Category Archives: creativity

Elaborate Masks

via Daily Prompt: Elaborate

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An elaborate Renaissance Ball Mask. The masks were elaborate, but so was the ruse, an attempt to create mystery and tension, the possiblility of romance or illicit liasion. The masquerade was a feature of carnival season of 15th century Europe. In time masks became works of art. They were made of diferent materials, and bejeweled, like the one in the photo.

The masks we put on every day are not bejeweled, but they are clever, intricate, and very elaborate. If you want to read an early understanding the human mask, then Shakespeare is the one to read, and in particular, the ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Psychologically, masks are a form of protection, we tend to mask anger, grief, anxiety, fear, a sense of failure, feeling like a fraud, needing to be the hero, the great intellect, and so on.

I have worked with people who use humour to mask what they perceive in themselves as a lack of sophistication. Others have thrown around biting sarcasm in order to keep others at bay. Some it is fear of success, so they play the incompetent. I have had the experience of never really knowing someone, at a funeral once I heard so much about someone I thought I knew, only to discover they had protected so much of their lives from public scrutiny, a compartmentalising. On another ocassion, when I was going through a difficult time, some said “I thought you had it all together” (like, really!!).

If we’re angry we may resort to condemnation, if we are grieving we might project happiness or amusement, anything but what we’re really feeling. That might be important at certain points in our lives, a boundary. But when it becomes avoidance, deception, fear, then we risk burying our true selves and others may never really know us. Even to the point that well entrenched masks become who we are. The question is, what are we trying to hide and why?

Jung developed the idea of the persona, the person we wanted others to know as ourselves, but not our true self.

I love this unattributed quote: “She threw away all of her masks, and put on her soul.”

That says it all. To dispense with the lie, the deception, which is really self-deception at best, the fear, and embrace our true selves, the raw self, the truly beautiful self. Created, bejeweled physical masks can be creations of great beauty. But the one who lives their true self, nothing could be more beautiful. We often use the phrase “warts and all”, meaning even our less good parts can be seen, our less succesful, less socially acceptable selves can be seen, yet this is healthy. The first step on the road of recovery is to know that we are never going to be perfect. And once we let go the ego, then masks become redundant because there is nothing to protect.

To put on our soul is to let go and find the juice of our lives and let that flow.

When we put on our soul, we are truly beautiful.

Hiding in layers
the weapons of deception
my real is naked

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under art, creativity, Haiku, history, life, love, mindfulness, poetry, psychology, quote

Mallet of Healing

via Daily Prompt: Mallet

Camille Saint-Saens is credited with the first use of mallet percussion in an orchestra in 1874.

The video is a performance piece by the famed percussionist Evelyn Glennie and guitarist Fred Frith (he of Henry Cow) improvising in a vacant factory. Glennie is internationally noted for her use of mallets, the striking sticks used to play a number of instruments like the marimba and the zylophone. Glennie is stunning to watch in concert, and what makes it more intersting is that since she was twelve, she has been profoundly deaf. Which goes to show that what we might consider as a barrier, a disability, an impediment or block may not necessarily be so. Glennie is on record (see her TEDx talk, also on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=383kxC_NCKw ) as saying that deafness is misunderstood, and that she used other parts of her body to learn to listen.

In a twist of irony, the malleus or hammer shaped bone is a part of the ear, which for Glennie, is parallel to her work in percussion. The musical mallet is used to strike an object, an instrument, in order to create a vareity of sounds that will be heard. The act of striking is an intentional process, persistent, rhythmic, hopeful, that a sound will be yielded by wood, skin, or metal, that can be heard.

I am struck (no pun intended) by the idea, and the reality, that you can train yourself to listen with different parts of the body. Some of this we know – in some forms of meditation we are learning to listen with the heart, and also the body as a whole. Music can evoke a range of emotions too that enable us to listen deeply and with different parts of the body, the skin included. My heart races with some music, whereas with some other types of music my heart is overcome, other music makes me warm, or gives me goosebumps, sometimes I have different feelings around pieces of music, for me there is always a bodily reaction. For the musician it can be an ecstatic response, have you ever noticed of someone who is playing an instrument just how emotionally connected they are with what they are playing?

