Q&A 1: Responses

When a writer opens a blank page, and the words simply begin to flow as a story is born from their imagination, does the source of inspiration reside within the writer, or is it channeled through the energetic soup of the universe? And, what are your favorite exercises to tune the flow of that purest of creative energy – the unfiltered inspiration that fills the blank page?

This is an interesting question to me.

What the question really seems to be getting at is, is there a clean division between inner and outer worlds? In other words, is there an inner realm, that nothing in the outside world ever touches? Is there an outside world that the inner world does not glimpse?

In my experience, the answer to both questions is no: when I experience an inner phenomenon, this phenomenon eventually makes its way into the outer world. For instance, anger manifests as something mean I say. Even if I suppress my anger, I still show up less visibly in the outer world—some of my energy is being used to suppress the anger—so the inner world still affects the outer.

Conversely, I cannot say I’ve ever had an idea that didn’t come from the outer world. Even if I call an idea “original,” all that really means is I’ve forgotten the idea’s source.

So, what is the relationship between the inner and the outer?

For me, it is like a mobius strip, as I’ve written about in the essay here: whatever appears in the inner realm, will eventually make its way into the outer realm, and vice versa. I am incontrovertibly a product of the world that I in turn affect.

Now, to the next part of the question: how to channel the flow between worlds that we distinguish as creativity?

For me, all that’s happening when we create something is that the outer is expressing itself, through the vessel of our inner domain, and back into the outer world. In other words, we have taken in something in the outside world, processed it through our unique vessel of experience, and are now regurgitating it once more in a form that’s unique to us. In this way, creativity is no different from—sorry—pooping: something is coming out of us that just has to come out, because we’re full up.

So, I don’t do anything to schedule my creativity, in the same way I don’t do anything to schedule my poops: I just let happen, what will happen, trusting that the universe will work its way through me, and I will do my work upon the universe. All is flow whether I participate or not.

From my perspective I think we are in a time of shifting our awareness back toward the earth and as a society realizing that we cannot continue to treat earth as object. How do you see this shift in consciousness affecting our political system? How do you think politics will change and fall apart in wake of this consciousness? I guess, what is the future of the political system given this growing awareness?

I agree with this, about shifting our awareness back toward the earth. I have noticed this in myself over the past few years. This has manifested through recognizing there was something wrong with the way I was living, to getting more into my body, to beginning to feel the essence of plants and animals and listen to and attempt to converse with them. It has affected what I value, think, and my diet.

I also think this shift in consciousness will affect our politics, and already has. For me, I have begun to notice that so many of the splits that our politics seem founded on, no longer make sense to me: for instance, the political left in the U.S. has become associated with scientific materialism, and the right with religiosity. For me, neither of these values in absence of the other feels real: I am a natural skeptic who likes to see “evidence” of things, and I am also, deeply, a man of faith. I think many of us are beginning to integrate principles like these that transcend the political spectrum, and I think the loss of interest in politics is a part of that.

With time, I think what will happen is that our current political system will dissolve and be replaced by one that better represents people’s diverse natures. We believe in kindness toward those less fortunate than ourselves, but also the liberating quality of personal responsibility; generosity, but also not being taken advantage of; striving for better than the status quo, while at the same time appreciating what we already have. Our current political environment does not allow us to embody these dualities and at the same time be regarded as allies, and I think what will change is that we will grow into a system that allows for allegiance without the cost of disintegration. This will happen through a total breakdown of our current system, which is glaringly evident at present.

What role has writing played as you develop and deepen your spirituality?

Writing is essential to my spirituality, because it allows me to externalize and thus “see” what is going on within me. Through this, I become able to let it go.

But what is my spirituality? That is a tricker question, but what I can say for sure is that its essence is letting go: through letting go, I come more deeply into contact with reality, dissipating illusions and experiencing things in their fullness. This alters my relationships, work, health, and sense of self. The process of letting go has taken many forms throughout my life, such as meditation, astrology, tarot cards, and Buddhist aphorisms and chants. Beneath all these different approaches, the fundamental desire is to let go of illusion in order that I can more deeply integrate with and experience reality. For me, heaven on earth can manifest through practice.

I have written something about the development of my spirituality here.

When writing is there an inner voice criticizing you as you work? If so, what does that voice sound like, where did you learn it, and how have you learned to manage it?

There is definitely an inner voice criticizing me as I write, and indeed as I do most other things. It sounds like my own voice, and generally it tells me that what I’m doing is stupid.

I am very afraid of being seen as stupid, by which I mean naive or incompetent—not being able to hack it. I am afraid that if I am seen in this way, I will be abandoned by the tribe: those who love me, will no longer love me, and I will be unable to survive on my own.

I notice a slight impulse to attribute these fears to founding influences, such as my parents or education, but I don’t think that would be quite true. For me, these fears are ones that I could see manifesting no matter which culture I lived in, at which time, or in which body I appeared. They seem to be fears fundamental to being human and to survival (or at least, to our fears about survival).

When these voices manifest, what I try to do is simply integrate them as part of myself. Am I afraid? Well then, so be it. That fear probably serves a purpose, anyway: in its balanced expression, it helps me to refine what I share with others. Just as there is nothing wrong with editing, there is nothing wrong with criticism: it is only if out of balance that it becomes unhealthy. Through listening to my critical voice as deeply as I do other voices of mine, I help teach it its proper place.

I have written about this process of accommodating fear in The High Horse.

What relationship do you hope to establish with your readers? What do you ask of them?

I love this question. Mostly, I want my relationship with my readers to be interactive: I want to share as much of myself as I can with them, and I want them to feel invited to share themselves with me as well.

I think the most helpful thing I can do for this purpose is write vulnerably: I share as much of my life and self as I feel comfortable with, and hopefully there are readers out there who resonate with what I write.

For my readers, I ask them to share their voices in response: do they agree with what I write? Do they like it? Dislike it? Do they have a question? All this is fair game, as are expressions of readers’ own stories in response to mine.

I want my relationship with my readers to approximate a dialogue between intimate friends.

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