May 23rd, 2015

Facebook & How to Preserve The Creative Drive

Labyrinth_Bill_Domonkos

When you’re a writer Facebook becomes a peculiar problem.

Famous writer Zadie Smith, in her list of 10 rules for writers, says that working on a computer without wi-fi is essential. I guess she was tempted, while writing, to make too many visits to The New York Review of Books and start grazing.

In this post, I’m using the word peculiar to evoke its deeper etymology. Peculiar’s Late Middle English usage was to indicate: “Belonging to one person.” But even more peculiar (and further back in time) is the word’s Latin origin and usage, which is related to cattle and how those cattle belonged to you, were your property.

The Latin etymological tree goes like this:

pecu (cattle) > peculium (property) > peculiaris (of private property) > peculiar (particular, special).

So this is good to note, because you need to guard your stock when you’re working on your own creative stuff; to keep your words in your own writing stockade — rather than let them roam too much within the Facebook dream field. Grazing.

Secrets, Tips and Suggestions

Over the years, as a writer and incessant Facebooker, I’ve found that I can use Facebook for:

1. A well-deserved breather.

2. A maneuver to avoid an impending inner-critic attack. All writers know the inner-critic’s voice and the damage it does: “This is horrid and Dad was right, I’ve no talent. I should have stayed a cashier.” If I stay there grinding away on a paragraph in tandem with my inner-critic’s voice grinding away on me, well, I’m fucked. The abuse is dehumanizing.

The inner-critic’s job is to sabotage whatever creative expression you undertake and insure that you remain identified with the idea that you’ve no skill or talent.

Kids are psychic sponges and retain every judgement aimed in their direction — from the moment of conception forward, those critiques eventually morph into the inner-critic’s voice.

I have a friend whose sister had a baby girl that she’d called an “asshole” so frequently, from babyhood onward, that whenever the toddler met someone outside the family circle she’d announce proudly: “I’m an asshole!”

So strategies must be developed to dodge (or defend) against the inner-critic. Facebook can — if used wisely — act as a respite, unplugging you from your inner-critic and its attack on your present-time creation.

3. An energizing or remedial moment: I’ve often been working on a chapter and then hopped out of Google Docs and into Facebook and bumped into a post from The Guardian about how a trapped starfish can detach its own foot, keep moving, and then grow a new foot later. And for some unknown reason, reading that random bit of weirdness galvanizes my creativity, back into its flow.

Or, conversely, whatever particular post I land on will act as a non sequitur that unravels what I was previously laboring over; revealing that my effort was, indeed, shitty, and that I need to stop writing and start reading about starfish that unhinge their feet.

4. A Dada-like exposure to chance or what I call ‘synchronic serendipity’. Dada or Dadaism was an European avant-garde art movement from the early 20th-century where the Dada artists employed randomness, chance, and synchronic mirroring to create their creations.

Dadaism became very popular with artists willing to enter the realm of the irrational and illogical to achieve their creative inspirations and creations. And like all magical processes it involved rituals of various sorts.

Facebook can be employed in a similar way for a writer. The other day, frustrated with a difficult section I was writing about the planet Mercury, I stopped, logged into Facebook, and the first post I encountered was a post about the actor Brad Pitt‘s alleged bi-sexuality.

This was the perfect ingredient I needed for inspiring a point within the chapter about Mercury’s hermaphroditic nature. Shameless plug: You’ll love this part of the book when you read it. I promise. Read more



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May 17th, 2015

“The Danger That Things Can Go Dead”

dinner_andre

“You see, Wally, the trouble with always being active and doing things is that it’s quite possible to do all sorts of things and at the same time be completely dead inside. I mean, you’re doing all these things, but are you doing them because you really feel an impulse to do them, or are you doing them mechanically, as we were saying before? Because I do believe that if you’re just living mechanically, then you have to change your life.”

A classic scene from Louis Malle’s 1981 film, My Dinner With Andre.


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April 07th, 2015

New Cosmix! Spring 2015

cosmix_spring_2015

Happy Belated Spring!

Something new for your listening pleasure as the buds burst and the birds and bees do their buzzing thing. Some details about my new mix:

I’d describe it as futuristic retro blowbacks that travel the vector between now, tomorrow and the fall of the wall of Jericho. Perfect for our times, I think you’ll discover.

Or to lift a line from Joni Mitchell’s classic Ladies of the Canyon:

Songs like tiny hammers hurled
At beveled mirrors in empty halls

Includes, but not limited to: Tanlines, Charlie Christian, Fynn, Kay Starr, The Radio Dept., Glass Animals, Romare, Junior Boys, Les Sims, Tori Amos, Sam Prekop, Darkstar, Lyle Lovett, Duke Dumont, Martha Argerich, Synkro, Annie Lennox, Machinedrum with FaltyDL and the demo tape your mother made before you were born.

