’t tend to that, confidence can’t really take hold. The parents, siblings, peers, the voices of whoever, the voice of our culture, of your past, all those. They must be named and tended to before ever-coveted confidence can really emerge.

To understand ones situation completely.  There is terror, but there is hope.


 

References:

“For Zbigniew Herbert, Summer, 1971, Los Angeles” by Larry Levis, in The Selected Levis: Revised Edition

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Old New Terror

This blog is terrifying to me because it holds so much of who I truly am, and I feel so far away from that person most of the time.

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Again

Down here again, crawling through the muck, the past, everything I burried, I must now surmount. Welcome.

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Return

It’s been months. I’m coming back. Autocorrect suggested “back home.”

True.

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Fear and Art, thoughts.

Fear fear fear fear, la la la la, fear fear fear fear, fear fear! This is the chorus of my subconscious, no matter what other lyrics abound. It all comes back to this. It is so automatic, so insidious, at every turn, however innocent or wanted. Writing an article, a blog post, reading a book I love, the doing of beloved things, fear blocks the way.

It is under my control, my jurisdiction. To be a dictator of ones heart – not ones heart, but of openness, to decree that openness and freedom in pursuing love be the immutable rule, this is the goal. Dictator in a good sense. The Romans used to appoint dictators for 6 month terms, in the belief that at times of crisis it is best to have one decision maker so that things get done. A wondrous idea! Rule your mind, or it will rule you. Horace. (I should add, Rule your stomach, or it will rule you. Although ultimately that’s the mind, craving satisfaction, soothing.)

I just finished reading Change Your Mind by Rod Judkins, an excellent read on creative habits and how to nourish creative endeavors. I am always heartened when I read advice on being an artist, as it’s always what I’ve known in my core, but allowed myself to move away from. Being stubborn with ones vision, but flexible with how it unfolds. Allowing wildness, strangeness, absurdity in the living of ones life. Idealism is paramount. Floundering is necessary for flourishing.

 

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Books, etc

In the spirit of personal growth, I am shrinking my possessions. Or at least, just keeping what sparks joy. A deep admirer of Marie Kondo and her Konmari Method, I’ve dedicated this weekend to the ritual of discarding what no longer serves me, and building my life on a foundation of what infuses my spirit with energy and motivation.

The past is scattered all around, but books in particular are a point of heartache. Heartbreak. As a writer, yes, I love books, but I’m no longer a voracious reader. I read a handful of books a year at most. I miss my teens, when I would read multiple books a week, and though I despised much of my university career, the number of books I read was a hallmark of happiness and success.

I have many unread and half-read books on my shelf. The half-reading is a chronic problem. Maybe it isn’t a problem, maybe I just need to accept that only certain books pull me in enough to actually finish. Or perhaps it just is a lack of discipline and regularity. If I start a book and don’t keep reading every day, it won’t be finished. I need to make a point of committing.

The books are who I want to be. Or hold things which were once important. What still is? Politics, theatre, languages. These are the ones hardest to let go of. I’m willing to let go of half or unread novels, poetry volumes, etc. But textbooks on Japanese or German, Peter Brooks and Grotowski, the untouched Chompsky — ah. Sometimes I have read books that I purchased years ago, and loved them. Kondo is not 100% correct that the I’ll read it one day! is never realized. However, most do go unread. There’s so much disposal of hope that goes into disposal of books.

Part of me wants to get rid of all my books. Start from scratch. Who am I? My bookshelf will answer this. I ultimately feel a desire to get rid of all my possessions. Of my life at large. But that’s the easy way out. The discernment of choosing what stays and what goes is what makes the process meaningful.

Not just books. People, experiences, memories.

It is a shock to think one has changed so much, that things which were once fundamental are now mere ornament. But to remember what is dear, what was once dear, is this wrong? Can it not transform? Theatre. Something I dedicated my life to is now something barely spoken about. But thought of everyday. Dreamt of everyday. It hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just become internalized, the metamorphosis of years occurring as we speak.

Politics. I want to read everything. I want to know every idea about how the world is shaped, who shaped it, why, and the consequences. When I push myself, I finish books. When I cultivate the time. Perhaps I if I create a specific project of reading my books, a dedicated goal… but somethings are just over.

I believe in Mari Kondo. I believe in processing the past and accepting that the time to read a book is when you receive it or purchase it.

…if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it. There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway.

Ah. Poignant.

In other areas of my life, when I silence my mind and ask for an answer, I hear the chant of let it go, let it go, let it go. I resist in all forms. We always have the answers, but generally ignore them. I want to listen to the little voice, to make it the big voice, the only voice. Beyond logic, beyond emotion, there is the complete and true knowing that lives inside. The value of articulation is in how much we can clear the blockages and reveal the real.

To get rid of books feels like killing friends. Why? Why do I have to say goodbye? We barely had a chance.

Each book a marker of what could be achieved. Of dreams torn from the womb too soon.

To live in the present, is this the cost? Eradication of any fingerprints of yearning. Wipe it all clean.

let it go, let it go, let it go…

… Some hours later. I tried to bargain with myself, maybe I could make a challenge, read all my unread books in a month, six months, something. Anything to keep them. A variety of such tactics presented themselves. Denial, anger, bargaining, sound familiar?

I don’t remember the turning point, but I thanked a book outloud for what it gave and put it in the no pile. And then another, and I kissed the cover, an official goodbye. And another and another. And eventually I stopped kissing them but kept putting them in the no pile. It was enough to know I had loved them. It was enough to know what they meant to me, and in this deep knowing I could say goodbye to everything each book promised, without feeling that I had lost anything.

I said goodbye to even my favourite books, ones I’ve had for almost two decades, filled with post-it notes and scrawls. It became clear that I already held what I needed from them. I kept the newest books, including some unread, as they represent the person I would like to become. I realized this is not a betrayal of the old books, of the person I was, but simply making room for my unfolding, my own expansion.

Less than a dozen books remain.

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Ramblings, Again.

The mind a maze, a labyrinth of choices and bullies and judgement. What is freedom, do we even remember? To sit on a bench downtown, I am free, yes. There are no hunters, no agents, no apparent bad guys. But fear is vivid. As though I know some secret or truth about the inherent danger of being alive, as though this knowledge was given to me and it consumed me to a point that everything I was ceased to exist. I had to regenerate, and in regenerating I forgot this truth, the very thing that ate me alive. This truth is still true, but whatever it is, I do not remember. The memory of being eaten alive by this persists, and though invisible, follows me wherever I go.

That’s right, it’s not fear that follows me, it’s memory. Is the power of memory greater than fear? Or are they the same? And is it necessary to identify what haunts you in order to exorcise it? Maybe it is enough to know it is there, and move around. Do not focus on the obstacle, focus on where you want to go. Freedom is what you do, the shackles are whatever you give power to.

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