Whatever happened to the muse?

You rarely if ever hear people refer to muses anymore. It used to be this all encompassing guiding light if you will towards higher understanding. Now on occasion people will say they are “inspired” but it just doesn’t have the same grand, all encompassing life altering feel to it does it?

Inspiration these days seems to come in exclusively tangible forms. It’s usually a person or environment that makes you feel a little more creative than normal, but not too terribly much. Mind you the days of running through the moors in a state of delirious creative madness seem to be well behind us. These days you’d be forcibly medicated heavily and often should you display such abnormal outbursts without any visible cause.

It never seems to be an abstract force from within your very soul that envelopes you these days. So where have the muses gone? Have we become so cynical in the modern age that lest it be something we can identify as absolutely real before our eyes we take no note of it? Are the muses truly gone or have we simply become deaf and blind to their existence in favor of entities over which we have complete control? Are we no longer willing to surrender our senses to an abstract quality that we cannot control? Has our creative output over the modern era dulled as a result? I think so. Maybe it’s time to allow a little magic back in our lives and let the muses lead us where they will – if they’re even willing to have anything to do with us in these hardened times of hyper-realism.

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Repetitive Templates – The Days Of Our Lives

No matter how we loudly we proclaim that we are the sole beneficiaries of free will and thereby the most highly evolved of all species, the inevitable reality over which we have no control whatsoever is the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute. No matter where in the world we are, we have the exact same template to work with day in and day out from our first breath until our last. For some of us it may very well be the only consistent aspect of our lives upon which we can firmly rely without hesitation. Much more consistent than God, whose presence is unpredictable at best and whose very existence itself is debated at worst.

It’s interesting how through the centuries there has been so much obsession with lengthening life yet to my knowledge no one has ever dared take up arms against the one thing that imprisons us far more than any other aspect of our lives – the length of time in a day. We can’t lengthen the good ones or shorten the bad ones. No matter how badly we don’t want to awaken to a new one short of ending our existence altogether it will occur with or without our permission. They will link together one after another for all eternity with or without us. Tediously unmalleable despite even the grandest effort, it is the solid base from which even the minutest actions of our lives emanate and the total length by which our very lives themselves are measured.

Outliving Your Life

Every person is unique in terms of their “productive life”. We each have personal attributes that contribute to our immediate environment. Some are brilliant theorists, others are selflessly kind, some are wildly creative and some of us serve as catalysts for these others. Whatever our role it often occurs to me how some people seem to “check out” well before their lives actually expire. It’s like they have given their fill in life and now they are done. Yet their lives continue on. They aren’t really “present” in those lives, they’re just along for the ride until the organs give out, going through the motions.

There is no way to predict when this will happen. For some it is very early on in life, for others it never happens – they are fully engaged until their moment of expiration, although I think this phenomenon is quite rare indeed. Most of the time it is an unconscious uncoupling from the life force you once were. Only in cases of captivity or extreme illness are you consciously aware of being forced into a different type of isolation.

I suppose the saddest part is that there is no cure. Even if you want to recapture your previous essence you often find the world that you knew has left you behind and you’re no longer adequate for the one that is before you now.

Higher Powers

As supposedly one of the most sophisticated creatures on the planet, why do we have so little confidence in ourselves that many of us look to a “higher power” to guide us? Of course there is no way to know for sure, but it certainly seems that all the creatures large and small around us as well as flora and fauna do not look to “higher powers” for guidance in how to live their lives. Why do we need external justification for our actions? Is it cowardice that we don’t take responsibility for our own actions? Or are we so uncertain as to our purpose in life as to need guidance from somewhere else? If either or both of these are true then how can we claim to be the most superior form of life on earth?

Of course who is to say that there isn’t some kind of equivalent for other species as well? You never know, perhaps ants pick particular hills because they overlook sacred vistas that provide spiritual nourishment for their journeys ahead. Whether or not they consciously displace their choices in life to an outside influence would of course be debatable. After all how could you ever prove it? Perhaps through nothing more concrete than faith alone, repeating the possibility of its existence over and over again until like Pygmalion you make it come true through sheer will.

If we are indeed the only ones that turn to higher powers, how odd we must seem to all the other creatures in the world. How irrational and insecure. And yet we rule over them all.

