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The Sunshine in Artistic Endeavour

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Sunshine lollipops.jpg

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows… do you thrive on sunshine and luxuriously lengthy days like me?

Know what? I’m really missing them. I do every year at this time.

I’m addicted to bright, long sunlit days as thoroughly as I’m addicted to smooth milk chocolate and cheesecake. It’s all soothingly warm yumminess inside.

But at this time of year the sweet chocolate is frozen solid and hard to bite; I realize that those chocolate warming rays must come from a different star when the days are so damned short.

Over time, I’ve figured out that the sun radiates in my world when I participate in a kaleidoscope of new and old experiences, a clutter of things.

Just this week, I’ve had lots of sensory input to excite my eyes and ears and tastebuds and make me partly forget about the hulking, smothering darkness.

Sitting here in the early morning 50 shades of grey, I hear an occasional Canada goose honking in the distance over Okanagan Lake. I’m pondering how all this input ties together in some sort of seamless fabric, even though on the surface, it appears tattered and fragmented… like thin sheets of fragile ice on the small puddles perched at the end of my driveway.

So, here’s a sampling of my week’s inputs:

  1. Musical harmony practice with guitar and voice. We’re working on pieces like this and this.
  2. Volunteering at the soup kitchen with a crazily productive chef and a large crowd of chilled and hungry lunchers.
  3. A night of salty popcorn munching at the theatre while absorbing Charles Dickens’ world in the flick, “The Man Who Invented Christmas“.
  4. A college inservice for volunteer tutors like myself, all about knowing and understanding the “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP).
  5. A saintly church visit for Christmas Musaic choral harmony for my heathen ears.

Shake it all up and whaddya got? Hmmmm….

Are there gossamer webs and connections in the things that we do and interest us at our core?

As a person trying to be curious and understanding of the relationships between seemingly unrelated events i.e. Idea Sex… I’m sitting back, looking for commonalities in these occasions, a lovely ribbon that ties and makes some sense on a scale of creative output.

Using that concept of Idea Sex, I’m seeking glimmers of order in the chaos.

Music… volunteerism… cinema… learning and new insights… more music.

Yes, it’s a random muddle but the mere fact that I’m writing about it here I think shows some blend of creative thinking, where I jostle and mingle ideas looking for connections.

For instance, suppose I’m wanting to connect “music to learning and new insights“, or “volunteerism to cinema“. Rather than asking how they can be connected, I picture both of them in my mind and ask, “How am I feeling, seeing them together?

“Does playing and listening to music build my childlike enthusiasm for general learning and growth and vice versa?”

“Are there moments when I’m volunteering that make a dramatic or comedic impact within me like a well-crafted movie?”

OK, maybe there isn’t a correlation here at all.

I could, and usually do, arrive at a minimalistic solution to this question that contains the least baggage and explains the most (otherwise known as, and I love this term… Occam’s razor). 

Occam’s razor would likely come up with a simple trashy response like, “it’s a random jumble much like Billy’s walk across the yard in The Family Circus.”

Family Circus.gif

Really, it makes sense.

Some thoughts and ideas belong in the shitty cesspool. Do you think the correlation graph below is a keeper?

spelling bee chart

 

Maybe not, but some correlation is important.

It really comes down to the creative process. Writers, musicians, and artistic sorts of all types need to find fresh approaches to their craft, uncovering metaphors that smell like fresh bread arising in the heat of the oven, drawing the consumer of their art to the alluring scent.

Idea Sex or finding connections isn’t easy. It’s friggin‘ hard.

Art, like life, is hard.

Done with an attitude of enthusiasm and gusto, art, of any sort, like life, can be deliciously pleasurable.

In my seething brain I’m seeking beauty and sunshine in the darkest days of December because the sun adamantly refuses to give it to me directly.

I have to make my own brightness through writing and music and cinema and volunteering.

Occam’s razor had it right. That’s a simple correlation.

Sunshine… on my shoulders … makes me happy….

Sunshine 2

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8 Ways to An Inspired Life

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creativity ocean.jpg

We live in a vast swollen ocean of inspiration and creativity.

A sea that, at times, is ugly, frustrating, even tempestuous, but also tranquil and stunningly beguiling at others.

The choice is ours alone… to swim in its liquid warmth, tickled and massaged by rainbow-striped fish swirling around and beneath us… or to remain in the colourless dry “safety” of the boat absent from its beneath-the-surface ethereal wonders.

I was reading an article the other day of an interview with singer/songwriter James Taylor where he said something like: “I never thought of myself as a songwriter, but then I sat down and wrote, and wrote, and over time I discovered that I really could be a songwriter.”

