Gratitude List 790

1. Now I remember why I always used to wake up happy — it was because I used to keep a cold cup of strong coffee at my bedside and chug it instantly upon awakening. I would immediately get into a good mood, and then immediately write down ten things I was grateful for. And then? I would go run five miles around a lake. No wonder I was always happy.

2. I also remember why I stopped doing this. It was because the doctors told me not to. The doctors told me to take some darned pill that’s supposed to help my thyroid a half hour before awakening, even though my thyroid had never bothered me. In that half hour, obviously I became unhappy, because I was denying myself my morning cup of coffee!! Thankful for the great revelation that it was the doctors who made me unhappy!

3. And I am happy now. :)

4. I had slept soundly, though only about 4 1/2 hours till 2:15 am. I noticed in myself an incorrigibly bad attitude. I prayed that God would show me how to improve my attitude. Then I went back at 7:30 and slept 2 1/2 hours till 10 am. Now I am fully refreshed, and in a good mood once again. :)

5. I might get a bicycle. Then I won’t rush from place to place so much when running late.  That said, the local image of this guy in suit and tie wearing a beanie jogging through red lights to get to work in the morning does have a bit of charm to it, no?

6. I see several emails from people I like — Tim, Jan, Holly, Danielle.

7. Just because I am the Artist doesn’t mean I am not fond of the Scientist. I have also noticed that the Scientist and the Artist often have one pleasant thing in common: the Philosopher. This might explain the voice that went through my head some months ago at Shari’s Restaurant: “Let the Philosopher prevail over the Artist.”

8. Sleep is such a healer. I’m glad I’m sleeping again.

9. Stats are suddenly skyrocketing on Eden in Babylon. I must be doing something right.

10. God is not anti-Art. He’s pro-Beauty. And I love Him. And He loves me. He probably even loves doctors, despite how much money they let themselves make and those stupid fancy cars they always brag about. I betcha Dr. Matt doesn’t drive a Ferrari. Besides, he’s the only doctor who’s ever done one thing for me that I know for sure is good. He removed my dystrophic toenail the right way, with the proper anesthetic. The anesthetic I used, I have not used for almost seven months.

So I ain’t movin.’   I’m stayin’ right here, where both of those good things were able to happen. God loves this happy little town — and this happy little town loves me.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Three More Articles Published

I learned a few days ago that three more of my stories have been published in Street Spirit.  This makes ten short pieces I’ve had published in the past six months, in Street Spirit, and in Classism Exposed.   I find this astonishing, especially because I never expected to have anything published at all.  It brings a new sense of purpose, with a connection to fulfillment in life — something I can always look towards pursuing, at times when I might be tempted to ponder that my life is without meaning or reason.  

Street Spirit

February 2018 Issue of Street Spirit

The above link is to the full 12-page issue.   I think it’s an unusually good one, if you want to leaf through it.  Or, if you just want to check out my own work, I’m on pages 8 and 12.  Terry Messman the publisher again gave me the entire p. 12, which is the back page.  He gave me the whole back page for the posting of The Revelation of Humanity, which I’ve gathered from reader response to be one of my better recent pieces. Other pieces published from my blog were On Disorganization and She Called Me Dad, both on p. 8, the former having had its title changed appropriately for the February issue: “Scrambled and Scattered by 12 Years on the Streets.”  

Now, I trust Terry’s editing in general.  Sometimes, a title change in particular will draw the reader toward a particular point of view the selected article might espouse.  There can be no doubt, for example, that I was indeed “scrambled and scattered” throughout my twelve years of sojourning on the streets of the City of Berkeley and elsewhere.   In many ways, it has been indisputable hell trying to readjust to a set of procedures that, while crucial to the more mainstream modes of living here in today’s America, is entirely inapplicable to the drastically altered set of conditions governing the lives of street people and of those who inhabit the Great Outdoors.

But there was also evidence of some pretty amazing grace that surfaced during the perplexing period when for years I drifted about the outskirts of what society holds to be acceptable.  There were even recurring gifts of a nature that I’ve been hard-pressed, while living indoors again, to replace.  This is why I know that my life has meaning.  It would be one thing if my task were only to report the sordid horrors of extended homeless living.  Some of these may surprise, or even startle or shock.  But we can be startled and shocked by sordid stories any day of the week, anytime, anywhere.  It’s the stuff that was good — that seems almost irreplaceable — that often goes unreported.