Mirror Mirror In Your Eyes, Of What Do I Comprise?

I read a lovely passage in Gert Jonke in which a man no longer felt himself compelled to look into a mirror because he could clearly see himself in the eyes of his beloved. It made me wonder how different the world might be without vanity mirrors?

What if we concentrated on seeing ourselves through the eyes of others rather than our own? On a basic physical level chaos would not ensue because after all we would clearly know when our outfit didn’t match or our hair was a mess because you would get “that look” from strangers and friends alike. In addition, for women it would be much more taxing to apply makeup so it’s likely we would wear much less of it, instead having to rely on our natural beauty.

On an emotional plane, with the ability to focus so strenuously on our outer appearance removed I wonder if it would measurably change the amount we focus on developing our personalities? Instead of relying on the “smoke and mirrors” of makeup, dress and other appearance related nuances to differentiate ourselves from the masses we would have to shift our focus markedly towards how we are perceived via our manner of interacting with others – predominately through means of communication such as speech and body language. Might we be much more expressive having our true selves thrust out into center stage with the spotlight dead on us with no curtain behind which to loiter?

How much more might we concentrate on the eyes of others as well. Not just our beloved’s but those of complete strangers. As the famous phrase goes, the eyes are the gateway to the soul. Might we be more cognizant or at least curious as to its path in ourselves and others were we to have less fixation on our own outer façade?

Perhaps we should all cover our mirrors for a few days as an experiment, just as those in the Jewish community do when mourning the death of a relative – a tradition called Shiva. In a sense we could emulate a similar sense of sitting “Shiva” but in our case it would be a Shiva for vanity, not in a sense of mourning but in a sense of release from its bonds. We could then see how our projection of ourselves and our perception of others changes via internal reflection rather than superficial external ones created by conventional mirrors.

Why Do We Demonize Wanderers?

There is an interesting man who on occasion wanders about the streets of my neighbourhood. He is quite large in height and girth and typically wears lederhosen minus the traditional feather hat. In its place he opts instead for a Bolivian bowler hat and a huge backpack as one would wear hiking through the Alps on a very, very long journey. I have no idea where he resides or if he even has a place he calls home. He pops up along all sorts of back streets across a wide stretch of town at random times of year and in all sorts of weather conditions.

I happen to drive a canary yellow car. I love sunflowers and sunshine therefore I suppose my affinity for something other than the typical red, white or black monstrosity. I also have a little yellow chicken bobble head doll on my dashboard instead of dice. I love nature, not gambling.

The wanderer never reacts to or speaks to anyone. Yet every time I encounter him as I drive past him in my car he always looks up, makes direct eye contact with me and laughs. Not a laugh of madness, but of sheer happiness and delight at the oddity that my vehicle brings to an otherwise forgettable landscape. I think he actually looks forward to seeing me and I must say the feeling is mutual. His joy brings me happiness and despite the fact we will probably never exchange a word, I consider him a kindred spirit.

As the famous, terribly overused phrase goes – all who wander are not lost. All too often I hear people call those who wander, “crazy, deadbeats, probably a drug addict or a drunk”.

It’s interesting when you reflect on the reception of wanderers in the past. Those who went on quests were wise. Whether they were monks, explorers, or minstrels- those whose home was where they hung their hat were often amongst some of the greatest thinkers and entertainers of their ages. Many times the slightly or full on mad were even looked at as holy.

How would we receive some of these very same people today? Would we dismiss them because they didn’t fit into the pre-fab well labeled bottle? I can honestly say twenty years from now I won’t remember most of the so called “professional” people I encounter in my daily life. But I will always remember the giant man with the smile that lights up my world when I least expect it and need it the most.

Being Trapped In Your Own Story

Of all the freedoms that we have in this world the one that eludes us is the means to escape our own story. We cannot become someone else for even a second, cannot go back a few pages and edit what we messed up in our past, and cannot say with any certainty how long our chapter in the book of life will be – unless of course we extinguish our own life on purpose of course.

You cannot choose when you come into this world and via whom you come into it. Even your very appearance is something beyond your control. You can modify it certainly with makeup, contacts and clothes etc. but you will still be a product of genetics no matter how hard you try to mess with it. There will be something about you, even if it is very slight indeed, which will make you instantly recognizable to your family as belonging to them as something more than just an acquaintance.

