In Search Of The Miraculous / lighting up the sky

“….a riddle’s just the thing for a dreamer…” Tom Waits.

Not an easy thing, to talk about ‘the miraculous’ without irony. It exists, however you want to define it or refer to it, and we all, in our own way, seek it. And we all have our own version of what it means, which is miraculous in itself, that one concept can survive and in fact be enhanced by having six billion possible meanings, and probably more ways than that of finding it.

We’re human; aren’t we all really looking for the miraculous, one way or another? We might not call it that, but whether we look for it in love, religion, sex, dancing or reality TV, or maybe all of the above, maybe all at the same time, it’s what being human is all about. We need something beyond ourselves, which by the way, just to help you out, is usually found within us. We just need help bringing it to light, if we’ve gone into the darkness to find it, which, being human, we often do, especially as writers, artists, dancers, dreamers and other holy and degenerate chroniclers of the human condition.

“I tell you that I wanna go, but I wanna stay…” The Ahn Trio.

Hubert Selby Jr has words quoted elsewhere in this blog about the risk of not coming back from that darkness. Transforming yourself emotionally in the name of art can be dangerous. You can read that figuratively, emotionally, psychologically, or simply literally. Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader vanished at sea while attempting to complete his enigmatic work, In Search Of The Miraculous. Even back in 1973, it was meant with ironic detachment. It was to be comprised of photographs of a walk through Los Angeles from the freeway to the ocean; photographs from a similar trek in Amsterdam, and details from the Atlantic crossing he undertook, just him in a small boat, the solitary journey during which he disappeared. The Los Angeles photos are evocative in their directness, William Eggleston by way of Weegee. Each one is accompanied by a lyric fragment of a song by the Coasters’ (“I’m searchin’, I’m searchin’ every which way…”) and what could have been mundane and everyday is now something other, something more. It’s simultaneously a deconstruction and a celebration. They coexist, and their coexistence is essential for the miraculous. Like lovers. Transcendence can only occur from opposition.

“All I want is what you got… I know I’m gonna lose myself this way…” The Ahn Trio.

It doesn’t really need saying at this point, but let’s say it anyway: the miraculous is everywhere, and often shows up when you’re not even looking for it. It’s re-watching the first twelve episodes of Californication and realizing all over again how deftly the irreverence sits with the emotional body blows, the brutal human truths. It’s watching a dancer called Kayla Jenee Radomski from a place called Aurora delivering a wrenching performance to the Ahn Trio’s All I Want, lighting up the sky with moves drenched in wanting and loss and desperation that remind you exactly what it feels like to hurt for someone. It’s watching a performance like this and realizing that writers just have to grasp that sometimes words just aren’t even close to being enough to compete with the eloquence of the body. It’s seeing your lover smile for the first time as your lover. It’s seeing your lover smile for the three thousandth time, and still feeling it light you up. It could be a first kiss… or the last kiss… slow-fading memories of how it used to be, or what could have been… or knowing how things could be. Or breathing clean air on a bright shiny morning and for once, not feeling any pain.

“…why’d you have to wait, where were you, where were you?” The Fray.

‘The miraculous’ can be any or many things, and it’s probably not what you expected. It may not be what you were hoping for, and it might come later than you wanted. You might call it and it doesn’t return your messages… but it is there, always. And if it isn’t (and forgive me for this, because I’m writing this on an iPhone), there’s probably an app for that. Once your higher power of choice gets into the app development market, we’ll all be OK.

Until then, you could do worse than follow the lyric that starts this post, and listen to some Tom Waits. Whatever you choose, miracles await.

beyond the darkness lies the truth

Emotional truths are risky things to obtain. To place yourself in the emotional abyss in order to tell us something about the human soul is a dangerous enterprise, whether you are an actress, writer, philosopher, musician, creator of art installations, dancer… Why do we search for this? What possesses artists to go on the difficult journey to bring us some kind of truth? Showtime’s series Californication gives us some insight into this journey, telling the story of Hank Moody, a New York writer forced to stay in LA by a relationship that subsequently disintegrated, leaving him washed up in the brutal city of artists and dreamers. The first episode of this series was a masterpiece in miniature. It revealed the writer, played by David Duchovny in a manner described by the Guardian as “revelatory,” tormented by the emotional realities of a life truly messed up. The writer whose “exercise in nihilism”, God Hates Us All, was turned into a romantic comedy. The writer whose insistence on an alternative, punk, rock’n’roll, Bukowski-loving, tradition-shunning outlook on life has separated him from the love of his life, and his daughter. He journeyed into the darkness to write brutal truths, and perhaps didn’t come all the way back. That first episode ended with Hank staring helplessly into the darkness of an LA night, with My Morning Jacket’s version of Rocket Man drifting mournfully in the background. It conjured an intergalactic loneliness, the lonely voice of God murmuring truths about the dark night beyond the lights, the lizard kings and run-down bars, strange creatures moving around out there, and nothing human left in the universe; a perfect encapsulation of isolation. By the end of episode two, Hank was alone, again, sitting in his car at night, desperately haunted by the emptiness of the passenger seat, while a voice on the soundtrack described how “some nights I wish that the sun would never show its face.” Hubert Selby Jr, author of searing, unflinching portrayals of the human soul such as Requiem For A Dream and The Demon, writes of the requirement to to go as deep into the darkness as possible to bring back the truth into the light. He notes that, “obviously, there is always the chance that you will go too deeply into the darkness and not come back.” He took the risk of the artist in placing himself in unsettling and terrible emotional places; walking the emotional and psychological high-wire out to, and back from, from the loneliest of places. Searching in these lonely places for truth, discovering things about what it means to be human; this is not the end. The journey back still awaits; the truths must be conveyed. It has been said many times that writers lie to tell the truth, since words on a page are not truths or things in the world; they are words on a page, symbols, non-representational. How should the artist convey the things they have discovered? What language should they use? Words and movements, art and music, can evoke these elusive emotions. The most non-representational form can convey the most exact truth. Acting, for example, is not real, but the transformation of consciousness it requires cannot be faked. Who really knows what transformative effects the truth will have upon one’s consciousness? One cannot truly know without experiencing it. It’s why we do it.