The challenge to find sufficient replacement for these blessings is something that adds new purpose to my path.   Anyone who’s been reading me throughout the past year and a half will know that my path toward accepting and positively managing the details of indoor living has not been a straight line.  It’s tempting at times to want to default back to a homeless situation, despite the inherent dangers thereof.   To address that dynamic, it makes sense that I would be about discovering what it is that certain redemptive aspects of the homeless experience were providing for me, so that I might regain their provision, in a different form, in my new story of indoor life.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Of Creation and Control

I’m writing on a text file in Open Office. I have the emerging text to The Oracle Sequence open on another file. I’m making a conscious point of avoiding the typical Internet venues on which I write. That means WordPress, DiaryLand, Facebook, Twitter, and all email-related interfaces, such as Zoho or G-Mail. I’m trying to break certain negative associations I have developed with all of those venues, for they seem to be thwarting my progress on this particularly pertinent portion of my project.  Never before have I felt such an enormity in the gap that separates the degree of my desire to progress with the degree of my actual progress, as pertains to a specific project or piece. I want nothing more than to begin making substantial progress on this project. I want the piece to “break.”

But let me explain what I mean by “break.” I use this expression a lot, but I don’t often take the time to clarify what I mean.

ionescoWhenever I am in the process of creating something substantial, my progress seems to proceed extremely slowly for the first several days, taxing my patience. But I endure, for the knowledge that at some point soon, the piece will “break.” When it breaks, it is as though floodgates have been opened. Where the rate of progress before was tortuously slow, all of a sudden I am progressing at a very rapid, steady pace. The process of producing the piece has begun to “flow.” With that sudden huge burst of energy comes a renewed confidence. I no longer brood with the sense that the inevitable break I await will be delayed interminably. Instead, I exult in the creative process.   Whereas, days or hours earlier — or even moments earlier — various aspects of the process seemed to pose nothing but horrific obstacles toward my progress, they now seem to work marvelously in my favor, as if by magic.  And before you can bat an eye, I feel that I am actually completing the piece in question.

You heard me: completing the piece.  The prospect of its elusive completion no longer buzzes about my brain like an annoying insect I can never manage to swat.  Completion occurs readily, rapidly, precisely — and in fact, numerous times

“What?” you may ask.  “How can completion occur numerous times?   You just got finished telling me that until this thing ‘broke,’ you couldn’t even complete it once.” 

That’s a very logical question, and please allow me to explain.  For you see, it seems I’ve substituted one problem for another one.

What happens after the piece “breaks” is that, in my greatly increased productivity, I get from A to Z so fast that my emotions can barely handle the sudden positive turn of events, and I decide that everybody needs to know about it.  So I gleefully send out a “completed” version of my piece to all my dearest friends and family members, hoping they will be as excited at the surprise “completion” as I am.  But then, little do they barely have the chance to open their email, when BAM!  I decide that the recently completed version wasn’t quite good enough; and so I send a second version of the piece; say, Version “1-B.” 

After that, I send Version 1-C, and then Versions 1-D thru F, and so on down the line.  People in my life are suddenly receiving so many versions of some new work of mine, they naturally have no idea when the bombardment will cease, and exactly which of the many versions, if any, they should bother with.  

correlationWhile this is happening, I vaguely sense that there is something wrong with my approach.  Oh, I understand exactly why this pattern has come into being.   The hugeness of the moment when the piece finally “breaks” is typically too much for me emotionally.  You see, I had been frustrated for days, perhaps weeks, all around a relatively insignificant creative project of mine; for example, this polishing of The Oracle Sequence that has come to receive such prominence in my head lately.  But once The Oracle Sequence “breaks,” then to whatever extent that I had earlier been impatient and frustrated, I will now have become just as excited, and in fact, full of glee.  Excited, exuberant, and gleeful.  I feel almost mischievous at that level of enthusiasm.  In that sudden, newfound elation, it will be extremely difficult for me not to burst forth with a constant, incessant gush, exulting in the experience of excitement that so elates me, and exuding that ecstasy upon the world.