That’s kind of a capsule summary of my thoughts and approach to creativity.

woody allen success

We become something by believing, trusting that we can do, and then, at last, by doing.

By “showing up”.

Every time I:

  • pick up a book
  • sit in a movie theatre
  • listen to a song I love
  • ponder a beautiful painting
  • cheer an athlete cross the finish line
  • spy an airplane passing overhead…

… I’m inspired.

How can I not be?

These are all amazing diamond-dusted creations of an individual person or persons.

They weren’t formed through some supernatural magic (although in some back eddy of my mind I can almost believe they were).

They were all folded and formed and thrust like a volcano from the depths of the sea by the actions and fortitude and dogged determination of the human mind and physical effort.

When I awake in the morning, it’s like I’ve arisen in a stolid prairie field with a wide swath of openness, virgin soil, before me.

My first breaths allow me to decide… to choose… if I’ll leave the broad expanse before me fallow, untended, bereft of new life and growth…

or…

… do I absorb a deep breath of clean, fresh open-sky air and purposefully decide to plant and nurture a pasture filled with verdant growth and beauty, replete with colour and texture and expression.

Sure it involves work, but the rewards are life enhancing.

prairie 2.jpg

In order to fulfill my desire to be inspired, here are 8 rules, the work-to-reward system I follow:

  1. Proactive and decisive – there’s just no way to grow creative flowers without plowing the field and planting the seeds. Do something. Start small but do something. Decide today. Write a paragraph, sew a seam, run a block. It’s one foot in front of the other, over and over.
  2. Fail quickly and gloriously – as I grow older, my “who cares” voice has gained ground, and so failure, a word that once was anathema in my life, has become a calling card to likely success. Failure is rarely “fun”, but it’s a necessary evil to pass through to building a creative life. Failure takes courage.
  3. Laziness – procrastination (I can hear Carly Simon singing right now… PROCRASTIN-AY-AY-TION) is one of my bigly’est sins. The mental and physical effort we need to make ourselves creative takes considerable prodding and spent “calories”. Couch potatoes need not apply.
  4. Focus intently – this is another weak zone for me. I start in and before 10 minutes have melted away in writing a blog post, practicing guitar, preparing a lavish birthday cake… my mind begins a bastardly wander that needs electric fencing to keep under control… if only I had a little sheep-pig named Babe to keep my bemused head “contained”.
  5. Stay actively healthy – whatever paths we follow, the bearing we choose to pursue… we need a healthy physical presence to realize a worthwhile ending. Hemingway undoubtably spent much too much time drinking and smoking, but I’ve seen the desk at his Finca Vigia in Cuba where he wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls... no chair for sitting, it stands upright high where he would stand for countless hours typing his words. Sitting is the new smoking – Hemingway was ironically ahead of his time.
  6. Be willing to adapt – a common theme I’ve observed as I, and those around me age, is that the “mature” mind slowly evolves toward a gelling process that freezes opinion and one’s attitude and approach to life. Old Codger… Old Coot… are often accurate descriptions of a senior mind that has become set and unwilling or unable to bend and adapt. A local senior newspaper columnist remains stuck on the notion that everything is terribly wrong in today’s world, and terrifically right back in his youth.
  7. Pay attention to the world with an open mind – creativity is a sun-kissed virtue that relies on a free and open set of eyes and ears, unlocked to the shadowed nuance of our daily existence. An inquisitive, curious mind bursts opens like a morning glory flower to the subtlety of the breezes, the scents, the minute visions of what is meant and felt, and not merely said. Absorb the texture of a toddler’s gentle fingers, the shadow cast by a streetlight across a moonlit lawn.
  8. Embrace Idea Sex – well, surprise surprise… I’d say embrace sex of ANY kind, but from the viewing stand that overlooks the lyrical valley of inspiration, a swirling and blending of idea juices is what inevitably produces the sweetest fruit on the tree of our lives. Creativity thrives on combinations of thought balloons, ideas, notions, perspectives. The iPhone, as one small but world-altering example, employs a big seductive pile of idea sex where a bunch of technology snowflakes are rolled together to make a huge avalanche of a snowball.

apps

Ho hum you might say.

You may be thinking that a whole lot of what I’ve said above is pretty cliche’ish.

Right. I get it.

Gorgeous scarlet-flamed sunsets are cliche’ish too.

And yet, you and I, repeatedly over our years, gather ourselves on a quiet bench, listening to hushed waves lap at the sandy ocean front as the drowsy sun kisses the ocean goodnight.

Cliches are easy truths… that’s why they’ve become cliches.

