Category Archives: Random Input

Suspended in a Leap of Creative Faith… Part 3.

John Lambert says, “more specific,” he tells me, “remember that shaman? I relate to this dandelion as a carpenter; how can I remove the carpenter from the poem? How would the shaman then, in this light, relate to this seed?”

John read this poem to me at Molly’s At the Market in New Orleans last week when we were discussing the prompt of placing ourselves as someone, or something, else into the perspective and writing how the experience would play out through that belief system as we understood it.

His primary poem was one of a shaman seeing a dandelion seed float in front of his face – to which John wrote the following piece.

The Suzerain Speck

the shaman recognized his aura
in the star of a weightless seed
riding the wind

that pilgrim curiously paused before him
as if taking-in this stranger
and mirror of itself

as one infuses what another
reflects
by one’s expression

the seed bestowed on him
the thrill of being buoyant
blown from the womb

the shaman gave the seed his feet
on the earth, bearing weight

his encumbrance of thought
traveling many roads at once

and felt its mind
devoted to one knowing current

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Suspended in a Leap of Creative Faith… Part 2.

As I continue my understanding of why we create and what purpose it serves I continue to fill a toolbox of endless shelves with techniques, prompts, exercises in expanding our creativity… And while I am compiling most of these techniques and understandings in order to share them with my partner – it’s important to me, to others, that a more public access to these techniques and prompts are available.

I know your methods my friend, I know your framework.

I know this red door…

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The hallways, allways, like walking into a bead of dew on Indra’s Web and seeing, and being that being with a panoramic view of some absurdist’s infinity; I am home. This is where the filaments of Whitman’s spider land and cast, cast, cast themselves in and out of balcony windows from the swing that keeps us playing, keeps us young.

photo

In the eleven-hundred block of Decatur St. in New Orleans I stand in the kitchen of John Lambert’s apartment – I know I cannot function as a whole unit without this place, without him. We are yolks of the same egg, I ask him –

What are we writing this time?”

“Why is the kite behaving the way it does? Is it trying to be a flock-less eagle? And if you were this kite; if you the juggler were this kite, if you the poet, the carpenter, the shaman were this kite – how would it relate to itself within the framework of your belief system?”

This shaman, for example, encountering the flight of a dandelion seed head…

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“…the prompt is projecting the self into the kite, the chair, glass, the dandelion…”

The juggler… He sees the dandelion seed in flight before him; the wind is a juggler too; he feels jealousy at the ease of the wind’s ability; he is grateful that it would be willing share its technique; they share methods without speaking.”

“Yes. This is the prompt exactly. How do you, I, we behave as this object while existing within our belief systems? I am this kite and I possess the belief system I understand now. I am glass – with the same context.”

[John pulls his notebook out, flips a page, smiles, rolls a cigarette, hums a small laugh and reads…]

in the land where we are glass

we give thanks to make it home
unbroken, crowded with the reflections
we collect come end of day

I set down the glass box i’m always carrying
you draw too close for me to see your edge
as you peel away the panes
dropping explosions, whispering

“I’ll clean-up the mess later”

we click into a sheet
double-backed and carousel
as a threat to the furniture
the glass cat mrowls and darts away

“the floor” i moan

we drop together, we slide
into the stained glass kitchen
here your hair is a church
my face a prism grinning up

“what are you smiling at?” you beam

I dare the stupidest thought
blushing chromatic, for i had imagined
a land where we were unbreakable things

“sounds much too safe” you chide
and i nod, quite certain

how boring, no fear of breaking
in the act of love–no real test
of another surface against one’s own–nor ever
the measure of what a mirror can take…

“Do you see? Everything is poetry waiting for us to write it, correct? Then everything is a mirror waiting for our projection.”

“Yes. The flora that bears fruit as an artist, for example; what Roland Barthes called, “the death of the author,” here, the tree speaks, “I have built this thing of myself – take it and do with it what you wish without me.”

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The prompt then can be extended into any object or stimuli whatsoever. I found myself driving across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway on my way to an ASL convention and as an interpreter I found myself provoking my surroundings with how they would act within the framework of needing to hire an interpreter for communication means. The clouds in the above picture were an easy call; they would hire a poet to convey their message, their intents.

I considered the crepuscular moment on the French Quarter from the perspective of a writer of haikus searching for its perfect kireji; that precise expression that indicated a cutting and joining of thoughts and content and filled its readers with awe. It was in that 4 a.m. growl where the night was turning into morning. I considered this further and found unconsciousness attempting to find the same thing and it was in that involuntary, effortless and automatic instinct where we wake up from sleep.

