I woke up this morning with the intense conviction that I need to make more room in my life for myself and my art. But I have no art. Such, I guess, is the nature of dreams.
Most people would probably think that this "realization" is nothing but another expression of selfishness. After all, I have more "room" in my life than most people. I live alone; I have no family except some stuffed mole-rats, since the passing of Ms. Johnson, and I've gone to great lengths to keep it that way. I see my father maybe every other week and although I enjoy his company, I find myself resenting the time I spend trying to read through the blaring TV. My job is stupid, as I think all jobs are probably stupid; I just got lucky enough to dispel the illusion of career early enough, to eternally bask in the pointlessness of meaningless labor. I have recently re-committed to my physical exercise routine, which is probably the most important thing I can do at this point in my life, although the exuberance I discovered when I started it twenty-three years ago is hard to find these days, and I am probably fighting a rearguard battle against the deterioration I see in myself and those around me, more than trying to advance, as I was all those years ago.
Then there's the Zen stuff. I both look forward to and dread the Nashville Zen Center's Spring Retreat at Penuel Ridge over Easter weekend. My role as a Zen "leader" and organizer began almost exactly three years ago, at a largely failed though strangely rewarding retreat at the same location, with the same teacher. I've belabored that occasion enough herein. At this point, I long for a retreat, but I dread the role I'll have to assume in this one. I long for the simplicity (from my lowly participant's point of view) of the retreats I discovered in Atlanta just three years ago, driven there by the farcical nature of what passed for Zen here. I long for the time in which I could spend that adversary but always productive time with myself, without dealing with the maintenance of others.
But no, I have to organize, and lead and produce, and to what end? I have no desire to teach Zen, and no qualifications to do so. If people can only sit up straight and sit still, Zen will teach itself. I have enough compassion to want others to have the opportunity I have found, the framework within which to do what they need to do. At this point, I have no real interest in being a part of that framework. Atlanta should give them all they need, and there are others here to carry on that spirit here. I just want to go back where no one knows me, as a student, and sit quietly.
This Easter weekend, anyone who truly seeks will be able to find. They have Michael Elliston and the ASZC for the aforementioned framework, organization and competence. They have Brad Warner, for the primal spirit and need to know, the work that brought me back to Zen in the first place. They who do not find what they need at this event -- I have nothing further to offer them.
Me? I want to go back to the mountain films of Arnold Fanck and Leni Riefenstaller. I find inspiration in strange places of history in these days. Germany in the twenties and thirties of the last century - the American Civil War (the real one, expressed so well in The American Heritage History of the Civil War, not the tripe you read these days about Lincoln freeing the slaves. Lincoln was a pompous politico, and the freed slaves can go to hell).
I find my motivation now in a dark beauty it appears I can only pursue within as, I found over twenty years ago; the undefined (except by me) spiritual practice that I named the Polishing of the Black Diamond within, the mythological adherence to an unwritten Black Diamond Sutra that finds its expression in music dance, and a fine edge of adrenaline, a Sutra that exists not even in my head, for it finds no words, just a feeling a tendency -- a straining toward art in one who finds himself without the skills of artistic expression. I am a failed musician, a writer who's never had the patience to generate a work of substance, a worker of words who's fallen out of love with them. Because the vision I have sits on the edge of a dream; I can almost see it, but I can't bring it to you. I have the additional benefit and advantage of having had philosophy fail me a long time ago. Perhaps it is life itself that is the only true work of art, at least in my case. Certainly, i can't see my obsession with diving to the bottom to bring back the black pearls of beauty and wisdom which transcends expression, as anything else, unless it is pointless madness. And if it is, well then, the world is mad and will be no worse for my labors.
So, then, when these travails are done, then they are done. There will always be, while I must live in this society, a modicum of working to fulfill the goals of others. But I need to remember this time when I feel too trapped by the demands of enterprises I have accepted as my own, when they are not. I need to pursue this dream, where the pursuit is the dream itself. I have spent the good parts of my life getting to this place where no one else is; they need not try to follow me now, because there are minefields at every turn, and I have no yearning to go back for them.
A beautiful darkness beckons.
The little pic above is a poster from The Holy Mountain (1926), the first of German silent film maker Arnold Fanck's mountain films to star Leni Riefenstahler. If you'd rather watch the stuff you usually watch, no skin off my nose, as they say.