But when I do this, I forget that the world is not necessarily predisposed to tuning into the value of my creation at that moment.  Moreover, the world does not necessarily care about my creation — at least not yet. If I want them to care in some future, positive scenario; then probably I shouldn’t be bombarding them prematurely as though to prove my prowess and prodigy in an a priori fashion. Wouldn’t it be better to hold back, until I really have a product worth releasing; and even then, to release it to the world with humility, and grace?

graham_wallasOf course it would be. I therefore must commit myself to terminate my earlier practice, difficult though that termination may be to effect emotionally.   I need to cease to involve all my close friends and family members in my process.   Henceforth I will not even go online, not even to WordPress, but do all my work in secret, offline, where nobody will see me, and where I will nor be tempted to share my work prematurely.  Far better will it be for me to regard this wonderful burst of creativity as a private matter, something that speaks for the ineffable unity of the Creative Mind.   In this way, it is akin to the moment of “illumination” delineated by Graham Wallas in his work on the four stages of the creative process.  According to this model, the previous period of frustration and confusion actually parallels an unconscious process of “incubation,” whereby the piece is quietly being constructed with great direction and progress in the unconscious mind.   The conscious mind remains unaware of this inner process, and in fact believes falsely that nothing is being accomplished at all.  According to that model, The Oracle Sequence is at this very moment being polished, refined, and completed — even as we speak — though in my limited awareness, I feel as though nothing is happening at all.

Obviously, this explanation is pleasant to the ears of the Artist.  But how valid is it, really?  There are other ways of framing this event of “breaking,” this sudden bursting of the floodgates, and the subsequent steady flow of unprecedented Artistic creation.   Some of those ways are not particularly favorable, however, or sympathetic with the Artist’s dilemma.  Take the view often espoused, for example, by those in the mental health profession.   These are those who contend that the Artist is only subject to his mental health disorder, since his pattern clearly manifests the mood swings of manic depression, nowadays known more commonly as Bipolar Disorder.   In this view, the Artist is unable to create while in the depressive phase, because his depression prevents him from doing so, on a basic neuro-physiological level.  When, in my case, I experience the event of the “breaking,” followed by a fast flow of creative prodigy, I am according to the psychiatrist merely in the “manic” phase of my “disorder.”

I am further told that during the depressive phase, the Artist may not even be aware that he is depressed.  This is due to the intensity of his Artistic focus, in which he is completely immersed —  even as he gets nothing accomplished at all.   His focus, after all, is on his Art — whether he is succeeding in manifesting that Creation or not.  So if he is not succeeding, he may well be depressed and in fact rather irritable.  But he does not know this, for his focus is not on his feelings — but on his Art. 

psychiatrist couchThe psychiatrist continues to advise him that the reason why nothing is getting done is on account of his depression.  The depression, claims the psychiatrist, has overwhelmed him, and rendered him inert and immobile with regards to his creative goals.  But the Artist doesn’t see it this way.  He argues that the converse is the case.  The only reason he may be depressed is because nothing is getting done.  And besides, the word “depression” doesn’t quite cut it.  “Annoyed,” perhaps.  “Annoyed, irritated, aggravated, frustrated, impatient, confused, bewildered, and generally out of sorts.   But depressed?   You gotta be kidding me!  Depression is for less inspired, less purpose-driven men than I.”  

At this, the psychiatrist typically only nods her head.  “Give it about a week, my boy, and you’ll be just fine.” 

Be this as it may.  We have the clinical, ultra-behavioristic approach of the detached, unfeeling psychiatrist, dismissing all the mysterious spectacles of Artistic angst with a cold, calculated DSM-V approach to life.   A bit more pleasing, we have the intriguing approach of Mr. Wallas and his followers, an approach that is definitely more Art-Positive than diagnostic in nature.  But neither of these perspectives really assists me in confronting the essential anxiety that I must endure in order to attain to a happier state of affairs.  The one way exalts Art above all, the other poo-poos and dismisses the Artistic character, even hinting at attributing the Artistic Focus to some form of mental illness.  Yet despite this glaring difference in the two perspectives, they both point to one very disturbing factor that they share in common.   In each case, the Artist is at the mercy of a psychic process that is largely beyond his conscious, creative control.  

