The article in the New Yorker this month about Storyboard P will not leave my brain. I keep thinking about how we learn (though doing, through repetition, through the desire to achieve some goal, etc), about creativity, about success.
I'm trying to learn to play the ukulele. I stink, frankly; I can't hear the differences in the notes, which makes it difficult, and I'm easily frustrated by any learning process that is difficult. Most things I've wanted to learn, I've suffered through the learning to get through the goal of knowing. And if the goal is not easily reached, I give up. See also: Japanese. Usually, the only time you can get me to learn something I don't need to know is by sneaking it on me. Like I learned basic manners because my parents valued them, but I learned details because Judith Martin is a great writer. Ukulele is maybe the only thing I've actively tried to learn simply because it seemed like a neat idea, and it's hard. Storyboard P getting an idea for how a movement might look, and drilling himself on it for ages, and just for the joy of it, is so out of my reckoning that I can't imagine it.
In the article, there's a bit where he talks about a series of gestures to convey feeling beautiful, smearing cream on his skin, and then having that gesture morph into peeling his skin off. My friends, I have turned a phrase from time to time, but I have never come up with an image that powerful (and now I cannot erase it from my mind). I have a friend who makes art and when she explains it I think -- I understand the idea, I just don't understand how it came from her head into this expression, although it makes sense. I get the origin and the destination but I cannot comprehend the journey. And isn't the journey the point? When I've tried to make visual art, it's so LITERAL that it's almost absurd. I can't get away from the words of the idea, and I'm never particularly creative beyond metaphor. I don't know how the mind gets there; is it naturally so or does it take a certain kind of training?
And success... I don't know how artists manage this. I've been talking to some people lately who make some or all of their living from art, and some people who assiduously avoid accepting any money for their art, lest it become commercial. Not that success is only measured in terms of money. But here is this guy, and probably this New Yorker article is going to be a factor in his success, his fame, whatever. What does this say about media, about the nature of success, about all of those things. Do I care? Not personally. But it is still important to think about.
And I was thinking that it is interesting that an article about art (not the art itself) is what got me thinking about it, and how this is how I often approach art: thinking, not feeling. Which is not wrong, but is part of what the article stirred up, here in gray January. How are you doing?
This is the language they speak in the open spaces between them, the spaces formed by their outstretched arms, the language of emptiness and wishes, the things they want, the same things spoken into the same vast vacancy every time, because the wants are never satisfied. I want to see you, touch you, dance with you, variations on the theme, over and over, the Greek chorus of longing veering dangerously close to lamentation.
And the language they speak when they face away from that aching void? They are casual, code names, dismissive humor. I mean seriously, she says, I'm more picky who I watch movies with, and it is true, and the knowledge that what she says now is truer than what she says into her own empty arms helps her feel less hollow, filled with the stone she has rolled in front of her heart.
A cold winter day spent reading, collecting tinder. But, my god, the loneliness of the hours was overwhelming. With age it becomes more and more apparent that I need to be among people. I have to stop living like a monk. Although, it is true, monks do live with other monks. They pray, take their meals together, and perhaps life at the monastery is not such a burden. I would never have to eat alone in such a place. Earlier, I stood eating a can of sardines and a piece of unbuttered bread. I envied the crows. From the kitchen window I had seen them pecking at the leftover rice I had thrown out. The crows, that had arrived in a group and that had left in a group. Same as the sardines.