Friday, March 13, 2015

Creative Language

Creative artists often speak a strange other-worldly language--the mother tongue of a land where anything's possible, the laws of physics aren't enforced and nobody's paid their syntax in years.

John Frusciante speaking of ghosts in my previous post isn't too unusual in the world of artists. Captain Beefheart also described songs as ghosts and spirits. And sculptors often say they just reveal what's already there waiting in the stone, chipping away the stuff covering it up. Almost universally, creative artists feel their works come from somewhere else and that too much rational thought only gets in the way.

To be truly creative, the mind has to be free of the dull limitations of the daily grind, boring reality, the pedantic same-old thinking that has created the too-often dysfunctional and conformist world around us. It's that world that has formed our thinking, our rules, our habits, our conditioning, so when we come to creative work stuck in that mindset, we're unable to break free and find anything new. 

So it's only with this artist's language that one can speak of solutions that don't yet exist and bring dreams into the the waking world as art, music, sculpture, dance, literature... 

But gardens? Architecture? Neighborhoods? 

It's quite unusual to hear modern professionals in these realms to speak of the mystery of the creative process. Too often, these "arts" are reduced to being just another "product" for our "consumption." Our gardens are just "landscaping" and even landscaping is little more than a sort of advertising we use to "improve the curb appeal" of our "biggest investment." We speak of our HOMES as though they were just an inconveniently 4-dimensional 401k! 

But the greatest Permaculture Designers, like David Holmgren and Geoff Lawton, speak the language! The first "Holmgren Principle" is "Observe and Interact." Both Lawton and Holmgren describe this part of the process in a way that would probably sound familiar to John Frusciante. They both invoke a "zen" state of observing without thinking, taking in the landscape in an intuitive way free from conditioning and preconceived notions. And this is just the begining of a creative process that finds many ways to keep the designer open to what nature, the ecosystem and human communities have to say about it. 

And finally, what strikes me most about them is the obvious passion  that they bring to design work. Geoff Lawton doesn't just install somebody's "landscaping!" He changes their lives! 

One of my voice teachers used to say, "never sing a single note until you feel like you'd die if you didn't." This is another common saying throughout the arts. Kurt Vonnegut used to say it "respect the readers time, never write a word that the reader doesn't have to read." 

Imagine the world we'd create if we brought that urgent passion to our human habitats? Never a house built for ease and profit, never a subdivision of boring dime-a-dozen designs, but instead, neighborhoods where every home was a statement about life and how to live it--so important to the designer that she felt she'd die if she didn't scream it out to the world! 

What would that world look like? Can you see it? Perhaps it's already there, like the sculptor's art, just waiting for us to chip away the dysfunctional system we've carelessly built overtop of it...

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