What is the chess piece going to convey about its purpose if it were a carpenter?

I, joyously, came upon the idea of how an entomologist would behave if she were a bartender and all her clients were spiders; tossing the balled up and thumb and forefinger squashed remains of last night’s drunks at their webs – knowing their tipping is the most gracious of all – she gets to keep living.

The chair, if it was a priest?

The painting if it was a mathematician?

The cigarette if it were a scientist?

If Siddhartha were to watch a symphony?

If the Buddha himself were driving down an endless I-79 South?

What would their poems convey?

The Essential Guerrilla Therapist’s Toolbox… Thinking Inside the Box.

Ze Frank recently released a video entitled, “Mediuming,” in which he erratically aliterates through Ms and Hs to convey a simple and, simply, profound idea – find, or construct, walls around what you are creating in order to break them down and find what you couldn’t find before…

Or, at least, this is what I took from it.

Consider a mor modern day death of the author where we may ascribe meaning to those speaking to us from YouTube or Twitter et al. and we can take our ascribed meaning in any means we wish…

I would insert a smiley face emoticon here however I feel it is too tacky to do so. So instead I will leave you with a hyperlink to one.

Ze, for those who don’t know him, is a fairly incredible mind that we, this generation, have to play with.

I do not mean that in an allusive way at all – Ze is fan oriented to the degree that often in his videos he addresses the audience directly by saying that, “we,” are going to make/sing/do/play with something, and Ze actually accomplishes these somethings.

To list a few, he harmonized voices from thousands of recordings sent in from hundreds of countries. He makes coloring books of fans drawings. He had his fans place bread on the ground where they lived in order to make an Earth Sandwich. Currently I am in the middle of the largest game of Duck Duck Goose I’ve ever played in – Hot Duck Goose.

I wrote to him a few months ago explaining my part in Deaf culture and asked if he wouldn’t mind if I captioned his videos for him so that my deaf friends could have the same exposure to his work that I have.

It isn’t something, overall, special to anyone besides me but I was given access to the captioning tool at Ashow.Zefrank.com so that I could do just that – caption his odd, quick, inspirational, musings.

While I’ve captioned videos before; this captioning tool isn’t one that I am familiar with. I have to make blocks of texts for blocks of time on the videos. These blocks, of 10-30 seconds, then loop play back at me while I type their content.

Ze’s voice turns into the meaningless noise of a repeated word until it is devoid of its history and is just sound soup.

Watching the loops of, “Mediuming,” I drifted back to an old poetry professor named Ben Lerner. Ben once compared poetry to cross legged dribbling in basketball and poetry’s subsequent rules and formats to the rules of basketball, specifically the rule that states that you must dribble the ball while traversing the court.

“The rule of dribbling the ball down court, when you think about it, is pretty arbitrary. What’s the point of it? One of the things that it does is leaves the ball nearly wide open for the opposing team to steal. Isn’t this something a basketball player would want to avoid? The arbitrary restriction of having to dribble the ball while traversing the court has left the ball wide open. So what happens? A player realizes that his ball is exposed and so realizes the necessity for a barrier between it and the opposition; thus creating the cross legged dribble where the player passes the ball between his legs while he is running. The needed barrier is created thanks to the arbitrary restriction of having to dribble the ball. It’s a new idea and it works.”

The point of all of this was to have us, his students, create arbitrary restrictions for ourselves to follow in order to come up with “poetic cross legged dribbling” equivalents.

I thought of how this advice was in direct opposition, like a vying basketball rival, to the advice I had been given about creativity until this point: think outside of the box not inside of it.

The idea behind thinking outside of the box is fantastic considering that outside of the metaphorical box rests the allusive meaning behind what is not inside the box – an infinite number of possibilities from which to draw your inspiration from.

That is simply too much possibility for me to chose from.

I find myself outside of the box staring at my blank page with pen in hand, the blank blog screen with fingers fixed fit and facile, the juggling balls in hand with an open sky, and feel overwhelmed and confounded by the awesome weight of infinite possibilities resting on my shoulder. I stare at the page and feel fear, embarrassment, creative guilt, shame; “why cannot I not create something?”

Ze Frank says just what Ben Lerner said all these years ago; “if you don’t know where the rails are then how are you going to jump them?”

I’ve found greater comfort and prosperity inside of thinking inside of a box than I ever have thinking outside of one.

Regarding poetry…

There are some poetic forms that are more commonly known than others…

Take for example the various forms of the sonnet or the rules for writing a haiku in contrast to the rules for writing in the form of a cywdd llosgyrnog or the Zulu praise poetry known as an Izibongo (a more modern example by David Rowe can be found here).

