Last night I dreamed I was learning how to make stained glass. I would render all my mandalas in glass, then embed them in the floor with lights underneath them. In fact I was making stained-glass light-boxes, for installing everywhere. I woke up with "We Two" by the Little River Band, circa 1983, running through my head.
Embedding stained-glass light boxes in a floor would be a difficult task, but not impossible.
This weekend, Danny told me very seriously that 'if you make art the center of your life, doors will open.' I took mild umbrage at this, since theoretically art HAS been the center of my life for the last eighteen years or so--and doors, such as they are, remain largely closed.
But upon taking a trip out to Red Hook to watch the boats, and thinking about it, I realized that committing to art, for me, has largely been about committing to the struggle of being an artist. I pick the hard tasks; I pick three impossibly hard tasks before breakfast. I pick impossible men. I pick impossible financial situations, albatross friendships, quixotic enterprises. I have not yet committed so deeply to the joy of making art.
Upon thinking farther, I realized that, wise as Danny is, he has it backwards. I cannot make art the center of my life; art as an end in itself is too flimsy, too temporal, too potentially trivial and ego-ridden. My center of narrative gravity must be spirituality. The art flows from that, not the other way around.
Do you remember that song, "We Two?" Sappy, sappy. The chorus:
Carousels and wishing wells were the things we lovedUpon waking I wondered, 'why is that running through my head?' The stained glass idea is neat, a real gift, but "We Two?" Where did that come from? Actually I'm not missing my lost love; the persistent memories of all the times my ex-boyfriend screamed at me for bagging the groceries wrong, criticized everything about me, tried to manipulate, control and force me into a dysfunctional, stunted little box, have completely overridden the happy memories of 'wandering the streets' holding hands. There is no "We Two" in my head, anymore. It's just me.
To fly away in a big balloon was what she talked of
More than that, "We Two" propounds a ridiculously childish notion of romance. Love is not about "carousels and wishing wells and big balloons," or unicorns and fields of daisies, either. It's about a force that motivates you to work through the hard stuff; it is the will toward growth and change.
All at once it came to me. If spirituality is not a person's center of narrative gravity, growing up is too terrifying to contemplate. Assuming personal responsibility in a world that you can't control is impossible, when you're not relying on anything besides yourself. Attaining maturity takes faith. This is why I stop working and become cranky, moody, and despairing when I stop meditating for a few days--I've stepped out of the flow. I'm disconnecting from the force that guides me, and connects me to the whole.
That's why my atheistic ex-boyfriend, and the emotionally damaged womanizer before that, and the assorted oddballs, perverts and narcissists before that, were all so controlling, compartmentalizing, and commitment-phobic. They were desperately trying to 'preserve the romance' by remaining children. They didn't want to risk tainting the wishing wells with a dose of sordid reality, so they shoved me in the happy-happy cupboard and commenced screwing around outside of it. They regarded any attempt of mine to integrate, to mature in the light of truth and intimacy, as a personal attack. We were operating from different paradigms of happiness.
Notice, here, that I'm not equating 'spirituality' with religion. That's the whip-hand that all the aggressive atheists and what-not hold over your head--that 'religion' equals rigidity, superstition, bigotry, and evangelism. Evangelism is particularly annoying because it's the equivalent of attempted thought control; the evangelist, with the most altruistic of motives, thinks he has a perfect right to get into your head and dictate what you think. A lot of my exes regarded my spiritual practice as though I were in a cult, no matter how much I quietly went about it without involving them; they seemed to think that I would spring out at them one day, pound them unconscious with an Old Testament and drag them off to Utah.
The irony of it is that true mystical spirituality is about coming to see that things are perfect, exactly as they are; it's about not trying to change or control anyone. Control is not a loving action; it's 'I love you BUT.' I love you BUT was what I heard from all those atheists, come to think.
This spiritual center of gravity hasn't made things any easier for me in the 'art world,' which is, in large part, ego-driven. At best, the notion of 'spirituality' is seen either as a Ghetto of Kitsch, or as a quirky, historical-context flavor-of-the-month, as in 'Serena's work references Buddhist mandala-making, within a contemporary, urban context.' Blah.
I think, though, that nearly all great artists are mystics in some sense of the word, even if only intuitively so. The sheer transformative energy of a great work of art cannot come about from mere ego motivation; it has to have the influence of the universe to bear upon it. It harnesses the force which moves mountains.
So anyway, 'lights in the floor' is a good metaphor for how I'm moving to structure my life, now. The light has to underlie and support every action I take, instead of being merely something high up on the wall that I'm looking at. I'm not sure I'll ever marshall the necessary resources to install a lighted glass floor in, say, the Whitney, but it's something to meditate on.