essay on thought and art

It seems to me there is a subfloor to reality, a humming layer of mystery that lies beneath everything. We dwell in it constantly and yet, seldom recognize it with the senses. It surfaces briefly in moments we struggle to define and then plunges back into obscurity. Like groping in slumber, it takes everything within us to even recall the mere taste of it. Like a dream we can't remember anymore, but for a moment it was vivid enough to eclipse all else. 

I felt it in a concert hall. There were about four hundred people in the room and everyone was talking. The atmosphere, the warm scandinavian curves of wood, the blossoms of golden light scattered across the floor, the throngs of people, it was all blanketed in that low roar of many voices. That roar, yes but to even call it that is to give it a name, a name is for a solitary thing, and yet we could pick it apart and find it to be four hundred things. Yet I heard it as one. The idea was so simple and yet so broad I could concentrate on nothing. It was as if something larger than the room or the people in it was bearing down upon me, seizing and overwhelming my senses. 

Maybe I'm just easily fascinated. Faces and voices often seem effortlessly compelling to me. But there was a beauty and a mystery in that room of strangers. There was an energy in the music that filled my whole soul and asked it questions that something inside me understood to be vital - important, and yet I could not work them out. It was maddening, comforting, soothing, stirring, like sensing a presence just behind you, but upon turning no one is there. 

Is there an urgency within art? Perhaps there is and we don't even realize it. It's something we 'feel' and we use that word 'feel' to describe it because we have no other way of wrapping our language around something so abstract - something we can scarcely even detect. Though we are eager, reaching creatures, we find to our dismay that it isn't something we can accumulate, this stirring of our spirit from its sleep. And yet, without this disturbance we wouldn't have even recognized ourselves to be asleep. We know sleep, complacency, we can recognize them only because there is something else that has drawn us far enough away from them to recognize the difference. And I don't know what that something else, that force, is, only that I have been tossed and turned within myself by its unrelenting waves; that it bred within me such disquiet that I can no longer be content with sleep. I am compelled to search for its presence. 

Now and again I find it, but never when I am looking for it. It's in the silence of snow, it's in the brushstrokes of Van Gogh's paintings, it's in the movements of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. It's in very quiet places in nature. Maybe it's in other places for other people. I really don't know. But it makes nonsense of everything else, leaves me like a child not wanting to go back inside.

Like a lover who can no longer conceive of a life without the other person, I don't want to go back to whatever was before this. A life without this mystery is void, and yet we stumble in our dance with it, barely recognizing that we are engaging it every day - barely awake. Its movements confuse, madden, and disturb us - yet often it seems like that is the point. Like that is the whole of its message: get angry. Not anger as we know it, a fleeting moment of heat in the brain, but that holy emotion which brings with it the birthpangs of something that cannot exist within our tired framework and complacency. Only angry butterflies can break past the cocoon. 

The mystery is moving. The mystery is in the cocoon with us. It's stepping on our toes, pressing in from all sides until we're angry enough to do something about it. Mystery tests the elasticity of our spirits and causes us, when we feel it, to look up for a moment from the toil into which we have become absorbed. We wonder what has tapped us on the shoulder. We don't know and we cannot answer. But when we look back down, we find we can no longer remember what we were doing before. And, in my limited experience, we can no longer remember who we were before.

I can't tell you what it is, this is a mere essay on frustration. But I can tell you that when the man on the stage played the bass, I felt it through my entire body like a spirit taking possession. I can tell you that when I stood surrounded by Van Gogh's paintings I wept uncontrollably, and the worldly concepts of time and everything else were lost. I can tell you that when I am deep in the woods and the sun is coming over a distant mossy ridge, I feel like I am losing my mind. I can tell you that when I write I feel like something inside of me is reaching out, dictating to my hand beyond my perception and thought; I hardly know what I've written until I've read it. I can tell you that there is something past the curtain of our senses, reaching out like a figure on the other side of foggy glass. I can't make their face out, but I know they are there. There in the restlessness, and the art, and the wild, living air. 

Maybe we're not meant to know. Perhaps we don't know what it looks like because perhaps it looks like all of us. 

essay on thought and art
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  2. Last night I had a dream... I found my blackboard, a green center-painted chalkboard, propped up like an easel on a pinewood stand - made for me, by my dad when I was little. (Passive voice, the active doesn't have the same feel).

    It's something I had forgotten about for so many years, and yet I saw it again as it once were. There's a disconnect between trying to remember it; and seeing it in my childhood room.

    Was it a familiarity that made you weep - surrounded by Van Gogh's paintings. In my dream I was handed a familiar small plastic bag, that once carried medicine from the pharmacy. Did not know what was in it within my dream. I looked inside and saw little pieces of used chalk. Writing it makes my eyes tear up. The dream feeling, such sadness, but also, like finding a lost friend.

    In my dream I was trying on shoes, which felt like, reliving the past, but different. A great big spider came up in the store, but not a real one. I threw it with my blackboard's eraser. Reminding me now that, the wood was repurposed. Creativity lost and found.

    I think I had this dream from reading your essay yesterday, which I thought about when I woke up. I think through the subconscious mind we enter our higher selves. A cosmic consciousness from which creativity flows. I love your writing Kate.


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