Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Propinquity (Did You Get It?): Also, A "Loose Salute."

Life begins at the end of our comfort zone - Neale Donald Walsch

(Hereby dedicated to an inspired by Robert Michael Nesmith and Douglas Adams, with thanks to Kate Carroll, with apologies to all for being so deathly right-brained and haplessly head-in-the-clouds, especially to my muse.)

Kate saw this picture and quote of Einstein on my Facebook and re-posted it, because she firmly agreed with it as an intuitive thinker and as an artist. She said last night that she'd post it every day, if she could, because it was such a vital point in society.

I'm a frustrated artist.

Einstein was right about the world effectively losing its grasp on the beauty of what is the intuitive mind and becoming a slave in force with regard to the rational mind. It's only gotten worse since his death, like he had a premonition of it happening. It was actually in an article I read about anti-authoritarianism, of which I'm a big believer, where I learned more about the genius and why he was the way he was...

Bruce Levine, PhD, says in his article "Why Anti-Authoritarians Are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill" (

"Albert Einstein, as a youth, would have likely received an ADHD diagnosis, and maybe an ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) one as well. Albert didn’t pay attention to his teachers, failed his college entrance examinations twice, and had difficulty holding jobs. However, Einstein biographer Ronald Clark (Einstein: The Life and Times) asserts that Albert’s problems did not stem from attention deficits but rather from his hatred of authoritarian, Prussian discipline in his schools. Einstein said, “The teachers in the elementary school appeared to me like sergeants and in the Gymnasium the teachers were like lieutenants.” At age 13, Einstein read Kant’s difficult Critique of Pure Reason—because Albert was interested in it. Clark also tells us Einstein refused to prepare himself for his college admissions as a rebellion against his father’s “unbearable” path of a “practical profession.” After he did enter college, one professor told Einstein, “You have one fault; one can’t tell you anything.” The very characteristics of Einstein that upset authorities so much were exactly the ones that allowed him to excel."

(Note to self: Put Kant on Luke's to-do list, after he's done with Sontag's "Illness as a Metaphor.")

Speaking of anti-authoritarianism, Kate and her husband, Dr. Timothy Westphalen, had left Knox by the time I was a senior taking Studio Art, taught by questionable "artist" Lynette Lombard, so I didn't receive any formal studio art training from Kate herself, who earned her BFA at RISD, though I spent a considerable amount of time watching her paint while lying on her home studio floor.

I didn't almost fail studio art because my final painting sucked. I almost failed because I defiantly chose my canvas to be the art studio FLOOR, which I painted in a huge white square with a black border and plopped my creative energy inside of it, which was some abstract piece. (I have pictures of it somewhere in this stratosphere and Craig only vaguely recollects the experience.) ON THE ART STUDIO FLOOR. And I said, "Here is my painting." Well, all hell broke loose, because you're supposed to paint on the provided canvasses. NOT on the FUCKING floor. I had to re-paint the floor after the final, before I went back to Chicago, the muted army green it originally was before I would be dismissed for the trimester, of which I vehemently opposed, but I was a kid, and I didn't need an "F" on my transcript, though in hindsight, as a 40-year old, I'd have bloody left it right where it bloody was, with all it's crazy colors and bloody walked away with my head held high. Knox, the liberal arts college, asked me to destroy, in essence, my art.

I think in my heart I silently vowed, then and there, that nobody--no deity, no individual, no organization, no school, no professor, no government, no boss, no job, no family, no friends, no lovers, no publisher, no editor...would ever out and out destroy my art ever again. Alter my art, edit it, format it differently? Come talk to me. But paint over my painting? That was just wrong.

Intuitives forge their ways onward, their hearts firmly on their sleeves, not backward, while the Rationals cower to reason, which is discouraging, particularly to artists, musicians and writers who work tirelessly to convey so much gut-wrenching feeling, and as we all know, feelings + the rational mind = well, quite frankly, they don't equal much of anything. (Emotions don't make sense, so it's better if we don't show any, some might say, so we either don't get hurt or don't allow ourselves to be free, and let's go back to Milton's "Paradise Lost" and that whole Heaven/Hell thing of the mind...)