Writing within these frameworks, these forms, is a creative way of thinking outside of that box.

When I’ve expounded upon writing within formats I am met often with an attitude of rebellion; why would I want to confine myself to some artistic prison that the eduction system has locked me inside of?

Why indeed. How can you think outside of the box unless you know where the walls are?

Write a new kind of sonnet, a new haiku. Right down all of your favorite words and label the list, “DO NOT USE” and pin it to the wall above your computer screen, notebook or typewriter. Create arbitrary rules to follow for a poem – only 5 words per line, only 20 syllables for line, the syllabic count must be in the Fibonacci sequence, must be divisible by 8 only, must be, must be, must be. Restrict yourself with walls and barriers that will confine your poetry to a cell that it can neither stand up nor sit down in and you will, quite literally, be forcing yourself to create something new. Do this while utilizing your Lateral Thinking skills and you will acquire a taste for something unique and beautiful.

(And remember, “no thought is original and all ideas have already be thought and executed” is just something uncreative, mediocre and banal people say to make themselves feel better.)

David Rowe took a seemingly obsolete form of poetry and modernized it – he took Zulu praise poetry and wrote about Whitman and Kerouac. His poem, “Salamander, Or: Splitting The Word Asunder,” was drastically astounding in its originality and creative efficacy that when I’d read the written transcript I was no longer convinced that a poem loses its worth when the poet explains it. Quite the opposite in fact his explanation of and dedication to this poem dripped with an encompassing field of sheer awe for me and these poems were done within the confines of specific rules that David decided to follow

A friend, and poet, I greatly respect has recently finished his series of what he’s called, “The Hell Sonnets.” Each of the sonnets I’ve read, or heard, is greatly unique and is not within the form and rules of the typical sonnet. Then, yes, of course, it is no longer a sonnet – it’s new.

Cross legged dribble your poetry to whatever hoop you want to throw it at.

Regarding venn diagraming…

Venn diagrams are simple, easily understood forms of visually represented categorical syllogisms, similarities and differences, etc. Consider the work of Ian Finch and his venn diagrams;  a simple form of visually represented logic – now a vast network of artistic atoms smashing together to create new particles of art matter.

Regarding, regarding, regarding… You.

By thinking inside of a box you neglect the overwhelming vastness of infinite possibilities in order to create a more tangible realm of possibilities. Establishing arbitrary restrictions for your art, therapeutic development, studying, expression, creativity, provides a telescopic realm of choices that is more accessible than what is outside of the proverbial box.

Suggestions for restrictions include, while not being limited to, the following –

  • A list of Do Not Use words.
  • Writing within poetry forms and tweaking them like a cosmetologist thinning out a layer of hair. Remember – the Higgs-Boson wouldn’t have been discovered had it not been for the restrictions of the LHC. Find your Higgs-Boson by smashing  words together at nearly light speed in a sonnet shaped underground 16 mile tube!
  • Convey the information of something visual through a painting while allowing yourself only specific colors.
  • Collapse the distances between fields of study. Mathematic poetry. Scientific painting. Poetic historical preservation. Musical sculpting.
  • Study Matthew Barney who has been known to hang weights from his arms while painting.
  • Experiment with enjambmed and end-stopped writing.
  • Really try to write a good Villanelle.

The above is a quick list of random off the top of the brain suggestions. If you’ve come up with or come across other techniques that allow for creative in the box thinking – please share them.

The Essential Guerrilla Therapist’s Toolbox Part I… Fuzzy Rabbit Holes.

Kitty Durgin and I have, recently, been discussing specific tools that I keep in my Guerrilla Therapy Toolbox regarding problem solving techniques, prioritizing techniques, creativity, finding pathways to the flow channel (see graph), how, and why, all these things are esemplastic &c.

I realized that it this would make for an excellent post! A descriptive tool box of sorts.

Yes! The Essential Guerrilla Therapist’s Toolbox!

And it’s a large tool box, so we’ll consider this one, Part 1.

Or, “what Jason carries around in his head to make the world more interesting…”

So here is Tool #1: Build Yourself a Fuzzy Rabbit Hole and Dive in without Reserve.

In other words; this is how I found Edward De Bono.

Edward De Bono, the Maltese physician, author, inventor, consultant and originator of the term, “Lateral Thinking.”

(If you are interested in the background of De Bono you can simply click his picture. However, I am not interested in explaining that here. Rather I am interested in delving into some of his methodologies and how they can be practically applied, therapeutically, artistically, creatively.)