Inspiration is the hardest easy truth.

once upon a time

Winter Games and Alzheimer’s Sex

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Lucy-chocolate-factory

I’ve heard you asking…“Larry, why aren’t you writing about Idea Sex anymore?

Well …. I’ve listened and so … here’s another blog post about IDEA SEX! You’re welcome…

Today I’m mating my Teenage Virginity with BC Winter Games with Alzheimer’s Sex … you’ll understand in a minute.

Last week, we volunteered to make a few sandwiches and lunches for aspiring young athletes from across and up and down the province of British Columbia. Right, just a few.

Maybe … let’s see … 5,000,000 sandwiches constructed from 10,000,000 slabs of whole-wheat bread layered with sliced ham or beef, plastic-wrapped (OK… it was 5,000 sandwiches! But it felt like 5 million) … then pitched into brown paper bags to cuddle with a banana, an English Bay chocolate chip cookie, Kellogg’s granola bar, SunRype juice box, and a packet of mustard.

Truthfully, the lunches were extremely boring … which errant sock drawer did the organizers’ creativity gene get lost in?  Lunch of champions? Perhaps not.

The work itself was reminiscent of watching TV’s Laverne and Shirley on the beer-making assembly line, or Lucille Ball standing by the conveyor belt as chocolates raced past her. Fun, but a touch mind-numbing too.

sandwich assembly line

A lot of random musings roll through your head – like fluffy clouds drifting lazily across an azure sky – when you’re on an assembly line.

But mainly? SEX.

Things like, how –as a guy –  you spent your entire teenage years dreaming and wondering what it would be like to lose your virginity. Scrumptious virginity-plundering sex with a satin-skinned, sweet, floral-scented honey.

Carnal fantasizing yet feeling the pure undefiled terror of not knowing what to do, how to do, where to do … oh the numbness and freedom of the assembly line.

After fabricating the daily athlete energy packs, we’d wander about to the various sports sites and observe the up-and-coming potential Olympians.

There were moments of breathtaking inspiration watching a sleek speedskater zoom ahead of the pack like he was wearing a jet pack, pulling away from the other skaters as if they had parachutes dragging from behind.

Or the tiny little fella, maybe 11 or 12 years old with figure skates holding his feet to the ice … watching as this minuscule dynamo, solitary on the expansive ice surface, floated upwards, spinning round and round, almost taking off into orbit, before finally, slow-motion returning to the icy earth with balletic grace and an excited grin of satisfaction.

Speed-Skating.jpg

But while I watched on, I found myself becoming more interested in the anxious parents gazing over their young charges.

I scanned the faces of the young parents emoting their own hopes and aspirations, replaying the life they had lived or wished they had lived.

Dreams enjoyed, dreams quashed.

The drama and grace of their child’s activity played out on the drawing board of their faces.

Then the memories began resurfacing.

I began re-living the inner atmosphere of fear, of pride, of the emotion and pleasure, the soul-searing heartbreak and joy of raising these creatures from a precious pairing of two individual gametes to this remarkable moment.

Because 10, 15, 20 years ago? That was me.  Sitting … cheering … jumping up yelling out a hurray … lowering my head into my hands in frustration.

Snapping back to the present, the milieu was like an out-of-body experience. I was a heavenly angel calmly observing the whole scenario detached from above.

Harry Chapin sang about this still-life moment in All My Life’s a Circle, the rising of the sun each morning, the day’s commute to and from school or work, the birthday and Christmas celebrations.

This circle of life where – as my adult son and I discussed only yesterday –  one day we’re listening impatiently to our father’s unwanted words of advice or reprimand, then, in what feels like a few short breaths later, hear ourselves repeating those same words to our own offspring.

It was a shock the first time I heard my father’s voice coming from my mouth.

And it occurred to me while watching this sports’ stuff, you know, the kids, the coaches, the parents, it was great fun at the time but like Alzheimer’s sex, as much fun and as enjoyable as it is, you forget about it.

The beauty, the excitement, and the delicious passion of the moment drifts further and further back in dusty eddies and recesses in your mind.

Eventually, barely realizing the loss, it becomes a mirage beyond sight, almost as if it never happened …

… until …

… you go to the Winter Games and the electrified feeling of being a sport’s parent returns.

You get to enjoy the present moment and the excitement and enthusiasm while simultaneously feeling an inner joy at the passionate memory of similar moments in your life.

I admit that I fear and maybe even shrink from the notion of growing older. I relish and prefer the sunny days when my thoughts revolved around the loss of my teenage virginity more than I look forward to twilight Alzheimer’s Sex.

I can’t turn back the clock or slow the aging process in any meaningful way, but I can capture moments of grace and beauty surrounding me today and enjoy the warmly satisfying reconnection to earlier days.