When A doesn't = Z directly, or you have to wind through the 24 other letters in random order to get A to = Z, things get dodgy for a rational/left-brain thinker, though A equaling Z by route of T, P & K is completely acceptable to the intuitive, right-brain thinker. Einstein was a tremendous talent who was equally left and right-brained thinking. My best friend, Kate, said right-brain Intuitives can and do train their brains to think similarly to the left-brain Rationals, but it's hard and takes practice. (Not to mention patience, space and quiet.)

(I had to wipe my brow and go smoke the above thought out, because I was talking about math.)

My son has this set of extremely strong magnets that look like little silver rocks, are heavyweight, and Luke likes to show me their attraction between thick pieces of paper, or other non-metallic objects, the way the magnets sway and fluidly move in tandem between something in the middle which produces no energy, the medium. That's the image I have visually in my mind when I think of the (there's no more eloquent word for it) clusterfuck between what IS between the intuitive mind and the rational mind.

Rationals and Intutives are personality types that can spar uncontrollably in unending circles, in an inescapable magnet's coil, the magnet again being the key component, though they can also love one another with rich vigor. It's not that rational thinkers aren't capable of appreciating and enjoying art, music, and writing. My personal experience has shown me that surprisingly, a number of Rationals I know enjoy my writing and my music, the artistic mediums in which I work.

It's more that intuitive thinkers, like Artists (collectively), have a craptastic time with iteration (a definition that's concrete that Nez bent today, that I'm bending even further, but more on him later) when these two opposites attract, and having to interpret a piece of work BY an Intuitive FOR a Rational is like ripping an abdomen open, taking out the intestines and trying to squeeze them all back in properly in order for them to fit and work again. Conversely, give a loony poet a calculus exam, and you'll get disaster.

As you all know, my blog is open to the public. You'd be amazed at what people Google and wind up clicking on my writing. Yes, a lot of people Google "offbeat drummer" and find me at the top of the Google search, peruse a bit, find out not a lot on my page is dedicated to drumming, then meander on. My most popular entries since I started the blog in 2007 involve George Harrison, for obvious reasons, the highlight being the blog I wrote about my visit to his estate, Friar Park, in 1996, which has received thousands of hits. ( The second most popular Harrison blog I wrote was the one about my inspired tattoos ( and nowadays, if you Google the words "George Harrison tattoo," my entry comes up on the first page of tens of thousands of results. Google "Offbeat drummer" and it's the first Google search result.  Pretty powerful stuff, if I do say so, myself, here in my little, tiny virtual world.

As I briefly mentioned when Davy Jones passed away, I helped fellow former Monkee Michael Nesmith and his wife work out the bugs in his then-burgeoning virtual world, VR3D (see, which he launched sometime around 2006, which I remember because I was just starting to play drums with my band, never having played in public before, and I had stage (er, altar) fright, and solicited his advice.

To say that "we worked together" (albeit briefly) means that we did so virtually, over the internet. And it wasn't a paid gig, it was more of a favor that required a strong resume and a helluva cover letter, which, after Nez received and read, he exuberantly told his wife, Victoria, who told me, "He said 'Call her first! Call her now!'".  He created Videoranch 3D to allow friends and fans worldwide to not only act but to interact. I found the experience endlessly fascinating. There I was, chatting with who I consider to be one of, if not THE, most intellectually gifted musicians, who was telling me to enter physical coordinates to navigate through this world he was creating, as my avatar, representing my presence, flew about the neighborhood, telling Nez and Vic (also as avatars) what was working properly and what needed tweaking. Videoranch wasn't just all about Nez pumping out product for material gain on his own terms. It was meant to be (and is, still today) a virtual community of warm and wonderful folks. (But yes, you can purchase his extensive library of works--musical, visual and literal, on his site.)

