The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Jennifer Blessing, a curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, has said that “artists pursue various methods of liberating the mind in order to access the marvelous.” We are all looking for ways to widen our lens of perception so that we can be more alive. The Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley declared in the 1950s that form follows content. And so we keep searching for forms of expression that will open and liberate the confines of our mind, so we can access and inhabit the marvelous. What we do to find the form that keeps us close to life constitutes the craft of perception.
For me, the craft of perception has led to an all-inclusive form that uses the genres as various tools in one big toolbox. While each genre is worthy of a lifetime’s devotion, I have been led to use each as needed in whatever I’m writing, no matter what I’m exploring or expressing. So, all my work is poetry, whether in stanzas or paragraphs, because all my work seeks to express the truth of life through the filter of my heart. And all my work is personal memoir, because the lens of the “I” is the only window we have on life. And all my work is anthropology, because the world is always more than just me. If I need to do research while describing the patterns of life, then I pursue scholarship. If I need to unfold the story of another’s life along the way, then I include biography. If I need to illustrate an insight in the form of a story, then I rely on fiction. And if I’m led to weave ideas, then I venture into philosophy. But it all merges into one vibrant, seamless form, which I have no name for.
Each of us must find the one form that will welcome the questions that will liberate our mind. That form and the path to that form may look different for everyone. But there is one practice that can help us find our form. That is the practice of honoring. For the word honor means “to keep what is true in view.”
To keep what is true in view is an ethic to live by. When I honor you as a friend, I keep what I know to be true about you in view, especially when you can’t honor yourself. When I honor myself, I keep what I know to be true about my soul in view, especially when I am troubled or feeling lost. When I honor the lineage of my ancestors, I keep what I know to be true about all those lives which have made my life possible. Keeping what is true in view is a steadfast way to expand our perception and liberate our mind.
A Question to Walk With: So what question is opening you? What form are you searching for that will liberate your mind? And how can you better honor your soul by keeping what you know to be true in view?
This excerpt is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light (Sounds True).