True Creative Art
Exercises In Imagination & Reality
from The Story Teller Silvia Hartmann 2001/2002.
Welcome back and congratulations on the excellent work you have done so far!
This is a particularly exciting assignment for me personally to be writing, so let’s not waste any time and go straight into Imagination & Reality, Part 2.
If you remember back to the beginning of this course, we had the comparison of the story of Agincourt in “fact and fiction”.
There were two approaches and one of those included making the basic story meaningful by engaging the listener’s emotions.
We did this, if you remember, by tapping into existing emotions in the listener, and especially through the means of global human experiences that you can be sure every human has felt reverberating throughout their minds and bodies at one point or the other.
I would also remind you of our creativity precept, namely that we don’t create anything but just retrieve information from the creative and share it with others when we engage in any form of art – and story telling is at the core of every form of art because even a song is story of an event, a moment, an understanding, an experience, translated into that medium from the pure understanding at the energetic level.
How To Tell Real Art From Make Belief
The answer to the question above is really quite simple.
We tell real art from make belief art by our own internal responses and our emotional reactions to the presentation in front of us.
The world famous “I don’t know art, but I know what I like” statement is a statement in that direction.
However, the person who first coined it and those who keep repeating it, usually in order to denigrate or derogate some of the more extreme attempts at art, missed a few pieces of information about art that, if they were generally known, would bring some sense back into the whole business that would allow even little kids to tell a masterpiece from a fake.
Art is not about “liking something”. Liking something is a level of physical and emotional comfort that usually derives from being familiar with something, being used to seeing/hearing/having it around, and having it fit in with other templates in your mind that previously produced a mild and benefitial emotional response, like a pleasing pattern in a wallpaper that is designed to do nothing more than to just be there and set off the important aspects of the rest of the room to their best effect.
People do any form of art as a response to having experienced something extraordinary they wish to share.
They usually share this in the medium they have been trained to express themselves in most readily. I write, Anne paints, Derek sculpts, and Jason makes strange riffs on the piano.
The difference between an artist and someone who is not an artist is that the artist in this way talks about their experiences and draws attention to them, wishes to share them, wishes to explore them, wishes to make them practically visible/audible/touchable here in the Hard and hopes that the audience will gain a resonance of that original experience when they see/hear/touch their artwork.
The universally acclaimed works of art in any medium that have stood the test of time and are still admired after thousands of years have passed, manage to transmit a very particular kind of emotion and energy.
It isn’t an energy of revolution or anger, and it isn’t an energy of sadness or of fear.
The energy that has been sought to capture and made be real here for us to share has a flavour of something beyond, something infinite, something Holy.
I apologise for the use of that term, especially to those of you who have had, like myself, many unfortunate experiences with organised religion and I would ask you to lay all that aside and allow us to focus on the truly Holy, creation and the creative force, and the extraordinary human capacity which I believe to be inborn in all of us, namely that we have receivers that know when they are in the presence of something Holy.
* Exercise 1 – Touching The Creative I
I would now like you to remember a time in your life when you were, indeed, in the presence of the Holy and you jolly well knew you were.
It may have surprised you at the time, it may have changed you or you may simply not have known what to do with that experience as it is so far out of context of the structure and thought of Western World life, but all of that is no matter.
I would like you to remember a time specifically for this exercise when you were perhaps out in nature somewhere, and you “got it”, perhaps for the first time ever, how vast and fantastic the Universe really is.
Then, write it down in plain words into your journal for this exercise.
Make it brief and use simple words so that a listening child may understand and so that when you read it back, you get at least a resonance tingle of the emotional energy of your experience at the time.
Touching The Holy
Here are a some examples from a recent course when this exercise was presented:
“When I was a young man, I was in the navy. We were cruising in the Baltic and I was on night watch. That night, I don’t know what happened, but it was very silent. Very still. The sea lay as far as you could see, black and the sky deepest blue black. And then, at the horizon, this green light appeared and then the Northern Lights banded into the sky. I just stood there and it was indescribable.”