For some, spending an evening as an avatar, chatting with other avatars, all listening to music, seems like a colossal waste of time for people who surely just have no real-life friends or better things to do. But it is so much more than that, and I say that even not, today, as a "ranch regular." I pop in and fly around VR3D if Nez is performing (another miracle of technology he tried to perfect--the virtual concert that was done live but completely over the internet, by remote) or if my friend Lynsey is DJ'ing good music, but I don't spend much time there anymore, though I follow with deep intent when Nez posts on Facebook, because he's just a genius.

I've been criticized (sometimes harshly) by strangers, friends and loved ones who think I should journal half of what's in my head privately, and keep the blog and it's opinions, vividly-recollected stories and memories, and all the passive-aggressive bullshit to a conservatively acceptable minimum. (Yes, I remember everything, eventually. My short term memory is questionable, but as impressions are left upon my mind and more so, on my heart, suffice it to say IT ALL STICKS sooner or later.) Some say my blogs are nothing BUT passive-aggressive rantings of a bitter woman who can't face the music and hides behind writing, professing it to be "art," when I'm angry, overtly hostile and/or zapped by the unlucky rainbow of unrequited love.

People close to me have asked to be disconnected from the blog as I continue to, with reckless abandon, involve innocent participants who want to be a part of my life, but want desperately not to be a part of my life over the interwebs. I have zero choice but to accept that if I want to keep my close kinship with people, or I'll have to give everyone new pseudonyms or SOMETHING.

Someone dear to me, a friend, doesn't particularly like computers, emails, texts, and worst of all, blogs, as I've come to learn. He glances at (what I think he can see) the first line of a text, but won't read the whole text. He'll avoid emails for weeks, from not only me, but his other friends and family, citing work overload (which is legit) and/or the desire not to be planted in front of a computer during his free time. All perfectly understandable.

It's sort of a generation gap thing between us, though I know plenty of people his age (Nez is a lot older than he is. No offense, Nez.) who aim credence into the technological world and deem it not a necessary evil; rather, a boon to the creative universe, Michael Nesmith being one of those people. I think Einstein, too, would champion the use of computers as a tool for the intuitive mind to convey thoughts and ideas, generate art, music and writing, and communicate in general, whether that's person-to-person or to a much wider audience.

Nesmith, who was intensely great friends with the late science fiction writer Douglas Adams (who come on, Luke was reading when most of his peers were still Patting The Bunny) had this to say today, with regard to computers and the further development of the Artist in the computer-driven society, and the projects he's presently involved with, musically and artistically, based on a lecture/stand-up talk Douglas Adams used to give:

"I am leaving recursiveness alone for now – but with a note to self that says, within computation, recursion provides unprecedented speed of scaling – which, by the way, satisfies a little of the definition of McLuhan’s “medium as message”. Basically, MM says that the message of a medium is the “change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. (Yes, Woody, I do know what he is talking about. What’s more, I think he is right. :))

In McLuhan’s context, pattern is what has my attention now. The ongoing iterations of the computer world are not unique, but the change of “pattern that it introduces into human affairs” is salient.

Iteration opens a new world for the artist. I have to bend the definition of iteration a little to make it work, but I can do that.

As an artist every time I “finished” a new work I thought about asking for a Mulligan, or “hang on a second, we could do it this way!!”, or “look how pretty it is if you see it from here!!”.

I always wanted to go back and repeat, and rewrite, or rerecord.

But, also as an artist, one of the first disciplines to learn is when to leave the thing alone -- the idea of a “final” product. So I restrained myself, and that was that.

The computer changes all “that”." --Michael Nesmith, 4/11/2012

And ya'll just thought he was the Monkee who wore the wool hat. Pfft.

