A New Pair of Glasses

The first time in my life that I had ever lost a pair of glasses was on May 20, 2004, when I awoke in Golden Gate Park and realized that I had casually tossed my glasses down in the foliage when I was about to go to sleep the previous night. I and another person spent about a half hour trying to find them, then concluded they were lost. Since I had only been homeless since April 1, 2004, I had not yet come to terms with the many subtle nuances that would distinguish my homeless life from my previous life. Losing a pair of glasses is one of them.

When I lived in a house, I might have casually tossed my glasses onto the rug of my bedroom floor. I might have spent a few minutes looking for them, possibly even more than a few minutes, depending on the nature of the toss and the location of the landing. But once I had found them, I could not truthfully claim to have lost them. I had only misplaced them. The $300 pair of corrective reading glasses that I lost on that morning can never be replaced.

This is telling. Homelessness is not about misplacement. It’s about loss. In some cases — in my case, for example — deep loss. Loss that a person doesn’t get over very easily. In some cases, they might not get over it in an entire lifetime. In my case? Well, the jury is still out.

As I walked toward a certain cafe that morning where another homeless person was going to buy me a cup of coffee, I told myself: “Now I really *have* to do something about my situation! I’ve got to stop being homeless before this gets any worse. All kinds of things have been happening since I’ve been homeless that I could never have predicted would happen. Problems that used to take me five or ten minutes to solve have been setting me back for days.”

But then I thought: “How do I stop being homeless?”

I did not know the answer then, and I do not know it now. That was twelve years ago. Now is now. You cannot imagine the number of “subtle nuances” that have accumulated in those twelve years. If I became cold when I lived in a house, I turned on the heater. It took me less than one minute. If I become cold now, I go about town looking for extra layers of clothing outside the good will stores, in the “drop boxes.” and on the ground. And remember – there are about a thousand other homeless people living in this city. Many of them are very much like me, and so many of them are doing the exact same thing. We fight each other over a pair of pants. It can literally take me days to turn coldness into warmth. Sometimes you don’t even bother. You’re starting to become hardened. You’re tired of fighting another homeless person for the only sweatshirt in your size.

This, too, is telling. Homelessness is not about warmth – it’s about coldness. It’s about discovering that your lifelong friends and family members, the very people whom you thought were truly supportive of you, are suddenly very leery of you. They won’t take your truthful statements at face value anymore. They keep looking for the “reason” why you’re homeless, and in so doing completely ignore the obvious fact that you are homeless because you don’t have a home. So you turn to them for support, just the way you always used to, in the hope that they might help you to find a home, just the way they always used to help you help you deal with a difficult co-worker or help you after the break-up of a relationship. They cannot seem to imagine that all these problems you are having are the result of the conditions of homelessness, and not the cause. They find that while you always used to be noted for your punctuality, you suddenly are showing up late. They correlate this with your increasing instances of absent-mindedness, and conclude that you need a psychiatrist. You know in your heart that as soon as you are no longer homeless, you won’t have these problems anymore, so you start to feel a bit brushed off. They brush off your need for a place to live by providing answers for all the other problems, while ignoring the fact that these other problems are related to all the “subtle nuances” that distinguish your homeless life from your previous life. You suddenly realize that half of these people you thought were so supportive never really did a damn thing for you at all. Anybody can give advice. It takes somebody who really loves you, to let you in much farther than that. But they’re not letting you in. You thought they loved you. But where is the warmth? Why is your own brother, even having a spare room in his house, forcing you to sleep out in the cold?

Finally, you yourself become cold. You thought you were warm, but all these cold blasts are turning down your temperature. The cold blasts accumulate. You used to be able to handle cold weather, but you’re getting older, and it’s getting harder. You used to think you could endure homelessness till the ends of your days. Now you know that if you don’t get inside soon, those days will be drastically shortened. The many unanswered pleas for dignified shelter accumulate. The failed attempts at getting a stint in a homeless shelter to lead anywhere but to another homeless shelter accumulate.

The subtle nuances themselves accumulate. When I lived indoors, how many times did I lose my cell phone? If I recall correctly, none at all. Since I’ve been homeless, how many different cell phones have I had? It pains me to count. “Why is Andy losing his cell phone so often?” I seem to hear them ask. It’s not just because there’s a drastic increase in Andy’s absent-mindedness. It’s because homeless people steal from homeless people. If there is a cell phone in my backpack, I can guarantee you it will be gone within a month or so. Usually, within a week.

As far as the $300 pair of protective reading glasses is concerned, talk about your “luxury” problem! I’ve been buying non-corrective readers for $1.10 at the dollar store for as long as I can remember. And the rate at which I am losing them is steadily increasing. I cannot solve this problem – of losing my glasses 3 to 5 times a week – without help. Real help. From someone who cares. Somebody help me. Let me keep a pair of reading glasses everywhere I try to use this computer. Somebody help me. Give me a place to live. Somebody, somebody, somebody —

“Why isn’t Andy helping himself?”