“I was talking a walk in the countryside near my home at the time, nothing special, just fields and a narrow road. It was late summer, in the afternoon, the sky was a bit overcast and then from nowhere, I looked up and I thought, oh my god, it is here, all of it, the sky, the land, creation – oh my god, it’s everywhere and I am here, here, with the sky resting on the land.”
As you can see, outwardly nothing much happened in these examples or any of the others that I could have put down instead – no burning bush fell on someone’s head, there was no miracle, they were just in what you might call very ordinary every day situations and yet when asked if they had experienced true holiness these very ordinary people had, and they remembered, and they would say that the emotions they had at that moment were like nothing else they had ever experienced in any other context.
The purpose of this exercise is to make a conscious connection for you to those parts of you who also recognise this immortal, infinite, Holy creative existence that lies stepped off to our ordinary experiences in the world and to have you begin to firstly recognise it when you meet it – for each individual person, the experience of holiness or the creative, if you will, is unique but absolutely recognisable.
If you start with a peak, undeniable experience such as described above, it will give you a guideline as to what you are looking for, and it is the flavour/manifestation of this even at a lower level that gives you the guiding measure as to what is real and what is merely imagination.
* Exercise 2 – Touching The Creative II
Following on from your experiences with Exercise 1, I would now like you to make a list of ten pieces of art that shared “the flavour of holiness” and gave you a similar (but not necessarily as profoundly strong) emotional response as your own experience of the creative.
In our context, have five of these being some form of literature (which includes poetry, drama and the spoken word), and five not literature in order to include other artistic modalities used to “package creative experiences”.
Excerpt from “The Dead”
Here’s a personal example from me for you.
This is from the closing of James Joyce’s The Dead and I strongly recommend you stop and read this out aloud, in your best resonant voice.
(James Joyce - Closing Passage From "The Dead" - Transcript)
Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwelled the vast host of the dead. He was conscious of but could not apprehend their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey and palpable world.
The solid world itself which these dead once reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps on the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again.
He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamp light.
The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.
Yes, the newspapers were right.
Snow was general all over Ireland.
It was falling on every part of the dark central plane, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the bog of Allen, and farther westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.
It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchard on the hill where Michael Fury lay buried.
It lay thickly drifted drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.
His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living, and the dead.
> Tutor Comment: On The Merits Of Simplicity
I am personally a great fan of using simple words to describe any form of experience, as you might have noticed by now.
Just before, we had a sequence written by someone who many think to be one of the greatest literary artists of the century, if not ever; and it is said that more words have been written about James than about Jesus.
There are perhaps three or four words in that whole set that might be just outside the range of a school child – obliquely, dwelled, palpable and mutinous; however, it is worth bearing in mind that he himself was educated a hundred years ago so these words may well have been in common usage at that time as well.
School essays and especially, higher eduction writing has the unfortunate tendency to reward those who use the most complicated words possible piled into a single sentence with high marks and is deemed to be a mark of intelligence.
In Story Telling in our sense, it is a barrier to being understood by all.
If ever you are not quite sure if what you are saying might come across, imagine to be standing in a market place of a medieval village and really being the Story Teller, a one who engages old and young alike, educated and not educated alike, man and woman, rich and poor, because the Story Teller is always only speaking to another human being in words that might have the best chance to travel across the physical space between one body and the next, and be heard, accepted, and received.
The Importance of the Holy
Why, you might ask yourself, are we concerning ourselves with “the Holy” in the context of Story Telling?
After all, we can just go along and memorise a few “stock motivational stories” like the Lightbulbs or the Mountain Part 1, deliver them hypnotically and hey! presto! miraculous change in the listener cannot help but ensue?
Here are my thoughts on the subject in brief:
Human beings are hungry for the Holy because it is necessary at some level for a fully functioning system on all levels – just like a goat needs to lick salt and will search for it, humans need the Holy even if they are not consciously aware of it, and they search for it.
You can sell a salt substitute to a salt deficient goat and it will buy it and lick it greedily but that cannot alleviate the need nor does it do the goat’s body any good at all (you do get to sell a lot of it, over and over, though, because of course the need always remains unfilled ...).