I like the whole theory of "medium as message" paradox by Marshall McLuhan, and I do know what he's talking about too, Nez, having read up on it after your introduction. "MM" points out that the computer opens us up to infinite capabilities of editing and reworking our art, but at a certain point, you do indeed have to just call a piece of work "finished." Otherwise, you could spend the rest of your entire life trying to perfect the impossible. There is such a thing as being too nit-picky.

I must have a thing for artists who brand themselves "gardeners," because just as George Harrison professed (first in his early 80's autobiography, "I, Me, Mine") that he was really just a gardener at heart, and as I mention in that above blog about his Friar Park, his estate was gloriously filled with the beautiful bounty of what he hand-planted. Nez capped off his musings today with this thought:

"Yes, I am continuing to write and record new material.

I haven’t stopped that.

Deep in my heart, I am a gardener.

I love planting new ideas.

I love watching them develop and unfold their promise."

I love planting new ideas too, watching them grow (or wither away, as some do) and I have a habit of pushing everything, everyone, though mostly myself, to the limits. That yields good results and disastrous results. Once I click "Publish Post," it's OUT THERE and the whole world can see it. I can edit posts to my heart's content, which I do sometimes, but in general, the bulk of the work is stream-of-consciousness. I write much in the same way that I speak, I've been told.

My impression from the intonation in my friend's voice on the phone the other night and his PWC (an English major recursive acronym, look it up!) was that this--all of this, collectively, on the internet for posterity beyond just you and your compadres--somehow opened up an individual to unwanted or unwarranted stripping of privacy, or a word he used, "confidentiality." I could hear him giving the "Exasperated Sigh" that I'd noticed years ago, which he emits anytime he is anxious, annoyed, or otherwise has had it . It's this sigh from him, along with cracking his knuckles a lot, which if he was, I could not hear, so I told him I never wanted to write something so patently offensive that it would deter him from reading my writing altogether, and that if he preferred I stop blogging about our life together, I would provide him that courtesy. I don't think he had a definitive answer to my statement, though admittedly, he thinks and acts in more definitive terms whereas I speak a lot in metaphors, but he's a Rational and I'm an Intuitive. But, as Kate pointed out, stopping writing about our life together would sort of, you have to admit, intimate that we have a life together, or at least a relative semblance of a tiny particle of a small one, which he doesn't want lived out loud. I found that an interesting point and have to comply with, mostly for his sake. It doesn't mean he loves me any less, nor I him, but I do understand.

Admittedly, I laid out, electronically, some heavy thoughts and my observances/assumptions for him to ponder, which took him weeks of procrastination and avoidance and busyness to get through, and I'm low on the priority ladder, which I also understand. He tells me I have a rare gift for writing and language, not to mention a photographic memory, which I wholeheartedly appreciate. He might admire the creative gifts I have, as I admire the scientific and reasoning gifts with which he's blessed, but even Einstein would sympathize with my frustration over how little of my work he actually *gets.* Unless, of course, he gets it all and is just too dumbfounded/scared/insecure/confused/morally conflicted/intimidated, to actually discuss it with me like friends do and should. But that goes back to emotions being scary and irrational, so it's best we avoid talking about them openly.

(When Kate and I have a conversation, it's not unusual for it to last 2-3 HOURS. Because we're best friends. And we talk about everything. We have arguments, or rather, discussions, where we'll disagree, but we never fight, for there is no worth in such a thing. Sometimes even as two Intuitives who think remarkably alike and act the same, we conflict. But we do so lovingly. Always. The same can be said of conversations with my best male friend, who is a musician, another Intuitive who is like my twin, our thoughts and feelings are that simpatico.)

When I asked my Rational friend about it all on the phone, the bevy of creative writing and musical analyses I'd asked him to read, what followed (during our hour-long conversation, our longest phone call to date) was a sequence of mutual awkward pauses. Lots of "Go YOU go ahead...I was swallowing a pill, so really, YOU go ahead..." on and on and on. It was, via telecommunications, an image already physically burned into my memory--that of him starting blankly at a wall, nervously playing with a drinking straw, speechless, from the last time we (meaning I) initiated a conversation about our relationship.

