VISITING PLACES YOU WOULDN’T CHOOSE TO VISIT

You wouldn’t have signed up for the experience if you had a choice. Choice is the great luxury, the downy pillow beneath a tired head in a private sleeping car on a long journey. Reality is a seat in steerage on a wooden bench, with inadequate ventilation and a colicky baby in the row behind you.

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HEARTS AFIRE

A romantic existence, just like a romantic story, deals with extending life into the future. Ultimately the extension of all of our lives into the future is why we invest ourselves in our children, in our values whatever they may be, or in our great creative enterprises big and small. Romance is about preserving a moment or an idea into timelessness.

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ART WITHOUT ART

Here at the edge of the world creative souls still stir. With almost no time for anything but work and essential labors necessary to maintain life and limb,  literature and accomplished music and modern dance will not grow. It’s a simple statement and it’s true, just like tomato plants to not yield fruit in the desert.  But here and there, in nuanced ways, I see expressions of individual expression, of ways to remake the world.

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THE TITLE OF THIS ESSAY WAITS TO REVEAL ITSELF

Steinway It always happens. Days, weeks, sometimes even months of grinding work suddenly reach a crest in the shadowed road and then pass over the rise into exhilarating bright light. Intangibility turns solid. Ideas become real. Light floods the space and suddenly something exists in the world in a way that didn't exist a moment before.

That transformative jolt is not simply an epiphany suddenly making it's presence known. That jolt is akin to the lighting that reanimated Dr. Frankenstein's monster. Hard, incremental work prepared the space, with little emotional resonance. Hard work yesterday turns into hard work today, with the promise of more to come tomorrow. Intellectually we may understand the trajectory of an undertaking, but emotionally it's hard to believe that tiny steps taken day after day will actually amount to anything useful. But then the lifecycle of a project reaches a mid-point, and something must transform somehow, or at least make room for new components. When it's clicking some sort of new, élan vital enters the body, takes a breath and fires cells to life…

…and here's the crazy thing: those moments are hard to predict.

But sometimes you can get a hint that they're coming.

I'm writing this blog entry sitting in a recording studio in Athens, Ohio while our music master Andre (Hey! Check the rest of our website for a photo and bio!) is hunched over the piano working on a score for our new Science On a Sphere movie WATER FALLS. I think I speak for the whole team when I say that we all look forward to this phase of a big production, even as we're all starting to feel the strain of exertion and fleeting time. The work is serious and hard but simultaneously joyful. The process is a complete embrace of the best parts of life. It creates matter from void; it declares emotional resonance from nothing but memory and inspiration. For WATER FALLS, months of effort have led us here. We finally have a rough cut of the film capable of supporting serious dialogue between itself and musical ideas. No doubt that music will re-inform the visuals, and we'll be in a sudden pas-de-deux between the two, pictures influencing audio, audio influencing picture.

I've been doing this work for decades, and it still makes my heart rate pick up the pace. A moment ago, something that never existed before suddenly sprang into being, achieving enough mass and complexity to transform from a pile of matter into a gleaming structure, a temple, a town, a soul. There's music behind the pictures, and an a flooding list of notes running off the the pages in my notebook, and though the hour is late, I am wide awake and scribbling as fast as I can.

Moments of discovery are rare. The do not come easily. They are milestones along long, often forced marches, and they do not, by themselves, pay the rent. But placed against the endless labors of ordinary days, they are gleaming cracks in the often opaque facades of what we're all forced to endure in ordinary days. Moments of discovery shine light on what we all so desperately want to believe could be great, meaningful, shimmering substance of lives worth living.

--MS

--MS

Twitter @michaelstarobin Facebook facebook.com/1auglobalmedia

PS -- Yes, yes, here's where the good people of 1AU ask our dear readers to share what you've read with friends and colleagues. And here's the place where you think, "Oh, sure, one more imposition of my precious time." Well, we're asking. It's something we value above rubies, above gold: if you like an idea enough to give it a moment's thought, then consider giving it a measure of freedom. When you share an idea with another person, you release an idea to grow freely in the world.

Like what you see? Set it free.

 

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TURKEY SANDWICH

Unexpected, delicious Ordinary things can still surprise us. One small change from ordinary expectations can push back the boundaries of reality, of possibility, of dreams.

In the Dick Tracy comic strips of the 1940's, the hero wore a culture-altering talisman portending the future: a wrist radio. Reinvented twenty years later in Star Trek's communicators, the Enterprise crew (Picard era, for those who care) called the ship or each other by saying the name of the intended receiver into their handset.

Siri, anyone?

Extraordinary becomes ordinary, fast.

Arbitrary deviations do not count. You can't simply bolt a jet engine onto the back of a Volkswagen and get a reliable flying car. (But you can get a very, very fast one, apparently.) Most arbitrary deviations are usually forgettable, or unpalatable, or otherwise aesthetically undesirable. In biology, they're unsuccessful mutations; in automobiles, their Edsels.

Here's the part I love most. When the limits to expectation move outward, the domain space of possibility inside is simultaneously larger than it was a moment ago--larger and ordinary. Everything that fits into a newly expanded domain of possibility rapidly loses its potency for provoking strong emotion. Here's a real world example. Imagine the amazement provoked by hearing a telephone ring in the 1880s. By comparison, what does your cell phone ring do for you now?