Clearly, if you have a passion for something, then that can sometimes help you overcome difficulties in order to follow and achieve that passion. And passion opens the door to the heart. Besides, we commit more to what we really love and enjoy most. If you have a passion for something, your heart is already deeply engaged, so that it is not just will power or intellect that drives you. Music also has an advantage in this as it is considered to be healing in its own ways.

How I see it, we need to open our hearts to that which can move and transform us, to find that which potentially heals us. We need to get in touch with what our passions are, and we need to deeply listen with out bodies. As passion strikes at our heart, just like percussion mallets, the door to healing and creativity opens, then, who knows what can happen? For Evelyn Glennie, percussion was a way to both listen, and to be creative, and in spite of her profound deafness.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Shine On You Cranks

via Daily Prompt: Crank

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I found cranks fascinating. They have the role of enabling movement in an engine. I really enjoyed drawing one in my high school art class, there was something about the smooth, machined metal, the shadows, its inherent strength, and above all, the fact that it was oddly shaped, offset. I used to see them as bent out of shape. Which is part of the the word’s origin: from the middle low German it gives us wrinkle, and in Dutch it gives us crinkle. So that out of shape look is also the origin of its name.

Of course there are parallels in human behaviour. If you’re labelled a crank it might be that you’re grumpy, or that you have very strange ideas, or behaviour.

What I get from that is that we’re all a bit of a crank. Ever since the 70s we have accepted that we’re all on a spectrum, no one is perfect, and we all have some behavioural oddities, imperfections, obsessions, phobias, anxieties … who hasn’t had some wacky idea they’ve clung too, who hasn’t exhibited weird behaviour at some point – and who are you to say you haven’t? By whose measurement or definition can you evade the spectrum of life?

So, there are two sides to crank, we have both the capacity to drive something, to turn something, and we have the capacity to be difficult, grumpy or odd. At our core we’re all a bit bent, but yet it is our very bentness that gives us possibilities.

Some famous creative types who were also deemed a bit odd, and who also fascinated me would include Byron, Shelley, The Earl of Rochester – John Wilmot, Baudelaire, Pushkin, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Newton, Poe, Hemingway, Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett … the point being, that sometimes their quirks, oddness, and bentness enabled their creative juice to flow (and sometimes the reverse or both).

You may remember the 2001 movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ based on the real life story of 1994 Nobel Prize winner and mathematical genius John Nash. Nash suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and was unwillingly institutionalised several times. He slowly recovered with help, and returned to teaching at Princeton. Nash wasn’t bent in the sense that Byron was bent, but he was not like other people, and in that sense he was of a different order, yet a genius and great contributor to understanding maths.

One of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read is of a woman who battled with schizophrenia when everyone thought it was MS. Elyn R. Saks (‘The Centre Cannot Hold’ London, Virago, 2007) pushed through ilness, institutionalisation, misdiagnosis and more to become a lawyer, and a psychiatrist. It is a truly heart rending story, but also a wonderfully inspiring story.

All of the above were thought to be cranks in the plain sense, that they were just a little mad, and in some ways they were/are. But most simply suffered from a variety of physical and mental ilnesses, which, today, we know is not a barrier to anything (except our judgmentalism perhaps). And, as I stated at the begining, we’re all on some spectrum, along with all of them, so who are we to judge? We’re all a bit mad, a crank, odd in some way. But we all have capacity to shine, to create, to contribute in the simplest ways where we are, sometimes in spite of the things that dog us, and sometimes because of the very things that dog us.

Syd Barrett (1946 – 2006), musically talented, sadly succumbed to psychadelic drug usage, to the point that the other members of Pink Floyd removed him from the band in  The four part song ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ was written to honour Barrett, who had enabled Pink Floyd to move, to create and develop their own style. A truly creative crank.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Songs Lift My Soul

via Daily Prompt: Song

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In 2013 The Bridgetown Cidery became home to a regular Folk Music Night, where local artists performed both solo and together as a band. In the Photo above we have Daun on percussion, a woman whose name I sadly can’t remember, Mary Myfanwy (who has her own solo career), and Adrian Williams (who can play a number of string instruments) who was a catalyst for the venture. This was taken July 2014 when I was still living in the town. I regularly attended these events because I love folk music, and on occasion there’d be something from the archive of Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention, among others. It was a fabulous time.