I can’t build the entire network of connections that led me to this man without expounded through, I’m afraid, a torrential hoard of information so I will attempt to make it short.

(And a little preceding bit of informing context–John Lambert, the mentor behind the curtain, always draws his initials, “JL,” as the contradiction sign from symbolic logic. And that symbol is simply ⊥. There is an ironic beauty in this.)

“It is never good to leave yourself ignorant about anything.” – ⊥

I took ⊥’s words very heavily and while spending my time reading, watching a television show, talking with someone, learning anything; I would willingly lead myself down a fuzzy rabbit hole crafted by Daedalus. To put it less metaphorically, I did just what he suggested; if I didn’t know, or didn’t understand, something – I looked it up. With this, I was constantly acquiring new knowledge… Newledge…

While watching the episode of House called, “Insensitive,” I found that that they had used a term that I had never come across before.

The term was the disease known as Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA).

I remember it very clearly. A girl named Hannah Morgenthal played by actress Mika Boorem had experienced a car crash with her mother. Skip ahead and they’re both, obviously, in the ER. When House enters the room one of his employees, Foreman, was dressing the wounds of Hannah.

What’s your name?” House asks, as Foreman, bewildered, is baffled that House seems to actually care what a patient’s name is.

Hannah Morgenthal,” she replies.

You have CIPA, Miss Morgenthal.

“No I don’t.”

Foreman stops, “Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis? There’s only been, what, 4 documented cases?”

House replies, “I can give you… 7 reasons… why I believe she has CIPA.”

That single line in the episode was the vestige for many of my current tools

If ever I am to watch something that has any educational value to it viz, a medical show, a TED.Com talk, a movie then I will always watch it on my computer for the sole purpose of having Google be a click away and, accordingly, have all the research available for me.

(When I was young I can remember this same concept only we did it with a thing called The Encyclopedia Britannica and since searching the alphabetized pages didn’t come with an autofill option it took a little bit longer to find things in those days. Hence in between reading we went to a place called the outdoors and sometimes we went to a land called the woods.)

I began to read about CIPA and came across a website, that I do not recall, nor can I find again, that discussed this episode and stated that the, “7 reasons,” that House says he is going to give is an important point to recognize. Why? Because he only gives 5 and replies with something to the effect of, “7, 5, what’s the difference?”

The thing is – when it comes to our cognitive abilities, there really isn’t much of a difference.

The writers of the show, in this case David Shore and Matthew V. Lewis, have been fairly decent, and at times genius, over the 8 year run. And this, this, was one of their shining moments.

In 1956 the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller wrote a paper entitled, “The Magical Number 7. Plus, or Minus, 2: Some Limits on Our Abilities for Processing Information.” Essentially the human mind can process via working memory 7 ± 2 stimuli at a time.

From reading this article and navigating my way through other random web pages regarding its content I came across a RadioLab broadcast from November of 2008 titled, not surprisingly, “How Much Is Too Much?”

In this broadcast one of the featured speakers was Dr. Oliver Sacks. And, accordingly, since he was a man that I knew nothing about I proceeding to read about him.

I spent years reading as much of Oliver Sacks’ material, and watching as many lectures, as I could come across from, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” to, “Seeing Voices,” to driving to New York City to visit Emily Kaufman who had had tickets to a lecture that Oliver Sacks was giving.

I even had the opportunity to meet the curmudgeon in person!

I grabbed my copy of, “Seeing Voices,” and ran up to him after his lecture,

“Dr. Sacks! Huge fan. I brought my copy of, ‘Seeing Voices,’ you see, ha, I teach in a school for the Deaf and I was hoping I could get this copy signed so we can have it in our library.”

He looked up at me, put his baseball cap on his head and said, “Deaf schools. Ha. I didn’t even know they still made those.”

And as he turned away from me I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy the moment…

From my studying I found mention of Dr. Sacks in a book called, “Brain Training: Boost Memory, Maximize Mental Agility & Awaken your Inner Genius,” by Tony Buzan. Buzan, I learned, then was a pioneer of, among other things, Mind Mapping. Mind Mapping! A wonderful tool to have come across! A way for me to formally map out my connectomes and neuronetworks and actually see them in front of me and in our current time period we have mind mapping software and apps that make it even easier to plot out your route.

And in the far back of this book I came across a small section that had something stick out at me…

Hats… That think…

What a strange idea. The six thinking hats? What could this be about?

I turned back to my old friend Google and began to search the tubes for Edward De Bono and his hats that think and I came across a book entitled, “Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas.”