What is needed, then, is greater control.   

As to just how this greater control is to be gained, please don’t think for one minute that I have not already pondered this question eternally.   There are in fact several text files on Open Office already, exploring this perennial question.  I even draw near to a solution or three, in places.   But let me take my leave at this juncture, and advise you of my findings when they are bit more conclusive.   It may well be that as I complete my analysis as to what it will take to complete my piece, the completion of the analysis may prove to be a more important creation than the completion of the piece itself.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

About That Insecure Creative

“A successful writer is one who finishes what they start while striving to improve their craft. It’s as simple as that. And the only one who can stop you from doing this is you.” – Hugh Howey*

If any of my more regular readers got the idea that perhaps I was obfuscating a hidden agenda behind the seemingly innocuous postings of three successive morning “gratitude lists,’ then I must concede.   That idea is sound.   While trying to hold everyone at bay by posting my gratitude lists, I have secretly been absorbed in the task of cleaning up both the lyrics and music to The Oracle Sequence at the end of Act One of Eden in Babylon.

This is something that I can and must do. When I wrote that sequence, though I was “on fire,” I was also quite hasty in places.  And I knew it at the time.   I knew it — but I buried it beneath the sense of fiery inspiration that I permitted to delude me.  I found thrilling the mere fact that I was finishing the Act at all.   Add to that the sense that I actually stood a chance of finishing it in a dynamic way — a way that would intrigue and delight the audience, and give them all something to talk about during intermission — and believe you me, I was overjoyed.  So overjoyed was I, that I readily overlooked the rough spots, vaguely expecting myself to patch them up later (that is, if I remembered to do so, or even decided to bother).

But then, after I had the great revelation reported earlier, I found I could no longer overlook these glaring errors.  It was time for me to perform the logical clean-up, and not to feel bad about myself in the process.   So I set about to do so.   But I kept getting snagged.   Snagged, for reasons that themselves seemed trivial, if not maddening.  Maddening, in the degree of power I rendered them, despite their insignificance. 

For example, I gave one verse of very quickly spewed, poorly written lyrics to three of my strongest supporting characters.  If those had been real life Actors, playing those characters, I’d feel as though I had dumped on them for assigning them those lousy parts.  All three of those characters, as later developed in my second complete draft are worth more to the world than the lousy lyrics I threw down on them. They’re my babies — I need to bless them with better lyrics.

Sad-alone-cute-girl-playing-guitar-sunsetNot only that, but in my haste, I took no thought as to what keys all these different characters should be singing their bits in the Sequence.  Right after the verse I just mentioned, for example, the ingénue Taura begins to sing a solo to the main theme of the song “Oracle.”  All the lights should be lowered and all the previous frenetic conflict be dissolved, as she begins to sing this song of spiritual calling.   It needs to be her defining moment, where she sings to her guitar, as they all are gather in Nature, in the Outdoors, beneath the Stars.  This is only her second solo in the show — and it is the first one that features her voice en masse before the multitudes, rather than restricted in a romantic setting between her and Winston alone.  Obviously, this crucial performance of hers should feature her voice in its optimum range.  But alas, as I just now have confessed, I took no thought for such a practical matter, so infused was I with the creative fury at the time. 

As a result, Taura winds up having to sing this theme in the key of G, with notes much too high for the contralto whom I have intended her to be.  I cursed myself.  “What an oversight!”  I exclaimed.  Yet at the same time, I recall having furiously sped from one section in the sequence to another, overlooking every peccadillo in my path in the spirit of honoring the long-awaited arrival of the finishing of the first Act, which arrival now loomed imminently on the near horizon, a virtual, visible certainty of a happy event to come.

So I consoled myself with the memory of past faith.  I figured that if I had faith beforehand — way back when — even as I plowed over every glaring error in my path like a bulldozer — I could probably summon up that same faith, and use the present day as an occasion to atone fully for my earlier carelessness, and craft the End of Act One in a manner befitting a musical of this caliber.  

