Thursday, May 04, 2006

Where Ideas Come From

A few years back I used to surf over to www.unamerican.com all the time. The dude running that site had a bunch of subvertive bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee-mugs, and other such stuff for sale lampooning the fact that America's values were turning upside down. His site also had a bunch of his own personal philosophies spelled out -- something that really added a huge amount of bulk to the already great site. I spent many an hour reading over his rants.

That was then. Even now, as of this posting, I haven't gone back to that site in years. I don't even know if its still up. One of the many things I took away from the site, though, came in a question from the site's creator: "where do ideas come from?"

I recall him posting this question as if it was one of the cheif concerns of his life. At the time, the question didn't do it for me. Where ideas come from? Okay, sure good question, but there is more important stuff. For me at least.

And now, a few years later, I find myself in a position where I can say I understand his pondering a bit more. If we take any of the great pieces of creation that are dear to us, be they Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or The Legend of Zelda -- where did these ideas come from? A short quick and easy answer would be to say that they were "made up" or 100% inspired by other ideas. Yeah, I guess, but that seems like a cop-out answer to me.

Tim over at Pop Occulture had a recent post about the phenomenon of hearing a song in your head before hearing it come on your radio. Is your head able to recieve electromagnetic waves (the radio signals)? Or are you in fact tapping into some transpersonal "field" and "hearing" the song there, first, before happening to turn your radio on? (This brings up the question -- how many times do you hear songs in your head that are actually playing on the radio at the moment -- but you just fail to turn on to that exact channel?)

Over at his blog, I posted a comment which included the following quote. This comes from The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, one of the more eye-opening books I've read in recent years. From what I remember, he prefaces this quote by talking about Blake's idea of "eternity being in love with the creations of time."

The timeless communicating to the timebound.

By Blake’s model, as I understand it, it’s as though the Fifth Symphony existed already in that higher sphere, before Beethoven sat down and played dah-dah-dah-DUM. The catch was this: the work only existed as potential — without a body, so to speak. It wasn’t music yet. You couldn’t play it. You couldn’t hear it.

It needed someone. It needed a corporeal being, a human, an artist (or more precisely a genius, in the Latin sense of “soul” or “animating spirit”) to bring it into being on this material plane. So the Muse whispered in Beethoven’s ear. Maybe she hummed a few bars into a million other ears. But no one else heard her. Only Beethoven got it.
I absolutely love this idea. I love the idea of their being Muses or Spirits or whatever whispering ideas to us at all times -- only we're oblivious. Maybe these Spirits can only communicate the ideas through other objects -- a gust of wind, a bird's distant song, or a drop of rain hitting us in just the right spot. These Spirits can try as they may, but they must surely know that it is up to us to open ourselves up enough to percieve such messages.

And every now and then, these Spirits break through to someone. JK Rowling was sitting in a broken-down train at King's Cross when Harry Potter "walked into my mind, fully formed," as she describes. I'm sure similar stories exist for many of the great books or songs or stories of all time. The ideas "came to us," it wasn't as simple as "making them up."

And so that is the task for us -- to keep our ears open and to keep our eyes peeled for these beckonings -- for they're there at all times, I have to think. We must not look too hard (or we'll mistake every single thing we see for the beckoning), but we must also not give up on our seeking (lest we never take initiative to follow any beckon). It is a razor thin line we must walk.

However illusive, this path is certainly there. Its guardians are calling out to us, always, beckoning us to walk its gentle slopes. In a cosmic sense, this is really a responsbility of ours -- to not only listen for these beckonings but to follow whenever we're able. As a teacher once told me, "if we don't find our know-how, it is the entire world that loses out."

1 comment:

Anthony Philippos said...

Have you seen McCravey's signature at the PTG? It reminds me a lot of what you're saying here.
We’ve heard of Pronoia as the concept that the Universe is a Conspiracy to Assist You– as such, it’s the opposite of paranoia. Instead of “everything’s out to get me,” Pronoia is “everything’s out to help me.”...........I must be a pronoid!