WHEELS HANGING OVER THE EDGE: ARE ALL ARTISTS (A BIT) MAD?
Updated: Oct 27
Always one of my favorite personal gifts
drawn for me by a talented psychologist friend,
Dick Boestler, after we met once.
My new favorite poet just discovered is Theodore Rothke (1908-1963). He's been called deep, on a ceaseless search for truth, striving to be accepted, and America's greatest poet.
No matter all that.
Rothke got it right in his poem “In a Dark Time:”
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
I particularly resonate to a phrase farther down in this remarkable poem: “My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,...”
And resonate as well, to this part of his lovely poem “Journey into the Interior:”
In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Indeed. In my life my wheels have definitely hung over quite a few edges...
I sometimes wonder why I am taken to flights of fancy about people and places? Why do I feel so strongly and as some opine, am “so sensitive” (“The day’s on fire!”–and so am I”)? Why do I so easily feel “heat-maddened” when I am attracted to music or to a musical or artistic or new friend?
Why do I like to travel to strange lands so much? Why am I so eternally curious about how someone gets to where they get or why they do what they do and like what they like? New York Times’ columnist David Brooks wrote a long essay about how to communicate well and ask questions to make connections (psychologists might call that the motivation to “attach”) and help others feel both good about themselves and valued (in the Sunday 10.22.23 Opinion Section).
But I’ve always asked questions and for some, far too many questions for their personal comfort! It’s a thin line to walk...
I had a friend once who knew me for some months of email conversations following two brief meetings. We had conversed widely about many topics and found correlations in a number of basic beliefs; I was no stranger. When I asked how he got to music school and chose the school he did, he responded to the effect that he was not going to tell me his “entire life story.”
But I hadn’t asked for that opus magnus! What I had done apparently, was reach a limit of some kind at which I cannot guess, but all I intended was to get to know him better and show interest in a focused topic we mutually loved: music.
I recognized his reaction; I’m shy sometimes about being known or showing myself, but usually not. When I value someone, I want to know (attach) more, not less. I want to reveal more, share more of who I am. If that is welcomed by the other person in the least little bit, then off I go to volunteer a new poem I have written, or describe a life experience or insight that has just occurred to me, or send on the URL to Youtube so they can listen to a piece of music that has captured either or both my keen attention/curiosity and/or adoration. I love receiving the same in return.
But I “sweat often” when I like someone. Am I interpreting their response correctly? Will they like me back? Will they be available to share things with me, especially things about which I feel passionate, delighted, or troublingly curious?
Sometimes my “shadow gets pinned against a wall,” and I lose -- I was just imagining after all. I was only inventing. But I am never, ever undervaluing the other person, or asking when I really don’t want to know, or desiring confidential information in order to gossip.
After all is said and done I never really want less than “The Full Monte.”* In life, music and art, I want it all, not half measures.
Perhaps that’s because I’m a bit mad as I observe most artists in any form of art, tend to be, even if each of us is mad in our own peculiar way, and mad to a greater or lesser extent.
I believe as Mae West did (my long-time hero feminist):
“Too much of a good thing is never enough!”
All poems are from Vol. II “Poetical Musings about Pianos, Music & Life"”
THE FULL MONTE
Don’t offer me a bone when I want a full steak.
Don’t give me some sprinkles when I ordered a cake.
Don’t grant me a nod or a sideways glance
when I want the “full Monte”* if you’ll just take the chance.
Don’t dance me a pavanne then hold me at bay
when what I yearn for is a tango today.
I’ve little time left to dilly about,
and no time to waste in muffling my shout
or speaking my piece in fair weather or foul;
for outrageous fun I’m always on the prowl.
So join me–or not, it’s your choice to make,
but for the rest of my life I’ll take the whole cake!
* The most common theory for the origin of this phrase
is that a purchase (especially that of a full three-piece suit)
from Montague Maurice Burton (1885–1952), founder of
Burton Menswear, was known as a "full Monty;"
HOW WE DO IT
How silly then, will be the man
who robs himself of experience,
seeking rules and a safety net,
forgetting about excitement.
And clueless, too, the woman, she
who denies her flights of fancy,
opting instead to seek the “expert”
rather than be free.
The both of them, so sad
when they miss the mark so far,
the net not safe nor leading to
a self-expressive art.
Takes both the rule and then
to exercise free choice,
the balance of them both required
to achieve the goal of joy.
REAL OR IMAGINED?
Our brain fills in what we perceive,
or at least we think we do,
a missing link we imagine there*
when the “fact” is just not true.
The Ponzo illusion is an example
of how our eyes deceive.
Other examples prove this well:
how often perceptions mislead.
Curious examples to be sure,
and some are truly sad,
like times I took a word or two
and extrapolated what was said,
then readily led in my fertile brain
to a state so easily aroused,
with passions awakened in my head
and thoughts of love so readily caused.
Flights of fantasy and poems ensued
connecting all the lines,
inventing an interest that wasn’t there,
encouraging me to be blind
and journey alone among the stars
and read their every word,
seeking out what I wanted to hear
in pursuit of the absurd.
The notes I readily added to
the score they might have played,
were melodies I thought I heard
but in truth, were not displayed.
A moment only, but not to be,
a connection no deeper than
one short moment that I shared
with these real–or imagined friends.
*“Be careful of something that’s just like you want it to be”
from “I’ve Always Been Crazy” by country singer Waylon
Jennings; what he said! Parasocial relationships with media stars
and influencers are an example.
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