When I was around three years old, I have a distinct memory (I can still locate myself by a song, even my mood at the time on some occasions) of the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan (who I met in 1978 in Perth) and I have ever since had a soft spot for folk music of many kinds. My mother always had the radio on, BBC of course, and through those long English winters, trapped indoors, it was wonderful to be able to listen to music of all kinds. Fats Domino, Lonny Donegan, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Tom Jones, The Platters, Gene Vincent, Sam Cooke and more became known to me by their songs, it would be some years later that I would identify the songs by those who sang them. I loved music, I loved participating too. As with all children I was in the school “orchestra or band” I played the triangle, and eventually graduated to tambourine. I sang in a church choir for a time as a child, but when my voice broke it was deemed better that I not do that anymore 🙂

The sixties music had a profound effect on me. Who could ever deny the impact of the Beatles, but so many good songs and the bands who brought them into being.

My school band days migrated to the Australian school system where everyone was expected to learn to play the recorder (which drove my teachers and my Parents mad)  and every class had a singing session weekly to learn songs. I loved it all. I never did learn to read music, and for a brief moment in time I started to learn to play bass guitar, and was in a couple of attempted start-up bands. I did write some songs, but found I was a better poet than a straight up song writer. It was all good fun.

When I was in my teens, music, like reading, was a great escape, and I found music could also lift my soul, that hasn’t changed, it still does. I have my favourite songs, but I have a broad love of music and genre, from from folk to pop, blues to rock, gospel to hip hop, and classical and jazz. I have really enjoyed fusion, and the collaboration between cultures as pioneered by people like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, George Harrison, and including Robert Plant, and many others.

I find music affects me body, mind and soul. There are some songs or pieces that bring me goose-bumps, and ecstasy, others are deeply meditative, some energising.

Even the very serious Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

I agree, it would be a tragedy. But thankfully humanity is creative and expressive and we have a vast body of ever growing work to choose from. I wonder what your favourite song is? Perhaps like me you find it hard to choose just one. For me, in this moment, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin” In 1964, it was a very real song, an anthem. But now it is more – it is my constant hope.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Disrupt Yourself

via Daily Prompt: Disrupt

There’s a whole movement out there that began a few years ago. Some names you may be familiar with are Jay Samit or Whitney Johnson, their TEDx Talks are well known in business circles. These talks on disrupting yourself are mostly applied in the context of marketing, designing, entrepreneurship, or general business leadership. Kate Canales, another TEDx presenter, does give another slant (and with good humour too), that the change we bring to our lives is indicative of potential in all areas of our lives.

Disrupting ourselves is not simple, we are creatures of habit. Who enjoys change? (Well, actually I do, mostly) Most people find they enjoy routines and patterns, I must confess I find many routines deadening. Though it is true to say, no one could sustain unrelenting change, that would equate to chaos, nihilism. Research shows we used to enjoy set television viewing patterns, now we choose online, delay or download. Work used to revolve around set timetables. Study was a regime or intent. Some of these things have been disrupted as technology has changed how we work and study, and whether we watch Netflix or still hire DVDs or watch TV. Over Fifty years there has been a dramatic shift in values and expectations, rights, and social behaviour. Point is, we are often forced to change, we rarely choose to change. The point Canales is making is, we will be presented with opportunities of all sorts for innovation and change, but what will we do?

Canales and others are simply trying to encourage us to look at ourselves and to be prepared to take those chances and risks that are at our core – our passions, driving force, creativity, desire, gift, and go for it. Must we wait for change to be forced?

When we disrupt ourselves, we break patterns and routines, past mind maps and the like, we set ourselves free. A sobering quote I’ve loved for years says it well: “A rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.” (attributed to Earl Nightingale) Life is to be embraced, engaged, and lived into in all the mess we are and all the potential we offer. When was the last tine you made a change in your life?

