The monks say they take custody of their eyes – no casual glancing or watching – always mindful of the effect of their gaze. This is a strong holding of their nature.
Writing now – a painter writing. Why? Why this briar patch? What is this ambition – this hungry voice? This need to be met? To find out? To reveal? – to be seen and to see from the inside out?
I’ve been trained to be linear in writing. Born in a fluid loaded culture, haunted like all culture, but for me strangely out of reach – like this writing thing. It makes me shrink up inside. I need to start the rattle – the rock in a box rattle – the snakes rattle – the hooves on the stones – remembering the way sounds make space – pinning my mind to place and history. The sound of a bicycle thrown against the wall. The axe deep into the soft wood. The chainsaw across the valley. Now it is the suburb’s lawn mower. Same ears – same comfort –work being done – things looked after – tended. Shared planet. Tribe.
Now to take custody of time just to sit – to write it all down. To deal with the – I’m not a writer – who do I think I am? These understandings are here and gone. Mandelstram says erase everything you have written, but keep the notes in the margin. No way to be sure. No firm ground. What is said is already out of date. How to hold something – to share it. Poets say listen. Poets say it is in the sounds. Yes painters know about energy. Energy stored. Energy carried. The excitement of being taken – the speed of the fluid mind – the fast river. Oh yes that’s the thing. That’s the life in it. That lifts the top off your head – chills in the spine. Let it go – go for a ride. Sing it out. Improvise. Sweet flow – smart flow. Yes the painter knows that!
The monks talk of a deep trust in “Original Nature.” Same horse. Same trust. Same joy. Same source. They say when you meet Buddha, kill Buddha. Further out. Further in. Staying present. Holding focus. Practice they call it. When you meet art kill art. That’s what the painters say. Style, style is the enemy of art – style is the enemy of all art. Some things break out of custody. No electronic bracelet on that dude’s ankle.
Still so many kinds of confinement. Fear, fear, fear. Molly Bloom says Yes, Yes, Yes. John Berger read Finnegan’s Wake when he was a teenager. There’s custody for you. Mr. Joyce took custody of that kid! Fearless. But the music plays out inside a control, a tension. Nature holds its balance. Life is a force contained in a body. Plays out here on the planet with views of infinity. Raw deal. Short time. Great view.
So I want to share the view. But my mind is worried, preoccupied – held in the body.- the gift of the body – the natural wonder – the beautiful victim – that is you , that is me, that is us.
When I read about the monks, when I read about the painters, I am bigger, I am opened internally, reassured. Their voices are close in, like the paint. They make my body a receptor – a listening device – an energy catcher. My heart reacts and opens to the generosity of the gift – what is transmitted, carried by the words. We are practicing for transcendence. The custody is about freedom. The original nature is the ground on which we meet, like animals in the wild, inside a bigger coherency than we can grasp. Beyond all this talk, all this worry – all this concern. With love, with intimacy, we find deep comfort. The animal is safe. Fear takes a break and the internal doors swing open. We touch each other. We are touched. This is a place we know, a place we long for. It is a small wonder. A place of rest for children, animals and our deep hearts. It is here that I want to be with you – in that place – in that safety – in that trust and generosity of spirit. I have to earn trust – prove myself to be clean, present, trustworthy. There is lots of art out there not to be trusted – lots of virtuosity, bravado and cleverness. St Patrick and St Augustine sought our trust with confessions. Jesus just loved us no matter what. Nelson Mandela held to decency no matter what. Martin Luther King and Gandhi practiced non-violence, no matter what. The artists and the writers, we have to get in close, get intimate. We have to create that sacred space no matter what. No half in, half out – staying present – staying close in – risking everything – no matter what.
When I draw I can just pick something up and slam it into a drawing. Gouge, cut, scrape, splatter. Violation is easy. The paper tears. The surface is vulnerable to injury. The violence is recorded. It echoes in space. There is room for it, if not in the piece, in the process. Words are too pliant – too adaptable and forgiving. It is hard to slam writing, to kick it, to break past the sticky blanket of the endless stream of words that clog and fill all the spaces in the mind. Silence works. How do you write silence? How do you create room for words – fresh cut words – scrambly, scrawny, chewed up talk, word fuck cornices on the side of prose? I can’t even see the window from here.
Stories yes stories. When the dog is lost and the valley a roar with sounds – wind, river, rain. Your voice carried away – your stomach tight. Anxiety. Fear of loss. You are held in time – in imagined bereavement – the dog caught in the wire – in the current of the river swell – hit by a car – broken spine – lying in the ditch. Then you hear the bark from the tool shed from behind the closed door. Time spins back to familiar patterns. Stupid dog getting shut in like that. Relief running through your body. Dumb dog. Yes you dumb dog. What a dummy. Yes you.