For me, it’s like concocting a fancy new cocktail in my bartender job … Idea Sex is another way of marrying our present adventures with our past.

ALZHEIMER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Childhood Pyromania and Idea Sex …

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fire fist

Why I’m not locked away in solitary confinement is beyond my understanding.

As a youngster, I loved fire.

Kumbaya Campfires, fireplace fires, smoky autumn piles of leaves and prunings, fireworks’ and firecrackers’ fires … sizzle fizzle… BANG!

Nothing made my pulse quicken more than to strike a match and set something … just about anything … aflame.

And if I didn’t have a match… well… a good little magnifying glass could substitute as an igniter. It was gloriously satisfying to see a little whisp of smoke rising from a scrap of paper where the magnifying glass had concentrated the mid-summer morning sun’s rays.

I cringed inside when a couple of friends thought it was cool to sizzle a live ant on the ground with the magnifying glass. The ant would try to run away from the pinpoint concentrated heat, but eventually it would succumb and an ugly, acidic smelling smoke arose from its flesh. The kindness of Buddhism hadn’t filtered into our little lives yet.

Those are the guys who are probably in solitary confinement these days.

On summer mornings, I could sit on the floor of my family garage – after Dad had driven our pale green Ford Meteor off to work – and make fire magic for a couple of hours easily.

The alcohol-based Aqua Velva cologne sent by my Aunt Lilian the previous Christmas was wonderful stuff for fueling flames … plus it smelled great at the same time. I think she sent it to me, her young nephew, to make me feel grown up. She would have had a cardiac arrest knowing the use I put it to.

Aqua velva

I’d pour a few fragrant drops of the blue-tinted cologne into a small jar lid sitting on the garage’s cement floor. Then I’d see how close a lit match needed to be before there was a small “woof” as the flame ignited a hot, almost transparent, blue-green flame that danced in the air over the jar lid.

It burned away for 5 or 10 seconds and I would hold small twigs or twisted wads of paper over it to see if they too would ignite. Those little round red rolls of “caps” for kid’s cap pistols were perfect to hold over the flame and listen to their sulphury loud “crack”.

It was fascinating, and now, looking back, maybe a tiny bit creepy at the same time.

That was then. My childhood pyromania has thankfully subsided.

I still enjoy the primal sense of a dancing flame in the firebox of my woodstove, but I save the cologne for splashing on my weathering grown-up face.

Now, as an adult, I’ve left that burning desire for real fire largely behind – the flames I long to see and feel now are those of creative spark.

Whether I’m crafting words in this blog post, or in creating music, I feel the same searing rushing blood in my temples that I experienced as a child pyro.

The heat produced now is a physics phenomenon of action-reaction.

creative spark

Occasionally, I write something as if someone else has occupied my body and is making up the words that flow from me – a magical mystery.

Or sometimes a melody materializes out of some ethereal spot that I’ve never been to or seen.

I know it’s all related to my active sub-conscious making connections and melding ideas – yup, IDEA SEX – in the brain’s underworld that is largely unknown and mysterious to us all.

But like Virginia’s Santa Claus (from New York’s Sun 1897 editorial writer Francis Pharcellus Church ):

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. 

Idea sex exists and it works like Santa’s little unseen elves, creating and cutting and pasting until a new combination of artistic phenomenon arises to the surface and erupts.

The physics action/reaction I spoke of above is to think of a problem, a challenge or an idea that has me scratching my head seeking an answer or a coherent, interesting thought. Another analogy that might make sense to you is when you try to think of someone’s name whom you you’ve just bumped into after 10 years … it won’t come.

I set the challenge quest on a little floating boat, anchored in a safe harbour.

Then with a light shove off from its moorings, I set the craft adrift to go out on the ocean wherever it wishes.

I turn my head and walk away and let the challenge reside in the background, relaxing and trusting that my sub-conscious has sprung into action, searching and bobbing through my lifetime’s file of memories and experiences.

The magic sometimes takes 5 minutes … sometimes 5 hours … but usually an overnight passage is enough to bring the boat back to port and deliver the goods.

Toy Boat 3

It’s as amazing as it is mysterious and wonderful.

It’s comforting somehow to know that my enthusiastic desire for flames still exists after all these years, even in an altered form.

The metaphorical hot flames I create today are far less likely to send me into a locked cage than the real fiery ones of my youth.

And … in fact, the idea sex potential that lies inside us all produces a heat that can make us feel more powerful than we’ve ever felt …

…………………..

Before he goes into the water, a diver cannot know what he will bring back.” 
― Max Ernst