Providing access to the real thing (and that ain’t Coca Cola, ladies and gentlemen all!) is about the most healing, transformational, motivational and generative experience that any human can ever have at all, so no matter what your outcomes in taking this course may be, the fairy dust sparkle of Holy and magical must by needs supercharge whatever else you are trying to achieve.
Knowing the difference between experiencing the real thing and a mechanically, formulaic construct is a generative guiding mechanism by which you can not only judge the work of others, but also your own.
With a little bit of experience and trial and error, refining your internal sensors and access interfaces to know when something is right and true is something that will make you positively invincible in front of any audience at all and you can imagine what it does for someone’s confidence and congruency when speaking up aloud and telling their story.
It is my supposition that experience of the Holy is a missing puzzle piece in general human experience; it’s not that it isn’t being experienced as Exercise 2 proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, but that there is no framework of reference for these experiences in every day life.
I see it as one of our jobs is to help someone put disjointed or displaced parts of their system into the rightful context – if you’d like a metaphor, think of a chain of Christmas Tree lights.
All the bulbs are intact and present and all it needs to make the whole thing come to sparkling, multicoloured life is a simple twist in a specific place.
* Exercise 3 – Touching The Creative III.
In Exercise 1, we were looking at a serious peak experience of a person’s life and it was directed so you would search your memory for a what I call a “landscape experience”.
But of course, there are other manifestations of the Holy and it can be and indeed, is experienced when you connect on that level with another human being or a living creature of some kind.
I do not choose this as a first introduction to identifying these types of “numinous*” experiences because especially in the context of human interactions, there is usually tremendous fallout from other emotions past and present which clouds the issue.
But now that you have identified how Holy feels to you and how it manifests, I would like you to remember a moment from your own life when you experienced this in the context of another living being and write down briefly what happened.
Be honest, be direct, speak your truth about your own personal experience in simple words.
Touching The Creative Through Another
For example, here are two such moments described:
“I was on holiday with my parents and it was boring – the last time I ever went on holiday with them, actually.
We went to a zoo in desperation I guess because we just didn’t know what to do with each other anymore after a couple of days and always fighting, arguing.
They wouldn’t let me put my headset on and I just walked around, thought, what’s the point of this, putting these animals in these cages, you can see them better on telly and at least they move around a bit.
Then we came to this big round place with a moat where they had a couple of shrivelled up, dusty looking elephants, even so they were pretty big.
I just stood there looking when one came over and it reached across and held out its trunk. I touched it and that was so weird. So weird. As though all of a sudden, everything was real. There was this elephant and there was me. And I touched it.”
“I remember a time, now that you ask. Funny, I had forgotten all about that. It was with my husband, we’re divorced now and that’s a very good thing too, but then, I don’t know, it was about 20 years ago? there was this one time when I woke up in the morning and he was there and sleeping and I don’t know why or where it came from, I just loved him so totally, like it was – I know it sounds really stupid, like ... I don’t know. I started to cry because I didn’t know what else to do with it.”
Please note what was very similar about your landscape experience and your living being experience. That is the silver thread of holiness, if you will, and that is what we’re looking for in order to really know it and be able to spot it, even when it is not as dramatically apparent as in these peak experience examples.
* Tutor Comment: People, Artists & Story Tellers
This is the difference:
People experience these things.
Artists are people who express their experiences of these things.
Story tellers are artists who use their experience of these things to show something to other people in order to create a change.
Metaphor, Artistic Expression & Story Telling
Let us go back for a moment to the retired navy captain who had an “amazing grace” experience that night, many years ago, in the still black waters of the Baltic Sea when the Northern Lights appeared for him alone in the sky.
We don’t have to start constructing metaphors for his experience for they are already there, built into the very fabric of the experience itself or you could say, the experience and the metaphor are one and the same.
I couldn’t have constructed this story if I spent a thousand years working on it. It is so perfect, so absolutely energetically cohesive, every component absolutely in place, an inspirational story such as cannot be written in any other way than by experience itself.
