November 15, 2018

Poker face


Happily, I'm nearing the end of the essay I'm working on about the time I accidentally joined a cult (did Rudolf Steiner teacher training). I began writing it two years ago and have progressed at the rate of half a word per week ever since. In order to try to better understand Steiner, I've ploughed through his autobiography (a punishment from start to finish) and also re-read a surprisingly balanced biography by Gary Lachman, the former Blondie bassist.

An interesting connection jumped out.

Here is Lachman on Steiner's exploration of consciousness (bear with me):
[T]ruth is not something out there, waiting to make a mark on our virgin minds: it's the product of the harmonious meeting between in there and out here. Far from a passive recipient of impressions from an inaccessible outside world, consciousness is a kind of hand, reaching out and giving shape and form to what would remain empty chaos [...] Most of the time, we stare blankly at the world, accepting the poker face it returns, unconsciously confirming the misconception that our consciousness is passive and undermining any possibility of motivating ourselves into pouring more energy into our awareness.

And here is my favourite blogger, Austin Kleon:
So many people think you have to first call yourself an artist, know who you are and what you’re about, and then you can start making art. No, no, no. You do the stuff first, then you can worry about what it is, who you are. The important thing is the practice. The doing. The verb.

So, what does a turn-of-the-century post-Kantian idealist have in common with a modern-day bestselling creativity guru? (Related: should I pursue a career in the composition of Christmas cracker jokes?)

Why, it's their emphasis on action, of course: the idea that we must meet the world halfway by making the first creative move. That the muse, the spark of brilliance, the great insight will (hopefully) follow the doing, and not the other way around.

The fact that a fully-formed and perfectly-plotted novel is thus unlikely to download itself wholesale into my brain as I recline in my bedchamber scrolling through the greatest Strictly videos of competitions past is a wretched disappointment to me, but one I shall attempt to bear.