Friday, October 22, 2010

A Lecture--and an Exhibition

Please go to my entry in The Buddha Diaries today, for a report on my latest lecture--this one at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita--and for a quick look at a remarkable art show.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


“Inspiration, Instigation and Interaction: The Relationship of the Artist to the Audience, Reader or Viewer”

(This is the talk I prepared for "The Intentional Conversation," sponsored by Marymount College at the Los Angeles Cathedral yesterday, Tuesday, October 19, 2010. I decided, once I got the sense of what was needed, to discard what I'd written in favor of a more informal introduction. But I thought it would do no harm to post it anyway.)

I’m a writer. I’m known principally as an art writer. I have been writing about art and artists for a good number of years. For many of those years, I was employed in academia—a one-time professor of Comparative Literature, a one-time Dean of Otis Art Institute and Dean of the Arts at Loyola Marymount University. I like to think of myself as a recovering academic. For the past nearly 25 years, I have been fully employed and disastrously underpaid as a freelance writer.

My most recent book is called “Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad With Commerce.” It’s relevant to our theme today, because it’s about the predicament of the artist in a cultural climate in which celebrity and money count for more than skill, or dedication, or substance, or any of those other values we normally associate with art.

How many creative people of all kinds—writers, painters, actors, musicians, dancers—are cut off from an audience these days because they lack the track record of established financial success, or the celebrity of, say, a John Grisham… or a Sarah Palin? There is a myth abroad to which some artists and some writers subscribe: they say, “I do it for myself.” No, I do it to communicate something “of myself” to my fellow human beings, and I ask that they share of themselves with me.

Many years ago, I found myself in a workshop at the Esalen Institute led by a Huichol Indian wise woman. It was one of those no-accident accidents. I had gone to Esalen to lead a workshop myself, but it had not attracted sufficient interest so I was at a loose end for the weekend. And this seemed like an interesting thing to do.

I actually remember nothing about the workshop except for a single moment. The shaman was talking about the Huichol Indian custom on the arrival of a new child. Instead of “giving the child a name,” as we do in our Western culture, the Huichols wait a while and then ask the child this question: Tell me who you are.

And this was one of those great moments of epiphany for me because I realized that this was exactly what I expect of all good art and all good writing. I want you to tell me who you are. I want to tell you who I am. This, as I see it, is at the center of all human communication. It has been the focus of everything I have written since; and, looking back on it, I realize that it was the secret intention of everything I ever wrote.

I say this with the realization that the goal might seem a small one—even perhaps a self-interested one. But here’s my thinking: the first step in telling you who I am is the inner journey, the journey into the depths of the self. And the closer I get to the core of self, the more I discover about the humanity I share with you; the humanity I share with every other human being. The more I’m able to tell you who I am, the more you will recognize yourself in me, the more we will come to a common understanding. And the same is true, of course, from the other perspective: the more you can tell me about yourself, the more I stand to learn about me. I see myself in you.

As I said at the start, I am known chiefly as an art writer, and people are often curious about what kind of work I respond to, and why. It’s simple, really. I respond to work that tells me who the artist is. And I don’t necessarily mean the story of their life—though that may be a part of it. An artist who paints abstractions may just as easily be telling me who they are. It may be necessary to make a deep inner journey to come to that abstraction. The evidence of the journey will make itself known to me, if I take the time to look and listen to what the painting has to tell me.

And then it comes to writing about the art I like. I long ago learned this adage as a writer, and it has always been my touchstone: How do I know what I think ‘til I see what I say? So the process of writing is also an inner journey. It’s a journey whose vehicle is language and whose destination is unknown until I reach it. It’s an attempt on the part of this “me” to come to a place where I share common ground with that “you” you’re telling me about. It’s a place that, in another aspect of profound and authentic human relationship, is called by another name.

It’s called “love.” It may be shared with a single person. It may be shared with many. It’s a mutual act of giving, an act of generosity which brings the greatest rewards when practiced with the most open of hearts. This is the place where we can be our most perfectly human selves.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Release The Beast-Rick DiBiasio

Many thanks to Rick DIBiasio, creator of Middle Aged-Crazy for participating in our interview series. Enjoy! Below are the questions I asked Rick followed by his humorous, honest, and enlightening response.

On your website Middle Aged-Crazy you describe the discovery of your creative spirit as an experience that was somewhat instantaneous. Can you describe that experience? You say "expressing yourself creatively finally bubbled over." What was it that held it down for so long?

And the image of the creative spirit as a Beast...where did that come from? Why do you choose to draw that comparison?

