Monday, February 27, 2012                                                        Dreadful Joy

The Lyf So Short, the Craft So Longe to Lerne...

"The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne, Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge, The dredful joye..." -- Geoffrey Chaucer, 1382, "The Parliament of Fowls"

As a creative writer, I owe a huge debt to the irrational. That spontaneously fanciful part of our human reality has gone by many names: the unconscious, Muse, duende, Dionysian mysteries, mundus imaginalis, the bardo, al mithal. Let me now add yinsanity.

You know what I mean. To do anything creatively, there’s got to be a lot of yin: yinteriority: receptivity to the inner darkness from which issue all the images that give imagination its name. What amazes me is that within us a dream force organizes these images into narratives. Every night when we dream - and in all our daydreams - this dream force is busy telling stories!

The irrational storyteller inside us is our yinsanity. By relating to this darkness that glimmers with secret fire, we answer a central question for readers, “Where do writers get their ideas?”

The source of our yinsanity is the mystery that is reality. Thanks in large part to three Teutonic wizards - Kurt Gödel, Werner Heisenberg, and Ludwig Wittgenstein - we are among the first generations to know that reality is unknowable.

That’s the imploding reply to the explosive question, “Why write creatively?”

To possess oneself.

Our lives are narratives. In the past, people could sincerely believe their narratives corresponded to reality - to God or science. Three Teutonic wizards punctured that illusion forever. Truth for 21st century minds is unavailable. All we have is imagination.

Our brains trick us. The reality we see around us doesn’t exist. Though our nervous systems are made of the same material we find in our environment, we feel separate. We cherish a distinct sense of past and a canny awareness of future. Yet, for over a century now, Einstein’s relativity theories have demonstrated (time and again!) that time is an illusion.

Brain chemistry has evolved to optimize opportunities for reproduction, and it seems our world - our ordinary, rational reality - is an elaborate and sexy fiction, exquisitely useful for survival but not at all representative of what really is.

Perhaps our yinsanity offers a more realistic perspective than reason. Perhaps creative writing is a way of sharing yinsanity and its deeper dimension of reality: our mindful confrontation with Mystery.

Writing began as an alphanumeric magical code. Spelling creates spells in the earliest writing. We still use it to spellbind destiny by fixing our narratives on the page. Even a shopping list is a contract with destiny. How much more so our dreams with their own secret narrator? Or our stories dreamsprung from the unconscious and manipulated into art?

Thousands of generations of human dreaming - and just a few with the opportunity to write down these most intimate stories of our yinsanity and share them with complete strangers, even with the unborn.

Damaged like flowers for the gods, we are strewn across time, that hard illusion, and trampled. Our written stories remain. The Muse and Chaucer’s pilgrims are real - because they don’t exist.

What a spooky power! But (as master spellbinder Chaucer points out) writing is not easy. Evolution didn’t adapt our brains to read and write. Creative writing, our dreadful joy, is a new way of human being - an invented way - of entering together into the dreaming, into the ongoing narrative of our creaturely psyche - our yinsanity.


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