Spirituality, Imagination, and Pole-Dancing

I think often, and occasionally pontificate, on the spiritual practice of creativity; the places they mutually inform and intersect, the artesian possibilities of art-making. It has been for me a means of keeping a few useful items on my mental table, known to topple over from time to time. It means reading. Lots of reading. Further, it means writing about and because of what I read.

Some of the best stuff gets a chance to percolate, and then regurgitate back onto the page. In the process, some of that wordy goodness forces its way into me. Into who I am becoming. Why I am becoming. And for whom.

Two prevalent ideas in American society are mutually exclusive: spirituality and capitalism. They are the philosophical bed-mates of spirituality and profitability (otherwise known as the New Age Movement or the Christian publishing industry), or sex and time management (although it would be fun to explore the correlation). 

Even as one who writes about this stuff quite regularly, when the best considerations come along, it behooves me to sit back and let them have at it. Besides, what follows provides much of my reading fare these days and finds its way into my own words anyway. Part of that fare is a weekly email from a website called Brain Pickings. It is dedicated to those things that titillate, inspire, educate, and sometimes enrage.

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Today’s offering, excerpted from Ursula K. Le Guin’s book, Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week contains a stimulating quote that makes this point.

In America, the imagination is generally looked on as something that might be useful when the TV is out of order. Poetry and plays have no relation to practical politics. Novels are for students, housewives, and other people who don’t work. Fantasy is for children and primitive peoples. Literacy is so you can read the operating instructions. I think the imagination is the single most useful tool mankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination.

I hear voices agreeing with me. “Yes, yes!” they cry. “The creative imagination is a tremendous plus in business! We value creativity, we reward it!” In the marketplace, the word creativity has come to mean the generation of ideas applicable to practical strategies to make larger profits. This reduction has gone on so long that the word creative can hardly be degraded further. I don’t use it any more, yielding it to capitalists and academics to abuse as they like. But they can’t have imagination.

Imagination is not a means of making money. It has no place in the vocabulary of profit-making. It is not a weapon, though all weapons originate from it, and their use, or non-use, depends on it, as with all tools and their uses. The imagination is an essential tool of the mind, a fundamental way of thinking, an indispensable means of becoming and remaining human.

Good stuff, right?

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Because I knew some excess debt-stress would be great for my spiritual development I took a master’s degree. In Spiritual Formation and Leadership. You know, ’cause…why not, right? It was the altruistic alternative to nautical knot-tying or selling chain-link fence. In truth, it was three of the best years of my adult life. But, already, I digress.

One of the courses necessary for graduation (the only one with the word leadership even attached), offered no small consternation for me. The required texts were bent on forcing spiritual practice onto corporate America like pole dancer nipple pasties (yes, I note that collective groan). I swore to the nipple gods that, should I read one more shitty leadership book that culls its guiding principles from some guy who made millions building chairs, I’d learn pole-dancing myself while reading it aloud in the village square.

For leadership, give me Desmond Tutu, Ernest Shackleton, Rosa Parks, Ghandi, Maya Angelou, or Martin Luther King, Jr. any day over these assholes. For imagination, give me the spiritual practice of creativity, art-making divorced from some lesser ideal. Teach me the riches of poetry for its own sake. Take me to the canvas because, in its pulsating emptiness, I find my fullness. Stuff words in my mouth and place me on a stage where I can act out my inadequacies. Drop me on a dance floor so I can shake out my sins and sweat out my aggression. Let our imagination provide the deus ex machina to our profit-lust, the perceived non sequitir of truth and beauty over pragmatism and effectiveness.

Lead me to beauty because the water’s good, not because it enhances my time management skills.

 

Spring on Ash Wednesday

I should probably just write a new Ash Wednesday piece. But, hopefully there is still some charm and comfort in the old as well…

Rob's Lit-Bits

Ash Wednesday has come round again to spill forth her penitent goodness. I first posted this last year on Ash Wednesday. Let’s walk the Lenten road together.

 ash wednesday

Begins again this Springward journey;

rebirthing all that once lived.

Trickle again once fickle brook and stream

sickle sighs yet in repose, sleeping still.

Earth, sore and Winter-stiff, seeks, sighs

stretches out skinny arms of want.

Her cold, hard bosom births not what soon will come

e’er the Sun’s hungry mouth suckles,

fills his lusty gut on hopeful barrenness

feasting on milk of timeworn, weary passage.

* * * * * * * * *

She forgets not the suddenness of late

and sooner dark, splayed upon a fine, greenness

come for to spite the buds of transforming light

bidding death where life has yet to emerge.

Warmly insistent she speaks, sharing her story

poured out over the long-shadowed land.

Bring such…

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d.j.t. and the language of impudence

you carve away your slabs of inconvenience with silver spoon,

handed to you in confidence that you might

earn your own pottage.

through flared nostrils, you billow and bluster. 

a pall of disagreeable swagger

posing as fortitude – your aftershave.

 

middle-pack crow at best, your squawking tenor

makes ears bleed that otherwise wouldn’t bother.

but loudest means best when the bleating flock is

only a cover for the finish-line break away.

 

child-wound-daddy-talk, shoulder-chipped, posture-power

harumphing with front-seat view, proxy-driving

from the back-seat limo of puppet-kings,

where you learned your craft.