When I began to exercise this renewed faith, the landscape brightened considerably.  True, the lousy lyrics were the devil to replace.  Moreover, I had to change the key in that section, in order to create a key that could easily modulate into a better key to spotlight Taura’s voice during her solo.    But  then, with renewed faith, I realized that I need not be enamored to the music itself in the section where the lyrics fell short.  I now could write new music along with the new lyrics, and make that section more transitional, and less overt.  Ah!  It all began to come together, at last.

And it continues to come together.  What is the difference?  Only faith.  Only being open to new and better gifts from that great Beyond whence all ideas are formed.  And people may mock me and scoff, if indeed they pay any attention to me at all.  I hear their imagined voices already:

“Will you never stop messing with this thing?
It’s been years now, Andy!
Get off of it! Get real!”

It puts me on the defensive, to have to answer to such objections — real or imagined.  I want to say I’ll stop messing with it when somebody finally picks it up and decides to produce it — and not a minute before.  But that’s a line of malarkey – blatant baloney and balderdash.

I’ll stop messing with it when I’m finally tired of it, and when I finally abandon it.  That’s the naked truth, unveiled.  I pray this happens before someone picks it up, and not after.  If it doesn’t happen till after, I could be hell on any production staff unfortunate enough to have picked up my baby while still in the womb.  Let’s hope for an on-time delivery.  In my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t want it any other way.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

(* The Hugh Howey quote comes courtesy of  M. C. Tuggle — a blog well worth the read, by the way.)

The Crying of the Muse

I thought about calling this post “I’ll Be Brief” in order to remind myself to do so.  Yesterday I set out to write a “brief” post, and yet somehow it consumed five hours of the early morning, and wound up becoming eleven paragraphs in length.

In all that verbosity, it seems I inadvertently obfuscated the information that I have moved.  Yes – I have finally left my 14-month tenure at the apartments euphemistically known as “Friendship Square.”  The good news is that I am no longer surrounded by felons, cons, tweakers, thieves, and hustlers.   The bad news is that it’s going to cost me an extra $175/mo.   But the good news is that it’s worth it.

In the confusion, I have been composing compulsively.   When I compose music, I am somehow completely focused.  I enjoy the process very much, even if the product is lacking.  When I write text, however, I am almost completely unfocused.  Yet, yet, yet — everybody seems to like my verbal writings, and almost nobody appreciates my musical writings.  It’s a sore spot for me.  I didn’t go to a Conservatory of Music in order to spend all my time writing about Homelessness.

Then again, what is it that made me homeless to begin with?  I mean — outside of socio-economic factors, what was it about me that caused me not only to become homeless, but actually to embrace Homelessness?  (That is, before I literally got the sense knocked into me.)

Quite simply, life was not rendering me enough space to focus on writing my music.  Ah – I remember it well – the last straw.   In April 2011, I was living in a small house with the landlord, his four year old boy, and another roommate.   I had been homeless before, off and on for seven years.   So I knew that I could generally handle it.   But could I handle the four year old boy bursting into my bedroom, right at the moment when I was making the final edits to The Crying of the Muse, shouting “Hiya!” and waving a large plastic spear over his head?

It seems the young fellow wanted to joust with me.   And don’t get me wrong – I would gladly have taken up my spear, and jousted with him at another time.  But he just happened to throw me off of my delicate musical balance at that moment — and enough was enough.  I needed space. 

So, in order to find the space I needed, I quite naturally headed to Berkeley, California, where I figured I would “blend” with approximately 1,000 other homeless blokes, and write my music invisibly, without such annoying intrusions.

It worked for a while, till the thrill was gone.   And Friendship Square worked for a while, too.   Here’s to a new and more productive chapter of my highly-driven, restless life.   I’ve gotten as far with my current compulsive composing as meets the eyes and ears below.  The eyes see a telling view of Friendship Square at night, illuminated as if with fireworks.   The ears will hear a fraction of the piece tentatively entitled the New Royal Rhapsody.   Please enjoy — if at all possible.  

Art is Hard Work.
They keep firing me because I’m absent-minded and too easily stressed.
Art will never fire me, nor will I quit Art.
Please pay me for it here.
Thank you.

 

Frequent Flyer

This version of my song “Bone of My Bones” is far superior to whatever I posted the other day.   (Incidentally, it’s Version 18-Y, for whoever’s counting.)