You are a writer, but what other creative outlets have you discovered that really connect with your Beast? How did you find them? Or how did they find you?

You explore your ideas through a lot of mixed media on your blog. Lots of videos, images, and audio. What made you choose to represent your ideas online this way?

How did you meet your Spirit Guide "Paul." What have you allowed Paul to bring to your life and in what ways has he changed it?

Rick D: I'M A BIG FAN OF PETER'S AND I'M HAPPY TO BE HERE TO TALK WITH YOU! (I should tell you that I have decided to do all interviews in a very poor Maurice Chevalier French accent and you are really lucky these answers are all in typed form.)

I don't know if it was completely instantaneous. I was a Wall Street guy, but I've always been a little "different" than most of the guys in that profession. I knew I wanted to be a writer someday, but I wasn't writing. (Well, I was writing some pretty good investment newsletters and sales proposals). I loved music but I wasn't a musician. I had, in short, always followed the path of least resistance, and, in my case, that path led me down a business road as a sales person. Years went by and I never did get around to that writer, musician, philosopher thing. In 2007 I went to a Jack Canfield event called Breakthrough to Success and I decided that I had to acknowledge I was really living someone else's life, I wasn't being true to my soul.

The instantaneous part came because within 45 minutes, 4 different people at this event (there were 400 people there from 14 countries) approached me and said, virtually word for word, "Rick, I'm very creative but I'm not very good with money, could you help me understand it?" I decided someone was sending me a message and, within three months of the event I wrote The Affluent Artists, got Jack to write the forward and found a publisher. Since then, I've been a writer who has a financial planning office; ask me what I do and I'll tell you I write books. Releasing my inner passion as a writer has made a huge difference in how I see the world and how it sees me.

I see the world through an artist's eyes now, I have found my true calling in life and I am lucky I did. That's where the new project comes from, Middle Aged Crazy is the opposite side of the Affluent Artist coin. The Affluent Artist was designed to help creatives get comfortable with the principals of financial planning, M.A.C. is a little more auto biographical, it's designed to help the people who have ignored their inner creative being for too long. I held it in for too long because I had bills to pay and ladders to climb, and, there's that whole path of least resistance thing. I'm a natural talker and I could make quite a bit of money as a financial planner, I wasn't exactly suffering. As I grew up, I'm 54 years old, the internet didn't exist, there were no blogs, it was difficult to just declare yourself to be a writer. It's different now, it's much easier to follow your passion and find your audience without all of he middle men that used to be the gatekeepers of the art world.

The Beast is the creation of artist and friend Betsy Streeter, she'd read some of my work and contacted me about it. We had a great conversation and, before I knew it, she'd created this wonderful little slide show with the Beast.

I was working on the Affluent Artist at the time, but I had this really weird inspirational experience. I was in my boat last March, cruising on the Banana River (near Cape Canaveral here in Florida) when I heard a voice that said "Shut it Down". I knew this voice, it's my guardian angel, a guy named Paul, who has appeared to me and other people on my behalf. (There is person who channels angels in Utah who he kept up all night once talking about me). So, I shut the boat down. He said, "Not the boat, The Affluent Artist."

"Man, that's my baby."

"I know, but your work there is done, I have something better," and he laid out the whole Middle Aged Crazy thing, including the title. His first instruction was to call Betsy and she agreed to do the logo and be part of the project. We've never met, she's a Mom in San Francisco who used to be the art director for EA Sports. She has "gotten it" regarding Middle Aged Crazy from the beginning. I think the Beast is such a perfect analogy because if you don't let your real reason for coming into being come out, you will never know true happiness. Trying to keep your creative beast locked up is a very dangerous thing. You are creating a life anyway, why not create one that makes your soul happy?

This whole Paul thing is really weird, I had been at a conference in California where a friend told me about an angel book, she said if I asked my guardian angel to introduce himself, he would. SO, on the flight home, as a I got in my seat, I skeptically said, "Ok, who are you?" Before I had the question out, I heard "PAUL, PAUL, PAUL!" and I was blown away, the thoughts I had were loud and almost audible. I decided that this was either a new voice in my head or an angel, either way, it was going to make the 6 hour flight home interesting.

Since then, Paul seems to come and go, although he claims he is always there, I'm just not listening sometimes. He claims that I am writing this book for him, that I am going to build a following of people who need to hear my message. He has awakened me in the middle of the night and not let me go back to sleep until I wrote what he told me to write. One time, he had me write 10 fairly random things, and, the next day, when a prospective publisher asked for my table of contents, I realized Paul had given it to me, word for word and in the correct order.

