Of Silence and Solitude
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
Yes, yes, I know; it's the height of literary laziness to open with a quote by someone else. Shame on me. But it stumbled upon me quite by accident as I was wrapping up the editing on this beast of a blog, and the serendipity just begged to be shared. It will bear out, if you can hang in with me and my mad ramblings til the end.
I read a fascinating article the other day about scientism and the suicide cult of our modern tech culture. It was wordy, terribly long and really, really out there, but it was a scintillating romp through some pretty cerebral stuff, which is right in my wheelhouse. I like weird. I think you know that, by now. And I really, really like smart weird that crosses lines and forces me to examine things from new perspectives. If you do too, then you're in the right place.
You see writings along this vein more and more frequently now, it seems, as people struggle to find a balance with our dependence on the technologies that are now seamlessly welded within our identity as a people, and the malaise and dissatisfaction that this constant use of technology creates. All of them echo the same driving themes in some fashion or another; we are addicted to technology; the cult of science has replaced the cult of religion; the ever broadening scope of our ambitions are a death sentence for our environment; we are reducing our collective consciousness as a people to no more than shades of true being, slaves to our egos and pleasure centers. It goes on and on.
I don't think it's a coincidence that more and more of these writings are finding their ways into our stream of consciousness now, on the tail of Apple's launch of the new iphone x. In my humble opinion, I think (read: hope) that the sheer shock value that this new model's price tag carries may signal a critical breaking point in the bend of plausible inflation of profit margin for companies like Apple, who churn out these mobile technologies we all so desperately grasp at in our first world struggle to fill our empty spaces. I feel as though we've left the dime bag stage of the relationship, where the dealer finally takes the gloves off because they know we're hooked, and starts charging for the goods. We've had some pretty interesting debates in our household about whether or not this is finally it, where we as a society give up the pretense, and come to terms with hard truth that we might be blind consumer driven sheep that are just one mental step away from a Doctor Who episode, running around happily with implants in our ears, blissful in our complete connectivity, and ultimately docilely in harness to the machine of addict driven technology. I will not release the kracken of my crazy on you by allowing myself to get triggered and share how I really feel about a phone with this kind of price tag, and hearing normally intelligent, rational people making heartfelt arguments about how that's really a reasonable price for the technology that it contains. And how once again, the American populace allows itself to be taken in by the lure of affordable monthly payments for something we don't really need that will help us all do things that we don't really need to do.
Many people assume that my chosen craft implies a tendency towards Luddism. Sorry, but No. (Yes, I realize that last paragraph doesn't exactly help disabuse one of that notion. But nope!) While I admit that in my anarchistic youth I harbored a certain love of the thought of post acopocaylptica, children and the realities of life have cured me of any real yearning to churn my own butter, hand wash my clothes, or cook dinner for 6 with nothing but my wits and some wood. In fact, I love technology. I love how it buys back more and more room in our lives to allow us time to explore the softer sides of this business of living, and I love how modern advances and techniques have pushed the boundaries of my craft, most of all. I especially love how it allows me to sit and wax philosophical on a machine that can actually keep up with the sonic speed of my hummingbird brain while my kids stream cartoons instead of whining at me for more snacks.
What I don't love is the constant hum and intrusion that our technology creates, and the demand that it has on my calm; my sense of solitude, that I've come to realize is a really critical ingredient for my creative headspace.
So this article got my brain jumping, contemplating what qualifies as healthy use of technology and unhealthy dependence, and what qualifies as healthy stimulation and where the line crosses to sensory overload and chaos. Where do we draw the line between enhancing our life and impairing it?
You see, over the past two weeks, I've started at least three blog entries, and dumped all of them. I've started and scrapped so many new yarns for my winter collection that I've honestly lost count, I've got at least four that I want to start but just can't conceptualize, and I've deliberately dodged deadlines for two near and dear projects that I've invested enormous amounts of time into already, and put them in jeopardy of not being realized. Yes, I'm working through a pretty ugly blockage.
I've been out of sorts, with myself, my children, and my partner. And I have no idea why. Call it the normal ebb and flow of the creative brain, the feast/famine cycle of the artisan, or good old fashioned malaise, but it's not a good scene here. And throughout all of this painful fucking angst, as I struggle to birth whatever it is that won't come out, I find myself obsessively scrolling my Facebook feed ; checking my email; responding instantly to my Instagram notifications. So, what gives? I am conscious enough to note my disconnect in passing, but not enough to detach from the cycle and divert that energy into something REAL.
So when this article be-bopped its way across my periphery, it set some neurons firing. And one thing that really stood out was the idea that we are surrounded by a multitude of technology that we don't even perceive as tech. Like Language. As in, language itself is a technology. Now, to the more enlightened or more broadly read than humble I, this may be old news. But this little nugget of philosophical nourishment made my brain feel like my 3yo feels when he gets a new Transformer.
Language was our first "hack," if you will, that we created as a means to better navigate the physical world that our bodies have an visceral, nonverbal relationship with. It allowed us to distill our profound experiences into a predictable, congruous system that could then be then translated and connected with another person's same system of expression, thereby making our day to day functions easier. It gave voice and power to the ego, our internal operating system. And by using that technology, we turned our authentic, silent, visceral connection with physical space that we inhabit into something intangible and cerebral. In this flexible form, that solid experience could be manipulated and expressed and communicated to another being, also struggling to quantify their own same experiences with the physical world that our bodies are an inextricable part of.
And while this is a good thing, of course, since it's the birth of storytelling, and shared music and civilization and all the things that ARE, I think if one wanted to be a real pain in the ass, and distill that down, one could argue that in creating that language; that technology, that allowed us to share outwardly with each other, it was also the first baby step in our disconnect from the inner world of our psyches.
