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Waiting for the Path | 2009 | Abdication

07.19.09 10:24 p.m.

Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.  

-Lou Dorfsman


Creativity Without Discipline

Alex Grey  
Alex Grey, listening to someone vomit contempt at real work

A man mouths off about how schools exist to do little else but stifle student, the subtext that he would have been an amazing artist if only he didn't have to finish his algebra homework. In the decades since his graduation it seems that he has kept this excuse, that it is someone else's fault, that some bureaucracy ruined him for life. He goes so far as to proclaim that "Perceivers" like him should be taken on trips around the world to see beautiful things instead of just having their teddy bears to draw. And I think, if you can't draw that teddy bear and make him beautiful, you stand no chance at doing justice to a waterfall.

Alex Grey, the host of this Joseph Campbell round table and whose art is striking and above reproach, speaks extensively about the transformative properties of LSD, going so far as to credit to it creative acts that occurred long before the drug was synthesized. I won't deny that there is some appeal to this drug, nor will I contradict that some amazing minds found a touch of the divine in their trips. However, Grey makes LSD out to be a shortcut, that one need do nothing more than to stick a tab on one's tongue to become a brilliant and inspired artist. It is not remotely touched upon that most people who use acid achieve nothing more than a series of strange hours until the effects wear off. The answer is simply that those who achieved amazing things on acid were no slouches while dead sober. To be made profound, one must very nearly be there already.

In high school, I saw the school counselor for a few months during my lunch period because I was having a hard time with the fact that I had been mugged. He was not, to my knowledge, remotely helpful as anything but a sounding board. I did not yet have the self-discipline to write these things down in any useful way, so I had to purge my thoughts by talking about them in a massively disjointed way to whoever would listen to me for a few minutes. The counselor, at least, had to act as a captive audience. He gave me a variety of bad advice in an effort to seem hip, I think. (Among these gems were that I should have sex with my high school girlfriend Jen because I was going to have sex with someone eventually and maybe she would say she loved me if I did and that I should drink and smoke to relax. I only listened to the former because I wanted reassurance.) He also once tried to convince me, when I said I was not interested in ever doing any drug, that LSD really wasn't as bad as people made it out to be. He stated that LSD gives to access to knowledge you already have but are not aware of, however sometimes people get knowledge from "the bad pot".
Alex Grey  
A paean to acid, apparently

It is likewise disappointing to hear this lecture about the role of mythmaking on the artist devolve in honor of Saint Abby Hoffman, who synthesized LSD. Of course, he needed to be startlingly intelligent to ever have the ability to discover this substance by stabilizing ergot, but that is largely ignored because stories about hard work and years of effort aren't sexy. It's impossible that Alex Grey doesn't think this, as he was an artist before he was a user of LSD, even if it inspired him.

The hippies don't want to hear the truth, that the world is full of creative people who lack the discipline to sit down and create, whose only contribution to the literary or artistic canon will be new variations on the theme of whining that life has done them wrong. Nothing you put on your tongue is going to do you a bit of good without drive and dedication. As Grey and the attendees keep reiterating, you should foster your child's talent with the best tools possible, but these are worthless if you haven't first instilled in them that no one is going to do their work for them and that they do not get the ego gratification of being an artist or writer if they are not willing to put in a truly obscene amount of transformative work by actually demonstrating dedication to a craft in their off hours. The reason that more people are not truly artists is because it is hard, full of long, thankless hours, often only rewarded with a burgeoning awareness of what won't work.

No chemical is going to make me Salvador Dali. That is not my work to do. There are no shortcuts to being an artist and anyone who thinks a tab of acid is going to make up for abject laziness deserves to be forgotten. It is ethically irresponsible to the idea of art to suggest there is an easy way out.

Soon in Xenology: Letting go.

last watched: Les Poupées Russes
reading: Henry and June
listening: Yann Tiersen

Waiting for the Path | 2009 | Abdication

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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