You've got to understand that my friends in the financial community would sooner take poison than admit to listening to Angels. I'm not a particularly religious guy and I am not one to believe in elves, hobbits or UFO's, but I believe that Paul is a messenger from God and I am humble enough to listen to him. I have learned that listening to inspiration is not something I've done very often, it took a really loud angel to get my attention. I wonder how many people actually listen to inspiration in their lives? Now that I listen, I find it everywhere, having something to write about is never a problem.

I love to write, but I am in awe of other great communicators, speakers, artists, songwriters and musicians. On my blog, I try to find songs that say what I'm trying to say. Recently, I used a Dave Mathews song called Grace is Gone that perfectly matched a particular heartache I had. I wrote about Grace in a positive, uplifting way, but the song explained the true emotions I was feeling, I was afraid I had lost grace and would never know it again. Dave Mathews said that better than I could.

I know that not everyone is a reader and my narrated slide shows are a fun way to make a point every once in a while, it's fun to find creative ways to make my point.

When I was a Wall Street guy, I was a "High A", aggressive, take no prisoners kind of guy. It was about making my monthly goals, making my clients money and finding more clients. I was a pretty unhappy, overweight guy with high blood pressure and the heart attack to validate it. I was miserable, even though some envied me and my life, I was going so against my nature that I had no governor, I didn't know how to moderate. Now that I have released my creative beast, I can't wait to get out of bed every day.

My biggest challenge with Middle Aged Crazy is trying not to offend the agnostic or the fervent. I've found that it is difficult to discuss inspiration and creation without being labeled as someone who is a Bible thumper or who "isn't Christian". Gee whiz, some guy last week said that "meditation" invites the Devil into your mind. Someone else said that a "Spirit Guide" (Paul) isn't Christian. Then others say I'm trying to force Creationism on them. It's something I am learning to handle with Grace, but it's a learning process.

I play guitar now, poorly, but once in a while I stop thinking and let my soul play the song and that's pretty magical. When I am in "Flow" writing-wise, I can go for hours, I don't often know what is coming out of my fingers until they strike the keys. The most unexpected part of all of this? People actually read what I write and seem to like it. Almost everyday I get a wonderful note from someone who said my words made a difference in their life and I am so humbled by that. I love words, I love to build sentences and communicate from my soul with them. I never really imagine that someone else might actually be listening! I think that's all Paul's doing, I know what artists mean now when they say they are simply channeling from a higher source. It's an honor to be the instrument that is going to help so many people release their inner creativity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Three Facilitators of Creativity: Nature, Music, Sport by Patrick Frank

Many thanks once more to Patrick Frank for sharing his wonderful insight.

Three Facilitators of Creativity: Nature, Music, Sport
by Patrick Frank

"I Feel so near, to the howling of the wind, I feel so near to the crashing of the waves, I feel so near to the flowers in the field...I feel so near..."

The above quote is from a Celtic song lyric. It speaks to the first facilitator of creativity--for me, and perhaps for many others: intimate connection with nature. Cut off from nature completely, and my creativity starts to dry up.

Today, riding back from Hardee's in Lake City, SC on Route 52, I passed beautiful brown and dappled horses, standing quietly underneath a stand of trees. Yes, I admit, I took my eyes off the road. When I see these horses, I sense their peaceful spirit, and the peacefulness enters me. I would like to go out to the field and pet them, feed them apples, but we're talking private property. That's okay. It's enough for me to to observe them in the green pasture.

Lately, I have been taking our cat, Fiona, out in the back yard on a long rope, so that she can have the intimate experience I am referring to. I do this because a neighbor lady has threatened to call animal control on our cats, because they wander into their yard and sometimes do their business, and because she fears that they have some disease. I thought she mentioned shooting them twice, but can't be sure i heard it right.

Anyway, I take Fiona out back, and this gets both her and me out of the house. I feel a gentle, cool breeze blowing through our pine and oak trees--the whisper of the wind, and the sound leads me into a kind of revery It does not matterthat they scold her and me sometimes; that's their nature, after all.

When I come back into the house, and sit down at the screen, I know that these experiences open me up inside and make me want to share--through my own music and writing.

One time when I worked at a mental health center I did therapy with a woman confined to a nursing home. She had the desire to write haiku. I would wheel her out to the sidewalk, next to the green and flowers and dragon flies and butterflies and birds. She loved it and wrote some great haiku. Sorry to say after I became homeless for a period of time, I lost a copy of her work. But HER spirit lives inside me.