I know what you're wondering. What's the deal with the title to this week's blog. The answer comes in the form of a reciepe, of sorts. Here's what you do.

Take two slices of terrific bread, preferably something with texture and density and lots of flavor. Pumpernickel, rye, or a good sourdough are my first choices. Between them add the following:

freshly roasted turkey (not pre-packaged junk) leaf lettuce (iceberg does not count) thin slices of purple onion thin slices of nectarine Russian dressing

Et, voila! One fabulous turkey sandwich you've never made before, but one you're also not likely ever to forget. (Yum!)

What? Never had nectarine on a turkey sandwich before? The world expands, one small surprise at a time.

-MS

PS -- Yes, yes, here's where the good people of 1AU ask our dear readers to share what you've read with friends and colleagues. And here's the place where you think, "Oh, sure, one more imposition of my precious time." Well, we're asking. It's something we value above rubies, above gold: if you like an idea enough to give it a moment's thought, then consider giving it a measure of freedom. When you share an idea with another person, you release an idea to grow freely in the world. Like what you see? Set it free.

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BE BRAVE WITH TIGERS IN BOATS

Close cat. What do we want when we ask people to help us with things we can't do ourselves? Usually we're looking for precision, like the kind we may ask of a surgeon before the anesthesiologist sends us for a nap. Oftentimes we're looking for elegance, as when the architect who's designing that addition to your home comes up with a clever way to catch the morning sunlight without adding additional cost. Sometimes we're looking for stimulation, like when you listen intently to endless demo recordings trying to find that perfect band to play at your wedding without spending a fortune. But how often are we looking for something that's genuinely new?

For many people religion reinforces what's already familiar, what's safe. Art reminds us about our humanity, what moves us to create. Plenty of people will say that religion has been the inspiration for countless pieces of art, but even though history proves this to be true, I think it's an intellectual red herring. The profound power of familiarity should not be taken as a proof of reality.

Ang Lee tries to touch this in his masterful cinematic adaptation of the book Life of Pi. In the story two Japanese investigators question the protagonist about his tale of an extraordinary ordeal at sea. Lee stages this scene brilliantly, placing the main character in the center of the frame, seated upright in a hospital bed, nothing but a white wall behind him as the camera pushes in slowly. Without visual context, we're forced to listen to the story without artifice, without distraction. Free of external stimulation, the story meets our own, private preconceptions of reality head on, and we're faced with a mirror to our own view of reality.

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, it's about an almost impossible-to-believe tale of survival, a boy and a tiger surviving for months alone in the vast Pacific Ocean. Color, sounds, high drama, and intense introspection propel a fully visceral experience. The boy telling his tale to the Japanese investigators does not present himself as an incredible witness, but his story nonetheless does not resonate truthfully. For the investigators there are no analogues, and of course, there is no evidence. Therefore it simply cannot be believed, even as the main character tells it calmly and with surprising dispassion.

The power of the scene comes from a feeling we've all had. It's tough to accept a bold idea that doesn't at least resonate with experiences and ideas we've had before. Anything genuinely fantastical is always threatening. Star Wars got crummy reviews in it's initial showing; no one had seen anything like it before. Remember that Apple commercial a decade ago, when the wizards of Cupertino started to turn the company around? “Here's to the crazy ones,” it began. We all smile knowingly because we intuitively understand: all inventors of genuinely new ideas are nuts until they're proven sane. The message to take from these examples should be a clarion call to listen, to see, to be brave. There have been adventurers who've gone beyond the horizon and by their bold actions taught us to take heart, to be not afraid, or, if we cannot fathom that kind of bravura, at least not to be daunted.

But you're thinking, "I'm a suburbanite. I do quality assurance for a kitchen remodeling business. What's brave about that?"

Don't miss this. It's not the narrative trappings of brave tales that makes them brave. When you ask someone to listen to you you're asking them to trust you. When you actively listen to someone else, you're implicitly committing yourself to be open to what he or she has to say. In that transaction the seeds of a brave existence germinate.

Try love. True and genuine love is always the high wire creative enterprise where stabilizing familiarity requires endless reinvention, discovery, and risk. Complacent expectation is the death of love, just as a lack of familiarity denies the potential for intimacy. If you replace the word love with art, you get precisely the same thing.

So? Art = love? Is that the message? Or is it love= art?

Perhaps it doesn't matter.

Maybe the important message here is that you may not be asking the right questions of yourself. When we ask ourselves what we want when we ask people to help us with things we can't do ourselves, we're allowing ourselves to think creatively. Still unsure? Remember: when we open ourselves to thoughts and experiences we cannot entirely control, we open the doors to creativity. That makes everything possible.

--MS

PS -- Yes, yes, here's where the good people of 1AU ask our dear readers to share what you've read with friends and colleagues. And here's the place where you think, "Oh, sure, one more imposition of my precious time." Well, we're asking. It's something we value above rubies, above gold: if you like an idea enough to give it a moment's thought, then consider giving it a measure of freedom. When you share an idea with another person, you release an idea to grow freely in the world. Like what you see? Set it free.

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