So with all of these constraints, how can one make one’s story stand out from all the others in the stack of books? By our actions. We can insert ourselves into the stories of others through love, friendship, animosity, whichever path you choose. You will appear as a new character in the narrative of those you encounter as they will in yours. It won’t change your cover or number of pages in your book or theirs, but the narrative within will be all the more intriguing when plots develop over time.

Familiarity

You often hear people say how humans are the most egoistic of creatures. A fairly truthful statement I think. For all our ingenuity more often than not we still retreat to the familiar instinctively. Just look at your home. It has eyes (windows), a mouth (the door) and a backside that few pay any attention to – therefore its appearance is typically neglected. When you enter into it, you are in essence re-entering the womb. A place that is warm, safe (for the most part anyway) and nourishing (it’s where your food source is).

There is no logical, imperative reason why our homes should mirror ourselves. After all there isn’t a reason in the world why you couldn’t live outside. In most places it doesn’t rain all that often. Even if it does, you need only pull some sort of cover over your head like an extra head of hair. Yet we prefer to retreat into an almost identical, albeit larger scale model of ourselves.

Further evidence of our intrinsic awareness of “self” that appears in our everyday lives is how we measure things. Even with all the measurements we have how often do you find yourself saying, “he’s about this tall” (indicating with your hand the approximate location of the top of his head should he be leaning against you) rather than ” he’s xxx meters tall.” When cooking you say, “a pinch of salt” rather than “a gram”. When indicating the width of something it is common to outstretch ones arms as an approximation rather than indicate an exact numerical dimension. The list goes on and on.

It is rare in our everyday lives that we look beyond ourselves or others of our same species for reference points as to how our own lives should unfold. There are those that would argue that nature inspires us. Certainly it makes us feel good, but does it make us do good? Rarely I think. We never attempt to emulate nature anywhere near as closely or as often as we do ourselves or others close by.

Along similar lines, I saw a show on the history of science a while ago and it was said that when the microscope was discovered at first people were fascinated by this whole new micro world which they had never seen before. Then gradually and oddly enough they started to resent it. It was something beyond their perception, beyond their manipulation and therefore alien. And we all know from the circles of history how well we respond to new kids in the neighborhood no matter how good natured we think we are. Therefore aside from scientists the microscope itself never caught on as a fashionable hobby amongst the uninitiated.

We’re the least tolerant species on the planet when it comes to anything that is not defined as “us”. With little thought we destroy environments big and small. Everything from deforestation to stepping on a roach on purpose. In some cases we destroy one another, it’s true, but that is often accompanied by remorse on some level, at least among the sane. That’s the difference. It’s easier to dismiss what would be deemed as “not one of us” in a mirror.

Maybe the key to world peace is leaving our womb-like homes to live amongst the trees, caring for creatures big and small as we would ourselves and creating and relating to our environments by appreciating and applying non-human perspective rather than constant emulation of self as the rule of thumb. It’s a big step though, and given our evolution to date probably an impossibility until the species that will replace us comes into being.

The Singularity Of Senses

In order to heighten any one of your senses it always seems that you have to block all the others. You would think having been given five fully functioning senses that we could maximize them all at the same time. So why does it seem that while we use them all in tandem on a regular basis, if we really want to consciously maximize any one of them then all of a sudden we diminish the other four instinctively?

Perhaps this innate sense also explains why our most intimate relationships are only with one other person (well for most of us anyway), why we usually follow only one career path even though we may be suited to several different ones and why most of us ditched polytheism in favour of one and only one god. Even our news typically focuses on one regional tragedy at a time. At any given moment there are numerous wars going on around the world. Yet our headlines focus on one whilst ignoring the others. They do rotate from time to time but there typically isn’t equal coverage on more than one at any given moment.

I wonder how different our personal world view would be if we experimented with multiple maximization? Start off small, with just two senses. When walking down the street while concentrating intensely on every crack and crevice before you, concentrate just as deeply on the sounds around you no matter how remote. At some point maybe it would be possible to live a life with all five senses permanently maximized at once. Perhaps then and only then, with our awareness of the world around us maximized, could we truly be on the precipice of omnipotence and have the right to challenge the notion of god himself/herself.