Because Homelessness is not about love. It’s about hate. Jesus could have had a place to live, you know. He could have lived anywhere he wanted to. So why did he choose to live outdoors? Well, look at this way. If Jesus had been living in some nice plush three-story house and living the good life, how would that have prepared him for the event that He knew was coming, when He would have to endure the mockeries of those who tortured Him to death out of pure hatred for anything so good as Him? How would He have been tough enough do produce enough love to compensate for all the hate in all the history of the world?

The thing is, I’m not Jesus. I’m not headed toward that kind of event, but I am headed toward an event that will be sufficient for who I am. Let me in, please. Before it’s too late.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
June 12, 2016 7:52am

lost pair of glasses

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An Odd Feeling

The odd feeling I described in the last paragraph of the previous post seems to be in the process of panning out into an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. Specifically, that feeling was stated as thus:

I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.

A bold claim, if there ever was one. However, what has been happening is much akin to my feeling, despite its alleged oddity. At a certain point yesterday, I began working on Act Two, Scene Two; and I found myself quite unable to stop until the inevitability of a certain annoying necessity known as “sleep” bid me do so. I saw once again the eeriness with which the time when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene Two” at the bottom of p.116 coincided with the exact time of 1:45am. Strangely, I seem to be finishing up at the quarter of the hour, every time I do finish up. Not sure what it means (if anything) but it’s an interesting thing to behold.

So – what is being manifested is an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. I had predicted I wouldn’t stop until I reached the end of the entire script. This proved to be a completely unrealistic prediction, though I must admit it spurred me on. Instead of finishing a complete draft, I still have one Scene to go. Not only that, but I went to bed disgruntled. There were still strange inconsistencies in the story line that were heading me toward the dreaded deus ex machina. I went to bed having no idea how to resolve them.

aha_titleThe good news is that, not a half hour into the morning, I had another luminous moment of “Aha!” Who would have thought it? I now sit cheerfully in the local cafe where the Writer’s Guild meets on Saturdays, awaiting the arrival of the other Writers, so that I might share my jubilation with those of like mind. In fact, I hope they may add fuel to the fire, that all remnants of a cheap “wrap-up ending” will on this day be discharged for good.

Besides, I promised the Minister of Music at my church I’d be done with this draft by tomorrow. She’s hoping to retire soon, in which case there’s a chance I might be called to assume some of her responsibilities. But I’m enough of an Artist to know that for me to presume to do so right now would be foolhardy, as long as this script still dangles. And I’m enough of a Christian to know that at a certain point, I’m going to have to sacrifice some of my current absorption in my Art to focus more fully on my devotion to Christ.

It’s a fine line.  One way or the other, I can honestly say that I’m almost done with the initial draft of Eden in Babylon.  It’s been a long time coming — and it won’t be long now.  When I do write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document, I can assure you — you’ll be the first to know.

 

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

At the End of the Act

This will be very brief, since I have to be at Taize service at my church in 45 minutes, and I like to show up a half hour early to run through the music with the conductor. 

I didn’t write at all on Sunday, and in fact felt lethargic and innervated throughout the day.  Once errands and other life-related tasks were out of the way yesterday, I began writing with vigor, and stopped after finishing the first major confrontation between my protagonist and one of the two main male antagonists.

taize

Today, I am almost at the End of Act One, having completed 83 pages of text, which will extend to a greater number of pages once I fill in some song lyrics to the big showstopper at the end of the Act. 

In a way, I wish I didn’t have to go to work for the next four hours.  But in another way, it might be the best thing for me.  The Taize service, followed by a church dinner, and finally Choir rehearsal, will “get me out of my head” and give some of the quick decisions I have made in the past few hours a chance to ruminate.  I was hoping to get it all done before church tonight.  It’s a good thing I didn’t, because it would have been sub-par.   But it’s a good thing I rushed to a self-imposed quasi-deadline, because I got a lot done, despite myself.

I believe I will be finished with Act One later on tonight.   Doubtless, I will not let myself rest until I am. 

The Creative Process

It’s crossed my mind that it must seem a bit arrogant for me to keep referring to “the creative process” – as though there were only one creative process at work in the Universe, and I just happen to be in tune with it.  But there really doesn’t seem to be a better way to describe the experience I’m attempting to discuss — at least not in keeping with my own artistic philosophy.  In my view, there really is a single, unified creative process.  But by no means do I claim to be in close touch with it.  I believe in this fascinating process, much the same way that I believe in God.  However, I’m about as close to the essence of this process as I am to God Himself – and believe me, that isn’t very close.

It is my belief in this process that is at the core of this blog.  In fact, I would venture to suggest that if we all understood this process better, we would come to a better understanding of the nature of God.  After all, who is God but the Creator?   By definition, He is not just “a creator” – but the Creator.  All other creators and creations are subject to His single, all-embracing Act of Creativity — that which always was, is now, and always will be: the continual creation of a highly creative Universe, in which all of us are privileged to create.

If that were not the case, then I wouldn’t be a believer.  But since I do believe in God, it really doesn’t seem to me as though there is any other way to look at it.  Besides, God or no God, the theme of creativity–with all of its processes, procedures, and protocol–simply fascinates me.  I want to learn more and more about it, as my creative life goes on.