Think about it for a moment.
Here we are, on this ship, far from home. There’s this young man, no education, rough upbringing, totally unremarkable in every way, one of hundreds on the ship who spends his time thinking of promotion, of women, of petty squabbles with the comrades, the usual top level stuff. He’s stood watch a hundred times before and occupied himself best he could by making up stories in his head or trying to think of nothing to pass the time.
And then, it happens.
Unpredictably, perfectly, it just happens.
A moment of true grace that changes his life in a flash and although he will return to his normal modes of being, there is this new dimension from that moment forth that changes who he conceives himself as being totally and dramatically and changes the course of his life subtly and cohesively in the days, the weeks, the years that follow.
The question may arise as to why this story is so cohesive and amazing in all ways, and the answer to that is simple, that’s because ...
... it’s a true story!
It really happened. All the components are so perfectly aligned because it was real and not imagined.
Which leads us to our next and final set of exercises for this particular assignment.
If you do these exercises conscientiously, I promise you that you will never be stuck for a story or the right thing to say, and that whatever film scripts or novels you might want to write at any given point, pieces of music or pictures that you might like to paint, will gain public acclaim because true magic is truth, and people jolly well know it when they are in the presence of it.
* Exercise 4 – Other Media Of Expression
To truly open your internal bridging devices to your innate knowledge and experience of the universe and your expression thereof, I would now like you to return to your own personal Holy experience from Exercise 1.
Regardless and entirely regardless of what your previous experiences in these media may be, and entirely regardless of the physical outcome of your endeavours (I do not expect you to re-create the Mona Lisa if you’ve never held a paint brush!) please do these exercises and give them your best attention.
Especially and especially in the modalities where you feel like an uncomfortable stranger, even attempting these will open up parts of yourself and all that you are and reconnect strands within yourself that, when they come on line, will absolutely supercharge your ability to do this kind of work with grace, with elegance and with incredible confidence.
1. The Experience As A Painting
Make a mental image of a moment of the actual experience which, if you took a mental snapshot at that time, would perfectly serve to remind you - remind you! – of that experience if you were to look at it again at a later date. Holding the picture in your mind, find the major visual components and approximate them by making a simple symbol, shape or area to represent them.
Please note that you are only making an approximation, a symbolic representation.
No-one, but no-one can paint a simple sunset. It is an impossibility that has driven artists beyond the brink of insanity since the dawn of time.
No-one, and that includes Leonardo Da Vinci, can draw a human being. You can only create an approximation of reality and in our exercise, it is as much an outcome of that exercise to have you understand that clearly as well as bringing on line probably unused devices to interface with the creative.
* Tutor Comment – Form & Function
It is essential to understand that in order to express an approximation of an experience of any kind (and even a painstaking portrait represents only – only! – the artist’s experience of the human in front of them) you do not need any craft, technique or skill at all.
You just do it as an act in and of itself.
The confusion arises when people think that to do this essential human thing is not allowed to be done unless you have first studied for 10 years and learned the techniques and craft of a particular field of artistic expression.
If you want to sell your work, yes of course you need that, but in order to express your experience of the Creative, you don’t.
You just go ahead and do what is essentially your birth right in all ways and regardless of external feedback from anyone else.
It might be correct for you personally at this time to not share the physical manifestations of your exercises with anyone else.
Negative feedback is something you don’t need at this point, nor patronising varieties of positive feedback or simply non-understanding or a hurtful silence.
We all had quite enough of that when we were small and this is not an exercise designed to gain attention, but to learn something about yourself.
I would suggest to do those things quietly and by yourself and have them remain that way.
Here are is an example of very, very simple visual representations to remind someone of the experience, abstracted and approximated to the main visual structures in the Baltic experience:
Firstly, a rough outline:
The two boxes are the sky and sea, respectively.
The round shape represents the beginning green glow on the horizon that first drew his eyes, and the triangle shape a piece of the ship’s rigging that was in view at that time.