When I first saw the book cover and title I, quite literally, judged it by its cover. I figured that I would be reading just another book telling me to take a long walk through the woods, meditate by a babbling brook, imitate your favorite artist etc. All of tidbits of creative unwisdom that never worked for me.

Instead I learned what Lateral Thinking really was.

De Bono had a huge gripe with creative thinking that, I believe, makes sense. Essentially his gripe is– what the hell happened? We had all these revolutions and developments of man that seemed to have been telescopic! The timescales between them have been becoming brilliantly smaller and smaller.

So what did happen? And why is De Bono so pissed off? Because we haven’t had any good or noteworthy cognitive revolutions, that’s why.
Creativity is still at a Greek checkmate in most peoples minds. We think Aristotelian, we think Platonic, we think Socratic. Why have we stopped at, what De Bono calls, the, “G3?”

I’m uncertain. But De Bono knew there was room, and requirement, for change when it came to thinking and creativity and we needed a new revolution and, so, by degrees, De Bono got down to making some Serious Creativity happen.

De Bono came up with a multitude of ways to create new ideas simply by, for lack of better terms, hacking the brain through, what he calls, “Provocative Operations,” and so as to not muddy the brain waters, “Provocative Operation,” is often abbreviated to, and spoken and written as, simply, “PO.” A provocative operation on the brain treats the brain for what it is; a vast myriad little electrical networks that are all connected to each other and in addition uses the brain’s natural framework in order to force new ideas.

One such tool is the tool is the Random Input tool and it works so effectively and is done with such a simple trick on the brain that it is astonishing to me that it produces the ideas that it does.

It works essentially as follows…

Imagine I were to blindfold you and drive you to a random place in your home town. A completely random location in the town that you know so well. Would you, after the blindfold has been removed, be able to find your way back home?

Almost certainly you would.

The thing is, De Bono figured that the brain works in this same exact fashion.

If I were to “blindfold,” let’s say, Focus A and drop it off in a completely random part in the brain, say Synapse B, and have Focus A find its way back “home” by route of the neuronetwork it is in while utilizing not only Synapse B but also each connection along the way in order to define itself then we can create new ideas simply by playing with said focus.

To simplify the explanation further I will just give an example now.

Say I am feverishly amidst the writing of a new poem and need to concoct a metaphor for, say, how beautiful the weather is when I sit in my garden…

We now have Focus A (how beautiful the weather is when I sit in my garden) to arrest and take to Synapse B and have him find his way home again. Accordingly we would be doing a Provocative Operation of Random Input in order to generate a new idea.

And so as to not tarnish the flavor of the thought train the entire sentence is slimmed down, the fat chewed and trimmed off, until we are possessed only by the thought, “Focus A PO Synapse B.”

From where I sit on my porch there are an endless supply of random stimuli that I may place into the footholds of Synapse B. Now, remember, it is this simple – you have your focus and you drop it off in a random place in the brain and have it find its way home.

Focus A PO Coffee Mug – The weather is every cup of coffee that had me sink into winter chairs wrapped in a sigh of solace.

Focus A PO Motorcycle – The weather is shifting to fifth on a 1977 Harley-Davidson XLCR Café racer down Route 66 on a Pirsig pilgrimage.

Focus A PO CatThe weather is all fur and whiskers and coming home to no conditions, no needs but to love and be held.

Focus A PO Hula Hoop – The weather is childhood toys in June with grass in my toes and hips choreographed by the wind.

Now these are all, of course, just random examples of how this one particular tool works.

But now that the tool is, exhaustingly, explained you can understand that Focus A need not be something that has only to do with art and creativity.

It can be a conundrum at your job and a need for a new idea to deal with it.

It can be the way you are fixing your bicycle.

It can be needing to decorate your living room.

It can be how to store the food in your fridge.

It can be how to approach a friend who is having a difficulty.

It can be how to improve upon a specific ability that you fear you have exhausted options for.

As you can see – you can be your own rabbit chasing your own tail to eventually swallow all the knowledge you have found along the way.

So there are a few Essential Guerrilla Therapy tools from the toolbox, tools that rattle like hail on my bedroom windows in Pittsburgh winters.

One… It is never good to allow yourself to be ignorant about anything; be a consumer of information for you will find fountains and gardens that would make the Hersperides be bathed in awe.

Two… Think laterally my friends, learn De Bono’s methodology and understand the feel of a hyperfocus where ideas pour forth in torrents of creativity.

Three… Mind map your neuronetworks, mind map your thoughts, mind map your ideas. This organization will allow you to have incredible focus and access to what your brain connects to and from.

And lastly… Watch your word count… Because mine has, now, gotten way too high.