While my oft-usage of the word “muse” is purely figurative, there does seem to be a frequent and common experience of sensing the “presence” of a powerful creative force.  Or, as I tried to describe in the previous post, I can at times sense that the arrival of this creative power is imminent.  As it happened, I did not manage to muster any motivation for my current playwriting project on Friday, even though I “felt” that something was about to “break” as early as Thursday night.  But Saturday was another story.  I began my process of writing, editing, and rewriting at about eight in the morning, and basically did not stop till midnight.  This morning, I did a few final edits, and can now announce that I’ve completed up to p.75 of this piece to my satisfaction.  The last time I made a progress report along these lines, I was only up to p.64.  I had finished the first four Scenes last Saturday.  Then a week of “nothing” went by, and I finished at least half of the fifth Scene the following Saturday.  

graham_wallas
Graham Wallas

But was that “week of nothing” really only “nothing?”  I think not.  There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.  

Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about.  But there are also many theories as to how the Universe came about in the first place.  Could God Himself conceivably have “incubated” for an eternity or so, before the illumination that instigated the Universe was initiated?   How much incubation has occurred worldwide, on a planetary level, before this most recent series of illuminations could take place?  To what kind of creations will all these “illuminations” lead?   It boggles the mind to think about it.

But think about it we will — and we must.   I would venture to suggest that we’re all going to be thinking quite creatively in the days, weeks, and months to come.  We will have to – and we will – for we always have.   We were created in His Image, and in His Image we will sustain ourselves -for we are the highly creative, divinely inspired Human Race.

Day of Rest?

I don’t know what came over me yesterday.  I started writing at around eight in the morning, wrote steadily until it was time to attend the Writer’s Guild I joined, and wrote with vigor throughout the meeting, while getting sharing feedback with the other Writers.  Encouraged, I was in a state of great confidence and enthusiasm afterwards, and  I wound up writing up to the end of p.62 in my script. This was almost the end of Scene Four. But I stopped at around midnight, since I wasn’t quite sure how to wrap it up.  This was sixteen fairly solid hours of productive work.  I don’t know what to make of it.

Somehow, the first-time connection with other writers in my community gave me such a strong feeling of welcome and belonging, I cast all my doubts and my sense of obligation aside, and thoroughly enjoyed a slow, steady process of creating the best Scene Four I could ever hoped to have created — that is, up until the very end.

angel-at-restAfter church this morning, I took a much needed nap. Then I put on the coffee, and got at it again. I vaguely sensed it was somehow wrong not to take the day off, it being Sunday, and me being the type of person who concerns himself with honoring God on the Day of Rest. But I felt that the ending was brewing deep down in my unconscious mind, issuing a Commandment to do it justice that was equally as strong as the Fourth Commandment. So I decided to have a go at it — and I did not resist.

Then something came over me. It was a mysterious burst of passion, and it enabled me to finish the Scene. I looked at it — and I saw that it was good. As I did so, I looked at the clock. It was 6:00pm exactly. This reminded me of what happened at the moment when I finished the Siddhartha Monologue, and saw that it was 4:00am exactly. Something had come over me in that night as well — also a rare burst of mysterious passion.

When the Scene was done, the passion left me – suddenly and completely, leaving not a trace. The bells on the neighborhood church struck six. Somehow I knew that I was forgiven. The true Day of Rest had begun.

Writer’s Guild

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been feeling the need to find a writer’s support group in order to help motivate me to finish the musical script I’m writing.  A couple people suggested I contact the professor who teaches the undergraduate playwriting class.  He replied very cordially to the email I sent him, but told me that the class was filled up to capacity this semester, and that he also did not think he could help much with the “musical form.”  

Although his suggestion that I contact the School of Music was a logical one, I really am not in need of support on the musical level.  The music and lyrics to this show are essentially complete, and I’m pretty happy with the score.   It’s the script that continues to concern me.  

I last reported I had made it up to p.53, then reached an impasse.  Since then, I’ve made it up to p.58, which is almost to the end of Scene Four.   I could probably write a couple more pages this morning and wrap up the Scene, more-or-less sloppily.  But at this rate, without a support group to sustain my motivation, I probably won’t finish the script before the Second Coming of Christ.

guildIt occurred to me that there might be a Meet-Up writer’s group in the area.   With very little online research, I located one that happens to meet this very morning at ten.  They call themselves a Guild, and this morning’s meeting will take place exactly one block from my apartment!  So I’ll be there at ten this morning, either with the first four scenes completed, or ready to wrap them up on site.

The facilitator of the group also informed me of another writer’s group that meets at a bookstore also located fairly near my place of residence.  That group includes another playwright who prints out his scenes so that other members of the group can read the different characters.  In addition, there is another meeting of the Guild taking place at a restaurant this Tuesday evening.  While the meeting this morning is “write only,” the Tuesday night group will provide, according to the facilitator, “valuable feedback on plot and story line.”  All three of these resources could prove invaluable.

So – I think I’m on the right track if I can only relax about this thing a little bit.  The process of writing music is much more enjoyable for me.   The process of playwriting is arduous and annoying, but it will be worth it in the end if I will have produced something of value to offer to the world.