Now, I love Van Gogh, not just because he was bipolar. I find his imagery beautifully confounding but, like the other Post-Impressionists, I'm drawn to his particular utilization of color-blending, the shapes he uses to represent and twist objects and people in his paintings, his knack for asymmetry, and it took me almost 40 years to notice that out of all of his body of work, every church or cathedral he painted either was completely dark, had no doors, or both. I just wasn't looking at his paintings deeply enough, and I'm an intuitive, right-brain thinker. Still, I missed that slight detail, in every painting that had a house of worship in it. How'd something so simple get past me?

My Rational Muse is in possession of a great piece of original, creative work I did recently, that was written by me about the two of us. When I asked him if he'd read it, and he said yes, there was another awkward pause. I simply said, "And?" and incorrectly assumed he was ready to enter into a discourse with me, giving me his interpretation of the piece, which I was ready to discuss. I know what my intent was in writing it, and what it all meant to me, but I was highly curious as to what it meant to him, and if he understood the characters/roles, or the metaphors, or whatever. 

(My poetry, a credo I had even completing my writing major in college, was open to interpretation, and I encouraged my readers to garner from my poetry whatever it personally meant to them, even if it was in conflict with MY original intent.)

 In return, after I said "And?" and got a silent pause, I said, "Did you like it?" to which he said, "Yes." When I asked him what he thought of it, he said it was "nice." I said, "Did you understand it?" and I believe he said something like "I think so." (Which means he might've indirectly understood the metaphor, but missed my intent. I finally said a one-liner, with expletives, as to what it ultimately meant, bottom-line, far less lyrically and beautifully than I wrote the piece, because I was frustrated.)

And, oddly enough, that was the first piece of work I did by hand in almost 20 years, without the aid of any electronic device. Like other artists draw or sketch a painting before it's committed to canvas, or how musicians write music by hand on sheet music, much the same is the activity for a writer (in this particular case, a poet) to compose a piece old-school. I told him today, via text, which he probably didn't read, that I thought I should give him my original handiwork so he could appreciate the work as it was in progress.The title changed in my head more than twice, but only 2 titles are written out, the first of which sorta sucked. Arrows pointed up and down where verses and lines should be transposed. Crossed out lines and words scratched out by more eloquent, perfect words to convey strong emotions. Squiggles and symbols that only I understand that aren't Proper Grammatical Markings, that helped me arrange the verses into a cohesive end.

Hand-written, it looks like the sheet music I follow along when I'm on drums when I first learn a new song. I play by ear and don't read music, though I follow along on the lead guitarist's chord sheet just to keep my place and tempo. I write all over those chord sheets where I come in, what to play in the bridge, and if there's a big finale, I was fond of writing things like a big "Rat-a-Tat-Tat" at the ending or a particular song. My drum sheets are indecipherable unless you're me.

I'd like my Rational Muse to see the creative process as it was while the poem was composed. Maybe then he'd appreciate the effort that went into creating it in the first place and the heart behind it most of all. The only reason it was typed out and on paper was so that it would look neat and tidy, which I had to do on a computer. I don't mind giving away my original handwriting, especially not to someone I care about. At this point, I could give a recitation of it line-by-line anyway.

If you go back to George Harrison's autobiography, "I, Me, Mine," there's scant autobiographical information in it. What takes up the bulk of the 400 pages is George explaining the meaning behind, or story behind each of the songs he ever recorded, with a copy of his original handwritten lyrics and/or music beside on the opposite page. It's a fascinating look into the creative process. He'd write on any piece of paper he could get his hands on. Hotel stationery, notebooks, postcards, letters to other people, with doodles and marks that only he could decipher, just like a poet. He said of his song, "Run of the Mill," from 1970's "All Things Must Pass," that it was the first song he'd written that looked like a poem on paper, which made him happy.