This in turn got me thinking...art is essentially a way to refract and disseminate a person's physical experience through the lens of emotion, and use a medium of expression in order to do it. When we allow ourselves to get lost in the noise of the technological babble of the world around us, we lose our connections. And when we pause to consider language as part of that category of techno babble, we realize that both outside and within, we are lost. Drowning in external stimuli, and adrift in that noisy babble of our own egos, vying for our attention in our intimate of intimates, being lost in all that technological white noise creates a veil. A veil standing between us and a connection with the world that we really, truly exist in.
When we allow that veil to descend, and lose the ability to root down and feel, truly connect, thereby losing our authenticity, and in turn, our ability to create...when we've allowed that to happen, what's left for us to do? I know what I've been doing to myself - the easy path. I succumb to stagnation and set myself adrift in the loop of easy translatable stimuli - language. All the egoic masturbation one could want or need is delivered 24/7 non stop whenever we want it, into the palm of our hands through our physical technologies.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I think this might be a big part of why so many of us are so miserable right now. Because isn't connection and understanding what all this ridiculousness we call living is all about? Seeking and finding what moves us, and raises us above all the noise, and connects us with something or someone else - something deeper within ourselves, another person, or something higher than our own consciousness? We all want to give truth to our experience. But we're hiding behind all this extra layer of ego construct. Safety in white noise, like the comforting noise machines you buy for baby's nursery. It's all a false connection. It's all around you, but only surface; an inauthentic connection. We want more. On some level, we know that what we need is solitude and silence in order to facilitate a real connection. I simply can't be the only one.
But here's the rub.
What if your guttural, visceral, physical experience with your world, your inner landscape, what I like to call my emotional muscle memory, is really, really ugly?
What if the experience hiding underneath your safe, comforting babble is really dark and gritty, and raw, and full of damage? What if the only means of achieving that goal of an authentic connection is exposing yourself to pain? On purpose? Cause, yeah...that's always so much fun. Right?
Well, then. If art is an expression of our silent experience, and craft is a process that provides a conduit with which to express and give voice to that silence through the use of our hands and technology, then the marriage of those two is a very powerful way to connect, and help heal the wounds we carry back from the dark. I can use this process to circumvent the flat, inadequate technology of language, and find communion with others who are searching for the same understanding, but who don't know any better than I how to ask for it. There really is truth in the saying that what we are seeking is seeking us too.
For me, as I grow and evolve, I have less and less faith in the spoken words that we exchange, and find more truth in the connections that our eyes make, and what we say when we are at a loss for words. I find that I want to part the curtains and explore the dim recesses of the backstage that connects us all, through the silence and the dark places that we all share; what Jung and students of the tarot refer to as the archetypal knowledge. In letting go of the security of black and white, and the constant litany of narrative, I am discovering an entirely new way of looking at my world, and myself. And I am in love with all of it all over again, especially the nameless currents that I can see now that were beyond my grasp before, that were lost beneath the babble. Yes, it's really, really messy, and terribly confusing (for just about everybody - ask husband). Yes, it's wonderful, and liberating, too. But I get overwhelmed, and I need to keep reminding myself that healing is not a linear process.
So you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to SHUT UP. I'm turning off my laptop, and the TV, and I'm going go for a walk in the woods. We are going to go silent. I'm going to lose myself in the beauty of the woods in November - the stark barren savage beauty of the woods as it really is. I'm going to let my body get really, really cold, and glory in how it directs my focus outwards and upwards. I'll lay down and take some time to notice the different shades of silver and light and blue all churning and boiling within those clouds that would have just looked gray on my way out the door to do the next thing on my never ending list of things to do. I'll take my shoes off and delight in the cold crunchy dying leaves and icy dirt just beneath them, and maybe walk around a bit until they hurt and I have to come back inside. I'm going to just sit and contemplate the last of the golden leaves clinging to the lonely guardian maple outside my living room window, and how they shine against the backdrop of the last of the autumn sunshine. I'll watch for that magic moment when the clouds part enough to make them "pop" against that brilliant patch of blue sky that I'm sure is just lying in wait where I can't see. I'll watch - really truly notice - how the empty branches of my dying ash trees twine up into the open like snakes, and how many different colors are actually in a dead brown branch. I'm going to go dark, and just be. I will commune.
Then, when I'm finally empty and silent, I'm going to do my very best to sit with this profundity, and imagine how to translate that feeling into something that I can share without the annoying babble of my inner voice, and take that to the wheel. I'm going to make, and as the fibers draw through my fingers and I adjust the set of my wrist and the speed of my treadle foot, I'm going see how to go about translating these visceral experiences and feelings into something that someone else can touch and feel and appreciate.
I dive into the dark, and swim in solitude to sustain myself, and I am revived. I make; I draw my silent world forth through my hands, and give it substance and form, and in that act I am made whole again.
Because I am a maker, and this is what I do. Like one of those invincible broken tea pots held together with veins of gold, I am mending myself over and over again by diving into my solitude. And through my silence, I find my power again.
And you know what? I'm slowly finding a tribe of people who are feeling the same thing. There are a lot of us tiptoeing around back here in the dark. If you're nodding your head right now, and not shaking it wondering why the hell you're still wasting your time reading these ramblings of a madwoman, you might be one of my people.
And when you see me at Carolcade next month surrounded by a gorgeous new winter collection, you'll know I made it out and through. And maybe you'll buy some, and take it home, and use it to make something out of the pieces of yourself, and in this way, we can work together to make our experiences in this mad, loud world a little more genuine, a little more true, and help one another find our way. One fierce victory at a time. So here's to the lovely spaces in between, and all the beautiful makers out there that walk them.