An Essay of Poetic Prose Polemic and Purposeful Dilemma


stick, dung, feather and frond, westward ho! (pward 2011)

“I will act as if what I do makes a difference.” William James

overcast dawn in august, westward ho! (pward 2011)

Does what we do as artists, and people, really ‘make a difference’ or do our efforts just add to the mix – this malodorous milieu? Do our intimate expressions, our sensorial manipulations, actually matter in this evolutionary banter or are we simply talking to ourselves, spinning soporific tales in the totality, or more reasonably responding to our animal urges for dominance and power, for lifelong comfort and security, for love and acceptance and for procreative posterity and possibility? And can we, in any way or by any means, quantify our social resonance or assess an audience response to such paths of hopeful spiritual intent? Or maybe these rhymes and rhythms of our integrity just fall horribly and helplessly short upon the deaf and dunderfilled* ears…

There is a tendency, I have observed, a dimension of dynamic dialogic disbelief within this liberal western privilege to aim to obtain, and hence subsequently to protect, to conserve if you wish, a certain material and emotional stability, a heady, once felt, ecstatic moment in time, when we feel that all is right, all is how it should be – this moment must last forever! I believe it is known as ‘happiness’ – such temporal, accidental sensation that it is. This time of love, of healthful energetic endeavour, of beautiful belonging, of consequential denial, of freedom to thought and action, of smiling dancing feet, of sublime existential experience.

But then how, within our present knowing, our implicitly ecological responsibility, our ever-mutating animate reality, can such aspirations be ever permanently attained? And how, within this critical debate of all for one and one for all, of heroic altruism, of saving the world from our senseless selves may we honestly transform the interestingly vested status quo – the deliberate deadening of our personal purpose, the quintessentially quest-less longing for nothing new, for changeless monotony, for never ending mundainety? And how much longer can we allow or not, or suffice to say as such, that it does not matter, that such gloom and gruesome weight does not exist at all or that we are powerless even to lift the first stone?

 Joseph Beuys, I like America and America likes me, 1974;
fence – CONSTRAINT; a head full of daisies FREEDOM, northam burrows (pward 2011)

“Every human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives” Joseph Beuys

So, are we, as artists or humans, ever going to change this world for the good, to rescue ourselves and all that sail with us from the spinning-top socially derived mayhem? Do dear Joseph’s wholesome applications of his truthful wisdom sing solely to himself or totally transform, with tapping and much scratching ahoy!, our behavioural and perceptive persuasions? Can words and pictures and songs of love sing loud in Heaven’s halls? Or otherwise, which energetic entity or combination of such, what substantial form can deliberate upon our causal core? In essence if we can recognise a symptom might we trace it to its source and act to heal?

Once, I bodily traced and followed a blocked water pipe to its earthy spring and, through much chopping and digging, unravelling and redirection, it flowed again. So maybe this is proof enough. Our actions in this world do chant of change, do both good and ill, and at times, though incessantly indecipherable, in subtle manners and in blunt, do to their determinant and ramified end – we often have no say. With gentle action, of trim tab indeed, we may sway the world, of ripples and translucent wing, of hurricanes in tranquil spring, while all about us some do sing of a lost but returning king!? Take up thy sword for all is not lost! But then let us not digress into phantasmagorical metaphor away from such pleasing practical gesture, for what price is freedom and animate earthly accountability?

sunset bundle, northam burrows (pward 2011)

And now, henceforth such waxing lyrical abounds; the pointless purposelessness of this rave is simply to become, to alter and to emerge from one place in time to another. And if you have most diligently followed the fathomless insensitivity, the lackadaisical day dreaming of dawn, this sun rising on another day, which promises to be just another day, the mundane muse of alphabetic form, then you will be in a world so different from before. Not my world but a place of our belonging, a mutual sharing of this energetic universal drama – of earth and fire, of wind and water, of fluid spirit made real.

And so, in answer to my original quest – ‘does what we do make a difference?’ – we are maybe no nearer to a literal truth. But in the sense of all becoming we have entered upon a brief journey together, a rhythmic foray, a quick look around the field, a walk along the tall cliff top, the wind in our hair, the smell of sea, weight of pebble and our ambling reciprocation has influenced us in turn. Maybe not toward a perceptible end but certainly towards a perceivable means. Art is open to all who have the time, please. I will make my bed and then I will sleep in it. So I turn away again. I do not wish to speak to you but to promote an active sense of reading.

“After all, anybody is as their land and air is. Anybody is as the sky is low or high, the air heavy or clear and anybody is as there is wind or no wind there. It is that which makes them and the arts they make and the work they do and the way they eat and the way they drink and the way they learn and everything”

 Gertrude Stein

(*some place just south of Frome)

(PW 2011)


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