Yes, nature is one of the facilitators. And I want to say that nature exists in the city, not only in rural South Carolina. I think of Tupac's book of poetry, "The Rose That Grew from Concrete." I expressed the same concept while living in Springfield, MA, and playing basketball on the "bad' side of town," across from Burger King, on State St.. I was aware of the flowers and grass, seemingly growing up through the concrete. But look up and you will also see the gang signs scrawled on a wooden fence nearby. It is a mixed bag in the city, desolation and beauty. If you open your eyes you can find the latter.

By the way, I only wish Tupac had lived. He would have grown into one of our great artists with broader influence in our culture. He would have grown, as Malcolm X grew, gaining a broader perspetive on the issue of racism in America and around the world.

I always play basketball outside, because of the proximity to nature. That's another facilitator of creativity for me, sport, in particular, basketball. Focusing on the basket, in the rhythm, letting my worry dissipate while I strive to make the shot. Yes, the worry fades in and out, as it does in formal meditation, but that's okay. When it fades in, I process it, in a different kind of way, gaining a kind of perspective. Then it's on to the next shot, and all around me, I am aware of grass and trees and birds and butterflies and dragnflies, and sometimes the cool breeze. And let me not forget sunlight. I admit that I much prefer to play when the sun is shining, or in twilight, when light is interspersed with shadow, and the purple and sometimes vivid red and yellow appear, and one senses the sliow transition to the realm of night, which has its own beauty, and if you're lucky, the stars and moon.

I have walked beside the ocean. I grew up in a beach town, and later in my life fell in love with Naragansett, RI and East Matunuck Beach, with its long jetty. I used to dive for crabs along the rocks, with my net, and sometimes bring them up. I'd like to go back and try that again someday.

There are more experiences I could tell you about, but I'll stop here. I know that other writers and artists have had their own unique encounters with nature, and I hope you will write about them, or paint them or draw them, or make a song out of them, or dance and share how nature has enhanced your creativity and underlying spirit.


So I have identified two facilitators of creativity, at least for me:

nature and sport. Above is a third facilitator, music and lyrics, implied because because I was also inspired after listening to Scottish performer and songwriter Dougie Maclean's great song, "Feel So Near"

...listening over and over while driving up and down route 52, and singing to the lyrics, especially the chorus...

feel so near to the howling of the wind

feel so near to the crashing of the waves

feel so near to the flowers in the field

feel so near...

For my personal enjoyment, and to help me move more deeply into the experience of singing, and creating a song, I listen over and over to the songs that happen to touch me at a particular period of my life. The ones I carry around in my car right now are Dougie's, along with...

*Born to be Wild: by Steppenwolf

*Hallelujah (in Shrek 1), perormed by Rufus Wainwright/John Cale and written/composed by Leonard Cohen

*Tuesday's gone, performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd and written/composed by RonnieVan Zant and Allen Collins

*Lost, written/composed and performed by Michael Buble

*I'm Yours written/composed and performed by Jason Mraz...

along with several others that I won't mention here.

There is a saying that I can't get out of my head: "Without music, life is a journey through a desert." (Pat Conroy)

Great music inspires me through its metaphoric aspect, in that it leaves room for the working of the listener's imagination, and allows for individual interpretation and application to one's life. (The metaphoric aspect of music is mentioned in Daniel J. Levitin's interesting book, "The World in Six Songs") As a poet, I am inspired because great lyrics also constitute poetry, and reading/listening to great poetry opens the door to my own poetic way of giving expression to the flow of life; I also am inspired because the music itself draws out deep feelings, and somehow permits the imagination to take flight.

So music is a third facilitator of creativity for me, and I suspect for many others with a creative bent (and suddenly I realize that I have forgotten to include creative scientists in this discussion).

So three of the facilitators of creativity for me are:



*and music

Saturday, October 9, 2010

So, Yesterday Afternoon...

... I printed out the last page of a full-length draft of "This is Not Me: Shedding Delusions," a collection of some two dozen essays adapted, for the most part, from ideas or sketches that first appeared in "The Buddha Diaries" and "Persist: The Blog." In manuscript form, that's about 225 pages. The title comes from my favorite mantra, often repeated here: this is not me, this is not mine, this is not who I am. I believe and hope that it hangs together as a book. I am now looking for readers who would give me feedback. If you are a person who would take pleasure in that, please let me know privately at Meantime, my plan is to enjoy a weekend's vacation, and return to my blogging activities next week. I hope that word will spread that "Peter's back!"

Metta to all, with wishes for a wonderful weekend...