Enjoy!
 
Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 5.52.34 PM
 



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March 17th, 2015

A Final Post About the Final Uranus Pluto Square

alex_stoddard_photo
“What we want is a story that starts with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.” –Samuel Goldwyn

 

A group of therapists came together in Europe to participate in a ten-day workshop.

As was the custom, at the start of the gathering, the attendees gathered together in a circle to take make introductions and share a little about their practice and history.

About halfway into the process, a woman explained how she’d worked for years in a mental institution counseling dozens of patients each day. And then, after a pause, her face became grim. She continued:

One day while she was eating her lunch one of her clients committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the institute. The patient fell right past the therapist as she was eating her salad.

The woman’s breathing became rushed, she was crying and right on the verge of losing control.

But the leader of the workshop sensed that something was ‘off’ about the woman’s state; there was something not quite genuine about it. She seemed to be working herself into an agitated condition to alert her colleagues about the intensity she’d experienced throughout her career and how that intensity made her special.

At the end of her story she looked to the leader of the group for acknowledgment. And then everyone else in the circle turned and looked to the leader too. A concerned silence hovered in the air.

And then, after a pause, the leader shrugged his shoulders and announced:

“Okay. New rule. No jumping from the roof during lunch.”

The woman and all of the other participants in the circle burst into laughter.

You Didn’t Jump. So You’re Still Here!

I like this story as an allegory for looking back and reviewing the past seven years that accompanied the just-finished square between Uranus and Pluto; two of astrology’s most misunderstood and misinterpreted planets.

If you haven’t jumped off of a bridge yet, well, congratulations, you’ve passed a series of initiations that you were destined to encounter (should you consider your soul an agent of consciousness that traverses from life to life).

Your presence continues within the pulse of life. You’re still here and entwined with — and required to participate in — the incessant woof and warp of living.

This circle story also shows how we might expand beyond our pipsqueak sense of self, with its attendant stories and dramas that color and define us. The story also shows how the ordinary can shift to the extraordinary by involving humor as a transcendent ingredient. Life is tough, it sucks sometimes and then we laugh (or cry) and then we carry on.

I’ve written a lot about the alignment between Uranus and Pluto on this site, and discussed in detail some of the socio-cultural fallout with my colleague Jessica Murray. But now, as the final square clicks in and out of exactitude, I’m going to share some personal anecdotes, observations and insights with you.

astrology_uranus_pluto

Some Backstory First

Modern astrologers write from a Jungian perspective about the trio of planets that reside beyond Saturn (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). Because those planets orbit the Sun at a glacial pace it’s easy to associate them with ‘collective’ time — cultural trends and geopolitical movements; or even the rise and fall of civilizations — when you consider Pluto’s 248-year orbit around the Sun.

But let’s not forget that cultures and civilizations are aggregates of individuals. Folks like you and me. And, should you be open to an atypical perspective, the outer planets also mark moments in life that deconstruct your conventional sense of self.

If you are committed to upholding the values and standards you inherited from your family, church or the various authority figures that influenced your life, well, it’s likely that your ability to find resonance with the outer planets hasn’t developed.

Many people do not ‘register’ the outer planets in a personal sense, in much the same way most people do not practice Zen or involve their lives with depth psychology or spiritual practices that unravel the dominance of the ego and its allegiance to the instincts. This isn’t a judgment, just an astrological statement of fact.

The dominate theme of my work with clients during the past seven years has involved the personal particulars of accommodating the acceleration of consciousness that’s symbolized by the Uranus Pluto square. An unrelenting pressure that feels (to those aforementioned instincts) like a battle to the death.

Here are some notes, observations and insights I’ve gleaned by tracking my own experience and that of my clients. Make what you will of this. Nothing is etched in stone.
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February 26th, 2015

Astrology and Destiny: A Different Take

treerings

“We are not stamped at birth with our destiny, nor even our personality — there is no imprinting — but, being the person we are, we are born at a time that announces who we are.

Our destiny may be indicated at birth, but its realization lies in the future — indeed tragically it may never find complete fulfillment.

It is a pity that the idea of destiny has almost completely slipped from human consciousness, thanks to the propaganda that physical causation is the only causation in town, so that everybody must look to the past for meanings. The answers must lie in the genes, or in the childhood situation, and so on. Some of the answers may indeed be found there, but the true significance of our journey — like all journeys — lies in where we are going, not where we are coming from.

Aristotle wrote in the fourth century BC that the ‘nature of man is not what he was born as, but what he is born for.’

And I like this quotation from Nietzsche: ‘Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law of our today.’ ”

– Dennis Elwell
from Astrology is a Foreign Language on Skyscript



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