 

too big the metaphor

for too small a man

so big a tongue

for so small a deed

a borrowed empire built

         on a ground of smoke and lies and bones of the poor

it makes bad wine from old grapes your gardeners never drink

carve away the dross enough to secure your shiny tale

but never let them see the fear you hide through shinier grin.

 

mirrors, over-polished, well-lit, world-weary, familiar,

you cannot look away – an honest pairing, your truest friend –

they always stay quiet when you gloat;

at least they wouldn’t deny your rightful place

among the great, the dress-for-success, self-made (apparently)

emperors of steely resolve and art of the deal.

 

the golf course cathedrals where gods of industry

find reprieve from the weight of their own misdeeds.

the art of misdirection, sleight of hand, deftly removes

what others need, replacing anything too easily overlooked

while we look the other way.

 

stuffing faces in your pockets, names under your lapel,

souls with dirty fingernails and hungry bellies

whose sweat fattened your wine cellar

whose tears fattened your belly while you robbed theirs.

whose unsightly color and ungodly language

builds your fortune

justifies your hatred

explains your anger

baffles God.

 

scratch and sort, smile and sign away the lives

of the lesser than

those too insignificant to see, but dangerous enough  

to uncover your tiny horse-blinded life

dripping with Babylon pipe-dreams

Caesar’s gold pajamas –

Herod wiping out a generation for fear he’s not first –

the screams of mothers to drown his madness.

 

her glance was never a look in your direction

she had no choice given her job

she feared your hunger for pussy and the shamelessness

required to step lightly with a conscience that weighs nothing.

 

and for all that the world is still too small

the job’s in the bag

but the cat’s out of the bag

and your hand is overplayed

masks are wearing thin

time and truth tether themselves

drawing the rope across the chasm

between your rainbow of lust and a bog of emptiness

just in time to speak the one dark word

still hiding stubbornly in your closet –

 

insignificant.

wordlessness

In rather obvious irony I repost a poem on struggling to write one – in honor of National Poetry Day (UK).

Rob's Lit-Bits

Sometimes he gets stuck in the dictionary so

long that his brain becomes alphabet soup.

He wears his skin tattooed with another’s thoughts.

And he waits.

No, he frets – and sour apprehensions

swim atop a slowly scumming pond

of wilted words, reeking of lost sleep.

And, if reflections in the coffee shop window

are meant to serve as metaphor,

they only spur on the edict

of secondary pictures mirrored from

another’s doubting face.

Come then, if you must,

shadows from a cold mist to

rattle and rustle the bones.

Come, take up residence beside

one with a plasticine pencil,

pliable to cautious hands –

worthless in sweaty palms,

squeezing desperately against

the inevitable.

In this reverie to a ghost –

vestibule in an empty house,

birthing only the vestige of coffee-stained

intentions, a writer paces –

penning wordlessness.

View original post

At the corner of validation and forgot

In commemoration of the last time Rae and I were at this delightful spot, a writers conference in Edmunds, Washington. This was the poem I spent all day writing on a park bench by the ocean.

Rob's Lit-Bits

vanity

At this drunken shoreline, patterns return, in

quilted quiet. I can revel again in spiced hours,

deaf to the biker-ghosts, bad-mouthing

this demure, paper posture.

Thoughts are a little rumpled, like the sea,

what with these ferocious memories; un-manacled,

like cottonwood dreams, blown out into the world.

This world I am watching.

* * * * *

She walks down the street, locking

every wandering glance; stolen stares from

other hungers. Sad limbs, built for laughing strolls,

carry instead their weight in

desperation, the roll call gestures of

fragmentary magnetism. To look down is to invalidate,

the one thing that renders such creatures immobilized.

She never looks straight on. Being seen but

unknown has honed a peripheral awareness

to a hawk-like precision. It’s the hollow

look of the lonely.

* * * * *

That’s a tiny dog for such an imposing guy.

It must have something to do with an ill-

fitting black…

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Last of the summer, leaves

An autumnal poem from yesteryear…

Rob's Lit-Bits

Down the road of change

I watch while the last of the summer leaves

the last of the summer leaves,

cornered by color, bullied by wind,

pushed from their tenuous

one-finger perches. Dangling

from hope, they yet cling to what was.

To what can never be again.

 

Buttressed now by stealth and stain,

the trees hold their breath and, in bloated hues,

leave behind what could never have been kept.

The molten days of August, now

Eastward creeping, cannot match

the closer dawn of winter’s darker agenda.

Change waits for no one.

 

Our frightened but fawning fraternity,

grips the once-dangling inside jokes. 

But our song-sick companionship, bends

to sight and chance and change.

Beyond the clutch and ken of

drowning dreams, old stories, made young

again in the telling, sleep in

the quiet choirs of shared experience.

 

Love, always trumpeting her own exploits,

is writ larger against the dim and shrinking page.

Huddling for warmth against the inevitability

of…

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No difference

What one sees is not always what one seeks.

And what one seeks is not always what one says.

And what one says is not always what one starts.

It’s okay, there’s no difference between what

I didn’t see yesterday and what landed itself full upright

in today’s path, muse-appointed.

 

There are the moments when, at a

full stride, forehead high and strong,

come words and stories, notes and beams,

high-stepping toes, pointed at heaven;

brushstrokes for love or anger, life or less –

those are the boldest strokes, the highest notes,

the brightest steps…

 

The sound of music is good wherever notes 

find you. Let it be your symphony.