It still isn’t quite “complete” yet  — at least not in terms of its capacity to replicate what I’ve got going on in my head.  But is it ever complete?   I don’t think so!

In any case, as of this morning, I’ve moved on to new arrangement of the song Bubbles Taboo, intended to segue into Bones as part of the larger work described in this entry.   It’s all rolling along so sweetly that, to be honest with you, I’m having a hard time stopping all the composing in order to attend to the more mundane functions of modern life.

A lot of this newfound enthusiasm for composing is based on my having become more endeared to the software itself.  Somehow, the challenge of getting all these computer commands to resemble what’s going on in my head has begun to fascinate me, rather than intimidate me.  It’s also helping with a second aspect of my creative-artistic trip these days.  It’s helping me to enjoy the process of notating the vocal score to Eden in Babylon.   

Note how I didn’t say “Piano-Vocal Score.”  I’ve lowered my expectations, and have taken to writing out only a vocal score, without the piano accompaniment.  This will still be some representation of the music, and it might even be enough to get a producer interested in the show.   In any case, it’s forward motion.

I also made it to Jazz Choir finally, and enjoyed singing the interesting music of Dan Bukvich in a context consisting mostly of University students, but also including members of the community, several of whom were my age or older.  I saw Erika there, the new Director of Music at my church, and she again said she’d be happy to sing on the Eden in Babylon demo.  Maybe she knows some other Jazz Choir members who might be interested.  Perhaps I won’t even have to pay them — although frankly, the idea of not being able to do so is irksome to me.   Again, if anybody wants to donate, that’s where the first money will go — to pay singers and musicians something, even if it’s not what they’re actually worth.   

But not to get off on all that.  I’ve been snagged on this demo thing, mostly in a depressed or discouraged state, for over five months now.  It really is time for this thing to pick up steam again.  But whether it does or not, there’s a third aspect to my “trip” these days, and I can’t overlook the fact that it’s the aspect that’s been getting me some recognition lately, even though I didn’t really do anything consciously to attract it. 

It’s all the writing I’m doing on the Homeless Experience.  People are tuning into it.  After A New Pair of Glasses was published in Street Spirit in August, I had three more pieces published in September.   Then I offered to come up with three more by Friday, and Terry Messman the publisher asked me to nudge him when they were done.   It’s beginning to look as though I’m becoming a regular columnist all of a sudden.  This is something I never dreamed would happen.

So, between the three, you might see a few more postings from me than usual.  There will probably be more for me to report here than ever before.   I’ll try to keep them short.  But be advised that as far as WordPress is concerned, you’re going to be dealing with a “frequent flyer” until further notice.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Despair

I’ve never felt a depression anywhere near this deep before.   The depression keeps me from being able to do simple things in life.  Wash the dishes.  Take out the trash.  Make my bed.  Wash my clothes.  

It just doesn’t seem that there’s any way out of it.  I hesitate to write, to even post, because it consumes me so entirely.

It used to be, there was a reason to be depressed.  Now it’s just — constantly happening.  I keep telling myself that maybe if something changes for the better, I will feel better, and I can start anew once again.  Or I tell myself, I will just pick up where I left off, before I got so sidetracked.  But nothing works.  Nothing helps.  

I used to be able to rely on this person, this Andy, who was always motivated, who always gritted his teeth and faced whatever adversity there was, and endured it.

Now I can’t rely on him anymore.  He’s missing, he’s vacant, he’s gone astray – he doesn’t know where he is.  He can’t do the things he used to do, and enjoy doing them.

I’ve been writing music for several days.  But I don’t like the music.  It’s lousy.  I don’t enjoy it.  I don’t want to be writing it anymore.

I wrote this musical – but – how easily it came to appear to me to be useless.  I can’t even put a demo together; I can’t find singers; I should not even try any more.  All it does is increase the depression.

I just feel like – God blessed me so hugely in bringing me here, bringing me off the streets. Then I somehow transformed the blessing into a curse.  It used to be the other way around, and it should be.  I used to be able to transform curses into blessings.  That was my strength.

I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore.  I pray – but I feel so disconnected from God.  I just can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel.  It just goes on and on, winding in a way that I never can tell what’s ahead.  All I know is what is ahead — is total darkness — and I am always, always in despair.