But perhaps disruption and change are not what they seem anyway. Carl Jung said: “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” This was popularised through Chaos Theory, that all disorder has an explanation. And isn’t that why we say, “It was meant to be” when strange or unplanned things happen, recognising that there is indeed something ordered even in disruptions, changes, or chaos? Isn’t that why we say “It’s a crazy world” recognising we don’t have complete power over everything? If there is no default control switch, no default pattern, what are you waiting for?? Disrupt yourself and set a new course.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Luminescent Heart

via Daily Prompt: Luminescent

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(Photo: http://www.wallcoo.net)

When I was a child, we often suffered from power cuts, either by striking workers or storms. I didn’t begrudge the workers their rights and I thought storms were awesome, and so candles, and paraffin, or kerosene lamps would be lit. It changed the whole night’s activity, and for us as kids it was just fun, we built blanket cubbies, played hidey games, camped around the wood fire, or played board games by candle light. I never forgot the capacity of one candle to dispel the darkness, the single wick, luminescent, warm and glowing would light a whole room.

We too light a whole room when we have that inner glow of humility, grace, compassion, love and forgiveness. The heart when loving is luminescent. I’ve met many enlightened people along the way, and the reminder they impart is that we can glow when we are self-focussed but not self-centered, yet no one is perfect, but we still glow.

Light also helps us. The late Leonard Cohen put it beautifully when he wrote (Anthem): “Ring the bells that that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” That way we shine in the world. If we let light in, we share it.

There are different types of light, spiritual, philosophical, scientific, goodness, selflessness, sacrificial, knowledge … but the real light, the primary light,  is love. Love shines, glows in the darkest places and moments of our lives, it nurtures us when received, and strengthens us when given. Such love is gift not possession, it is unattached, free of expectation, lacking judgmentalism and power. It seeks to heal and make whole. It shines, glows, even when we are broken, and that’s the best bit.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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The Efficient Inefficient

via Daily Prompt: Inefficient

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I think there are different types or contexts for inefficiency. I get worried about any inefficiency around protecting the environment. Protecting water, soil, air, all life forms are for me, absolutely vital. I get annoyed when I see leaking garden reticulation, those who flaunt the water restrictions, those who ignore recycling, the use of plastic, and so on.

I think too, that government agencies are amazingly inefficient, but that is not always unhelpful 😀

But in a sense, efficiency is a construct. If efficiency is about cutting waste that endangers life then I’m all for it. But, if efficiency is about productivity and profit, then no, I’m not too concerned. Capitalism drives economic efficiency, well, a type of economic efficiency, and one I’d prefer not to be too enmeshed with. If you go back to the works of Charles Dickens, you discover a world of cruel and base living in order to survive the machine that is economics, the drive to produce more and produce more efficiently. And, has anything changed since Dickens’ time? This form of economics has sucked the life out of our planet, it has weakened our politicians who have no resolve to confront the power of production, it has duped us into brand lust, and it has lied to us about the benefits. It is our addiction. So, the idea of efficiency for the sake of money – especially someone else’s money, which in fact becomes environmentally inefficient, is not attractive to me.

But in capitalism there is also a brutal twist, it becomes efficiency at the expense of life. Productivity becomes life threatening. Tar sands, the destruction of fracking, oil spills, pipelines burst, trees lost, water lost, homes lost … if you have a strong stomach then follow this link to watch the controversial commercial (banned from cinemas in the UK) from 2011 about Conflict Minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The commercial, which is aptly called “Unwatchable”, is rated 18+, it is violent, unpleasant, and disturbing, but that’s why they made it – to confront us with our culpability in the conflict and forced labour in the DRC. There is still a petition available to sign with it –  Unwatchable

When I think of inefficient, I connect very strongly with what writer Brenda Ueland says in the quote above. It says to me, very clearly, that efficiency/productivity is not advantageous, it stifles our thought, our creativity, our imagination. I’ve had a few superiors in my working life who have been wise, and have urged that it is better if I have times where I am less productive, but am more mindful, more imaginative. I know that if my life is too full, I am creatively stifled. Equally, if there is no balance in my life, I become unhealthy, body, mind and soul. I am less mindful, and just driven. Those around me can testify to the ugly nature of that. Then I become inefficient in health, in relationships, in work, in creativity.

For me life is not about perfection, efficiency, productivity. They are often based on external forces, expectations, learned behaviour, dependency, drivenness, greed … For me, life is about taking time, awareness, noticing, attending, loving, imagining, and sharing compassion – if I am to be efficient, I want to be efficient and productive in those positives for the good of all. Imagine if we were all efficient in that way, it could just change the world. In short, I want to be the efficient inefficient!

Paul,

pvcann.com

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