Thursday, 12 July 2012

working in, working out

Still thinking about working in and working out. It occurs to me this morning that it might be possible that some of the difficulties some people have in making their creative work happen might be linked to this in/out thing. Perhaps not being comfortably in yourself, in the way I was exploring yesterday, contributes to not being able to produce out from yourself. Perhaps that seems obvious. I'm not sure it's been so obvious to me.

I remembering saying something exactly like this when I left art college at the age of 18, after doing two years there. I had this feeling that I was supposed to be producing (abstract) art out from myself, but that, at that stage in my life, enough hadn't come in, for it to be able to come out again. I don't think that was necessarily right - I think my not being in was more a dissociation problem than lack of experience. But the in/out idea was there even then.

As if coming back in wasn't complicated enough (and those of you who are quite comfortably in yourselves, thank you very much, will be wondering what I'm talking about), it seems that recognising that you're not properly in yourself doesn't necessarily mean that turning your mind inwards will help you. Or, it seems that only doing that probably won't be enough. Something has to happen which involves the body; the vibration of sound through the physical system, the feel of your feet on the earth.

I suppose it's like everything that ends up being explored using these over-neat polar opposites (in/out; high/low etc). On the one hand, putting things at either end of a line defines extreme tendencies, and makes it possible to articulate something that can then be discussed and reacted against. But in that conversation there seems to invariably come a point when you start to see that the extremes don't really cut it. For myself, I'm not happy with the most obvious solution to this problem, which seems to often be to say 'well, it's a continuum, isn't it'. No, sir, I don't think it is a continuum. That still suggests that you place yourself somewhere on the line between the two.

I always seem to end up after these mind meanderings deciding that it's not either/or, and it's not a continuum. It's always both, together. Which goes against my cultural history, right back to the Greeks, and against all the assumptions of formal logic. Which is why I'm so fascinated by Indian (and Japanese, actually) thought, where there is no problem at all in holding opposing ideas together at the same time.  And nowhere is this more obvious than in the form and role of art (in India)...

So yes, producing out from myself. And, yes, attention in; noticing experience, noticing how I think and act and do. And stopping doing that. Moving outward. Making in the physical world. Noticing how producing outwards affects the inside. Ad infinitum, I suppose.


  1. This reminds me of something an ex student (a 'dropout' in fact) wrote on Google+ not so long ago:

    “What I think” versus “What I’ve learned”. Arguably, they are equally important. In my experience, I’ve derived more value from doing and learning (after planning of course), than thinking alone.

    Two things:

    If you spend all your time thinking, and none of it doing, you’re either thinking inappropriately, or fear has overcome you. This is stopping yourself from doing worthwhile things. You don’t have much time. Evaluate what feels right and get on with it.

    While you’re doing, it’s worthwhile keeping a note of how you overcame any obstacles and sorted out issues. Then, when you’ve done your thing, you can share with others: “Here’s what I’ve learned….”

    How much greater to share what you’ve learned, than simply what you think?

  2. Very good indeed. I think this is what I try to do on this blog - to keep the words relating to experience and action, and not wander off into anything too general. To notice - action, inaction, processes, results...

    There's a kind of 'in' that isn't about thinking, too - this is where I like Indian concepts of consciousness and attention, which discuss thinking as only one possible function of the mind, among many. In Anglophone traditions, we tend to equate 'consciousness' with 'cognitive', which usually rests on an assumption/implies that the only possible mind activity is thinking.

    Indian traditions, however, describe various mind states which are nothing to do with thought. This is often assumed, by outsiders, to mean that the mind must go blank, as if it has to immediately fall asleep if it's not thinking. Not so, apparently. Consciousness, and a consciousness that can permeate the whole body, can be a state of awareness that is precisely not thinking, and the OPPOSITE of blankness... (excuse my shouting, no italics here)



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