I similarly unearthed some of the same scribble from college, some of which I blogged a while ago, and there is more that I would like to develop further, though I think far differently as a 40-year old than I did as a 20-year old. But like Nesmith was saying, you never know what'll unfold promise.

I'm also someone's muse, my best male friend's. He's written songs about me and about bending around me, or speaking to me about his opinions about other people in my life, as well as a whole CD's worth of original piano compositions that were from him to me. I think they're lush, and gorgeous, and I already know what was going through his head at the time he wrote each song. I have yet to share that music with anyone on Earth, not even Kate or my family, not just to protect his privacy, but because they're special just for me and I want to keep them that way. But, as I texted my muse, I said, "Being a muse is uncomfortable at first, as I well know. But once you truly appreciate it for the energy it creates, it's glorious." I received no reply. Being a muse can be overwhelming, I suppose, especially if you're a Rational.

See, this is what my muse's thinking is like:
And this is what my thinking is like:

Consequently, this is where I fear we're at:

Now, separately, about the law of propinquity, a law of humanity I posed to my friend ages ago...

According to Wikipedia, "In social psychology, propinquity (from Latin propinquitas, "nearness") is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people. Propinquity can mean physical proximity, a kinship between people, or a similarity in nature between things ("like-attracts-like"). Two people living on the same floor of a building, for example, have a higher propinquity than those living on different floors, just as two people with similar political beliefs possess a higher propinquity than those whose beliefs strongly differ. The propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often, forming a bond between subject and friend."

All throughout our friendship, I've been giving him both direct and indirect clues as to how I feel and why I feel that way. In something else I gave him, a book I think, which he never read, I inscribed that he should look up the law of propinquity, a word hard to say but a concept easy to grasp. I doubt highly he ever has researched it, and this was probably a year ago.

This intuitive artist who believes in things like the law of propinquity and Einstein's statement is having trouble coming to grips with the rational thinker.

He asked me on the phone, "What would happen if you couldn't write for a day?" to which I said, "Nothing. I didn't write on Easter because I was too busy and it was the Sabbath!" though I told him if I didn't write, I'd go mad, which is true. He's so rigid about planning to plan to plan things we do together, is a buzzkill. Yet he claims to be free-wheeling when he's on vacation and doesn't feel constrained by the world, either virtually or physically. I also am, just all the time. He claims if he couldn't work for 6 months at a stretch, he'd be totally dandy with that. He's probably burned out from flaming at both ends of the stick, professionally and personally, which is understandable. But my "work," when I'm not doing work on grad school, or pre-requisites, or other important paperwork or phone calls, I write. A lot. I've been out of work for 4 months, and rely on this blog to get all the crazy stuff in my head out. To keep all the stories and conversations and tensions and feelings off the blog as public domain goes against my grain, as I'm a big believer in freedom of speech, but I seriously don't want to upset or alienate those close to me, or seem untrustworthy. My muse isn't the first person who has voiced aloud that he/she wants to be left out of the blog.

I became aware of the law of propinquity via Nez, curiously enough. At the time the following song was written, he was fond of giving complicated, deliberate titles to songs that nobody would understand.  Just to fuck with his music publisher, he entitled songs that didn't have the title of the song in the body of the song. Sort of what I did writing logopoeia in college, or how I use various artists' song lines in my blog titles that have little to do with the subject of the blog, though some end up spot-on related to the text I write.

I hope my friend reads this post, in his due time, and comes up with a plan of action, if not just a plan of reaction, and I hope to see him again soon. Perhaps he'll re-read the poem and decide he does want to engage in a discourse. If he can't or won't, I'll have to let it go, and try not to feel my creative endeavor was given the cold shoulder. Until then, he really should listen to Nez singing "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care.)" If there's one thing I do know he gets, it's something said simply that's presented with 50 cent words through music. (Nice one, this one, Nez. Bless you.)  And you, Rational Muse? Besides, "Art is the sex of the imagination." --George Jean Nathan

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