Next, we check back – does this feel right? Anything needs adjusting?
The glow has been moved a little to the right and made to be higher.
But it still isn’t quite right.
Now, just keep adjusting the main components following the children’s game of “cold, warm, warmer ...” until there is a kind of “clicking” sensation and a feeling of “That’s it!”. Here’s what happened with the Baltic representation after a few good trials and errors:
Rather than the circular glow, the “ribbon of light” is now in the sky, reminding the artist
of the dynamic nature of the experience perfectly.
At this point, he sighed deeply and said, “Yes, that’s it. That’s how it was.”
2. The Experience as A Sculpture
You could think of making the painting as using a visual system for expression. In sculpture and although you of course see the finished product, there is a highly kinaesthetic components.
I would suggest you try simply modelling clay or salt dough (mix plain flower with a little salt and water until you have play dough consistency) for this experiment in approximating human experience in a different medium and retaining a sense of the original to yourself.
Just start with a simple ball shape and approximate the experience as best you can, taking feedback from yourself all the while as to whether you are moving closer to or away from the overall sensation.
Once again, after a few trials and errors, you will get a sense of “That’s close enough to remind me!” and then you must stop and leave it alone and let it be.
3. The Experience as Music
Find any kind of musical instrument, even just a small child’s recorder, and simply go through the notes in the scale whilst thinking about your experience.
Some of them or sometimes, just one of them will resonate in harmony with the experience or will resonate more closely than any or some of the others.
Even if you have been told repeatedly by many that you are “tone deaf” or you have no experience of music at all, do the exercise and concentrate on the vibration of the sound, the resonance of the notes and your internal responses to these will tell you which one/s are the “right” one/s.
Once you got these notes, you might find another two or three that seem to fit in and “make sense” and create a simple little tune you could hum and that would remind you of the original experience as you do so.
Let me repeat one more time: these exercises are not to gain attention or acclaim, for public consumption or to convince anyone of anything at all. They are for you alone and to stimulate parts of you to work together that may have never been called upon to perform in this way. Do them sincerely, with an open mind to your own responses and with a faithful heart, and I promise you, you will gain overall a great deal of mental flexibility and enhanced connection to your intuition and creative abilities.
Unit 5 – Conclusion
In Unit 4, we were using imagination and contacting our abilities to generate ideas and scenarios at will.
The human mind is good at that once the CH generator has been tickled into life, given attention and rewarded by listening to what it has to tell us with care and a degree of reverence.
This assignment turned the curve from random firings of our neurology to actually touching the implicate order, the creative itself where all the solutions to all the problems of all times resides, where it is waiting and ready for us to reach out and listen and learn all that could ever be known by any human at all.
To know the difference between the two, we have to turn to the only accurate feedback device that exists for humans – their own internal experiences of the world and how they respond and think about them in turn.
Emotions and sensations are the ultimate feedback device to really, really knowing some things, knowing them intimately on and a level that so far exceeds conscious knowledge as a nuclear bomb exceeds a candle flame.
The implicate order is the place from where all true stories arise.
We can think of it as travelling there but it isn’t a question of having to leave your body, nor of meditating for many years or even to divest yourself of human distractions such as having a life, a wife, work, problems, children, arguments, fears, survival needs and that kind of thing.
We don’t need to travel to the implicate order of the creative.
It is, of course, all around us all the time, and the experiences of the many people who I talked to as I did to you through Exercises 1 and 2, prove this to me without a shadow of a doubt.
These magical peak experiences are enlightenment experiences, and they are had by a bored 17 year old in a zoo, by a rowdy sailor on a routine night watch, a housewife walking in the lanes, a woman waking up and looking at her every-day husband.
It’s like we don’t need to travel, but there’s this other pair of eyes deep within ourselves that has lids, closed in sleep and unawareness, and that once we open those other pair of eyes and consciously look around, it’s there, right there and everywhere, all the time.
We just forget sometimes to stop and look, that’s all.
Excerpt from The Story Teller Silvia Hartmann 2001/2002.