Banking the Ashes

It’s been one of those long, slow days. Not a holiday proper, I actually intended on getting some things done but have been sort of in this contemplative loop when I should have been on a work speedway. It’s strange, restarting the blog after a month off, it has always been. On the one hand, I have tons of things to say and on the other, nothing at all.

And some things, I have realized, that I am not saying them because I am not sure who they need to be said too. In some ways, that is the crux of the shift that has occurred (or come into focus) over the past month or so. What is the best way to be present in life and to participate in living?

I have watched quite a few sites this past month, read quite a bit about people’s interpretations of everything from politics to education to economy to the value of the Internet and noticed that while no one agrees, everyone is doing the same thing. There seems to be a mainstream trend toward trying to apply the standard way of doing things to situations that have become out-of-standard. In other words, trying to fix what became broken in doing things one way by insisting we all go back and take the exact same steps again with the hope we will arrive somewhere different.

It reminds me of something that Chesterton once said, that the reason we have no new ideas is that none of the old ones have been seen through to their completion. They have not even been discarded because we learned something in pursuing them that allows us to correct our efforts – but have been abandoned because they take too much effort. We cannot come up with anything new because we never finished what we started so as to learn from the experience. As examples he held up pacificism, democracy and Christianity. All of these great and grand ideals were quickly abandoned when it became apparent they were hard work to achieve. But we, modern society, have kept the labels and the ideals and blinded ourselves to the fact that not one part of what we now call pacifism, democracy or Christianity bears any semblance to its original goal.

And I just want to define the term ‘goal.’ A goal is not something you achieve; it is something you strive for. It embodies Longinus’ Grand Conception. A goal gives shape to your life. It is what gives you the ability to choose different actions with purpose. The current treatment of a goal as an “attainable and specific object or point” creates a very limited potential. A goal should be that which serves to increase the potential in one’s life, not to close a door.

Today, I received an email from a poetry publisher that was outlining their upcoming changes to their publishing model. Poetry is not one of the grander occupations when it comes to making money. In light of that realization, they are going to start asking their authors to begin to contribute to the publishing costs of the book. Same selection process, but once selected the author will have to pay.

It is a sad state, but good business sense. Except for the bad business part.

The bad business sense part about the email came as the owner continued on about how they got reams of Christian themed material and “for whatever reason, that sells” but they were going to hold on to the poetry that doesn’t sell and keep going. The tone of that section of the email was downright…nasty. That is fine, that can be their new mission statement. I, for one, will no longer promote, mention or encourage anyone to use them. If they had written the same thing but substituted Islamic or Jewish for Christian, there would be a great outcry.

Much to the dismay of the conservative right, America is not a primarily religious country, much less Christian. But it does make a good generic flag to wave to distract people and does give people who do not like the conservative right an easy catchall condemnation word. Christian themed poetry most likely sells more because it has the cheat of being written with a purpose. Whether you agree with it or not, like it or not, there is a grand conception behind each poem that carries a religious theme. It is that sense of purpose and meaning that makes the poems desirable to readers who are not poets or part of the poetry scene.

Yet the poetry community clings onto its “separateness” and disconnection while at the same time, bemoaning that their art does not sell.

I ascribe to the currently unpopular belief that artists are the shamans of the community. When despair is racing through a country, its artists should be willing to bleed onto the canvas or the page to give to the people reading the knowledge that they are not alone, it is not the end of the world, and that each aspect of their experience is a jewel that fits into a crown that we just haven’t seen yet. Poets, especially, translate the universe and the divine. They are who we turn to in order to understand our dreams and our hearts. The special gift and practical skill of poetry is that it is speaking of things that do not need science or ritual to be believed. It is why it is often said that Science rises from the dreams spoken of in poetry. Instead we have fallen into the habits of believing that there is some kind of “specialness” to what we do that prevents it from being understood by a non-artist. Our schools follow the trend of excising the humanity out of the words and the paint and is this not a harsh reflection on what has become of modern life today? No room for the living. The only time life is allowed in is when the artist indulges in a formless rant and revelation about some aspect of their life and emotional state that they never pause to think if there is a purpose beyond writing it than their own personal and momentary release. There is value in that, personal value – but it does nothing to connect to the community the artist serves.

If how you have been running your business has almost put you out of business, what rational sense does it make to continue to do business in that way? Like in the article I posted today about diversity, we have come to love identity so much that we fail to see reality. We have come to hold on stronger to old promises than to look at how they have failed and think through what should be changed. And we definitely have a problem with staying committed to something long enough and being willing to sacrifice to achieve what we believe is good and right.

Back to poetry for a bit, poetry sales are not the marker of success. Like any other kind of artist, a poet knows that they will write even if they know none of their work will ever see the light of day. They write because they have something to give, an understanding to share and their audience may not be anyone who has ever read one line of their work, but people who are moved by the kind of person that they experience them to be. And note I did not include the phrase “poets write because they have something to say.” We all have something to say, it is in figuring out if it will do anything for anyone else for us to say it aloud that is part of the skill of being a poet.

More and more, as I filter down everything I have been watching and reading, it is the issue of Identity that keeps rising up to the top and causing all the fuss. We lack identity. We take sexual orientation and mistake it for culture. Celebrity for accomplishment. Ritual for faith. Memorization for education. Specialization for effectiveness. All these little snippets of life that serve to place limits and boundaries around us and give the false assurance of understanding.

Then we tend to find the people who will agree with us and we talk at each other, rarely engaging. There is little discourse or debate between people of differing viewpoints which is not surprising because there is little dialogue between people who have agreeing viewpoints seeking to deepen their understanding.

All of this leaves me looking at my life and involvements and where I have chosen to put my energies. I am a firm believer in having a plan, but also, going back to check on how that plan is really doing. So slowly, I am shifting my energies again. A little more focus here, a little refinement there, and a couple of big old messes that I am just going to let continue on because they haven’t gotten far enough yet for me to see where they need changes.

Hmmmmm…perhaps I digressed? Heee….somehow, mysteriously, I “forgot” to get minutes for my phone so I am phoneless for a day or so. I think I may just be reluctant to give up my “quiet time.”

c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
This entry was posted in change, creative, current events, Internet, poem, poetry, responsibility, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Banking the Ashes

  1. Lee Munro says:

    What is the best way to be present in life and to participate in living? The eternal question. The fact that I don’t know the answer disturbs me greatly.

  2. I have spent enough time learning what isn’t the answer to begin to think I should make the second half of my life about what it is 🙂

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