It’s half past midnight on Sunday. I’m having one of those days of magical energy that I get maybe once every six weeks. There’s no accounting for how it comes about, the only response one could have is gratefulness when it comes.
I went to bed last night after one, woke up at seven, went back to sleep for what I thought would be just another hour or so but when I did wake up it was one in the afternoon. I had slept twelve hours!
Maybe the body was making up for the previous two days when I shorted myself on sleep but I think it has more to do with some mysterious cycle in the brain related to energy and creativity. Energy goes up and down, like circadian rhythm but that is more lunar in both scope and length. I liken these cycles to the cycles of a woman’s fertility that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, the tides and the tilting of the planet on its off-center axis.
Whatever it is the phenomenon has always intrigued me. I wish I could predict when the cycle goes up so I could accept when it falls but maybe it is simply the human condition that we go must through these ups-and-downs willy-nilly. Change is essential to our nature, essential to the very nature of what ancient god-believing peoples called “Creation.”
When energy awakens like this I feel a cornucopia of possibilities. There are countless things I want to do and doing them feels absolutely feasible. The feeling is fantastic because I also know there aren’t enough hours in a day, years in a lifetime, to do them all. Maybe the lesson it pushes me to learn is how accomplishment is not the high point of my life but that all possibilities exist within but I am not the sole realizer. No one owns possibilities; we borrow what we can but the totality belongs if they belong at all to all living things, through multitudinous aeons of lives.
In the ancient Chinese collection of aphorisms we know today as the Tao Te Ching (“Book of the Way and the Power”), the very first section refers to this profound mystery:
- The Way that can be spoken of
- Is not the Way;
- The name that is named
- Is not it.
- The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;
- The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
- Rid yourself of desires to know its secrets;
- Allow yourself desires to see its manifestations.
- These two are the same
- But differ only in how we call them.
- Being the same they are called mysteries,
- Mystery upon mystery –
- The gateway of the manifold secrets.
(I have modified the 1963 translation of these verses by D. C. Lao based on the many translations into English that I’ve studied through the years.)
The Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing in modern Pinyin) is the equivalent of the Bible in China’s indigenous mystical religion, Taoism. It does not speak of God as instigator of the “ten thousand things” as the Torah and many other Middle Eastern scriptures do. It goes instead into the heart of what fascinates men and women through untold ages: the nature of being and how it is manifested in our experience.
The part of this mystery that most concerns us as artists is the nature of creativity, bringing forth out of chaos something that we can name, a product of our living force that others likewise can experience. To create something of beauty or truth is to enact what deists believe God himself does – bringing forth from nothing something.
To create is to cut a piece of seamless reality that our senses see it as a piece apart from the Whole though in reality it never leaves its mother, the mother of the ten thousand possibilities. As humans all we do is borrow for a moment what we can never own but in the magic of desire we name and call it our own.
As indeed it is when we come to realize we too are a part of the Nameless although having learned Words we come to believe we know and therefore exist. Just because we give it a name does not change what it really is ; Reality defies our meager attempts at understanding.
So we work at creating Art or Literature or Science or Philosophy; we put our hearts to work and materialize possibilities – because it is in our nature. We act in finite time with infinite hopes.