Recluses, hermits, writers and the community

“The writer is either a practicing recluse or a delinquent, guilt-ridden one; or both. Usually both.” Susan Sontag

I have been waiting for a dose of inspiration for quite some time now. I fret that the longer it takes to arrive, the less likely I will recognize it when, or if, my modest muse should put in an appearance.  Much of my life has been full of these dawdling inspirational moments…moments foolishly withered in expecting strikes of inspired lightning: In frustration these brain flashes likely go elsewhere, seeking a more receptive audience.

As a result, I often feel the complete dullard. All around me, material percolates. Conversations go on about the most amazingly everyday (I had planned to use ‘mundane’ but thought better of it) subjects. Grandchildren! Fish! The Economy!  Coal Mines! And, time and again, what mostly preoccupies many of the denizens of Denmanistan …Art.  Our Island, much like other water-logged entities, seems to produce a huge swack of artists. Painters, sculptors, potters, photographers, musicians, writers! Galleries and Studios abound. Creativity coalesces like summer flies on roadside horse droppings…albeit year round.  Yet, of all the imaginative arts, perhaps it is the poor, lower ranked writers (I am a lifetime member), those of us who burrow into our humble, emotionally cluttered root cellars to peck out our mysterious products, whom most often become recluses. As we puckishly hunker down in our creative lairs, every Tom Dick or Harried visual artist can produce product at the drop of a barely heard hatpin, hold a show and allow the world to see their work. Written works are not so accessible. Voice, intonation, silent reading, there are so many aspects of the printed word; our art has innumerable nuances. Visual art is exactly what it seems, or what is read into it. Written Art is a puff of breath; if read by the recipient, it is as if life were pumped into the words; if read silently, dreams emerge. But who knows? How is this ecstasy shared?

 “There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. The only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick.“ Robert A. Heinlein

I have long defined myself as a writer. In my earliest years, before I could actually print my name, this was clearly presumptuous . My first effort to share written work with an audience larger then my immediate family was an entry to the Vancouver Sun…to a sort of junior journalism contest.  I was awarded an honourable mention for writing about a Legion branch in Burlen, Washington which was sending care packages to Berlin, Germany, at the time Commie country. The crux of my article, aside from how similar the respective cities names sounded, was that hungry people were hungry people, no matter the redness of their politics. Unfortunately there was no Burlen, Washington. The paper had mistyped Burien. Much of my article referenced the mistaken namesake cities and brotherhood. At least  American Veterans feeding godless Marxists was not the error, though it was the issue.

If nothing else, this was a great beginning for one eventually devoted to writing about nothing in particular. The lesson learned: no one really cares what you write. Now, that may have been a faulty assumption as clearly many people these days care about what is written. And what is written is legion.

For the past couple of years, I have had a glorious writing chamber, a den, a writing womb where I plunk away on my word processor. I repair to this lair of sometimes limited literacy to osterize my increasingly geriatric creative fluids.  Alone with my thoughts, they often feel abandoned. Still, in partnership, we persevere.

 “Solitude vivifies; isolation kills.” Joseph Roux

Two thirds of the way through this meditation (a reflective and highbrow term I use for my prattle) I am already way off my intentional mark, I had intended that this piece address an observation I had some time ago that the more artists you have in a community, the less politically engaged the citizenry is. If true (not a situation I often find with my observations) why would that be, I wondered? Art demands sacrifice. To economically or artistically survive as an artist, one has to block out the external world, be selective at the very least. What is often forfeited is time. Artists have to create. Artists have to employ  business methods. Democratic engagement requires time and participation. Or so I was thinking. I rarely see artists at community meetings. Oh, sure, there are some who high step out, multi-tasking utopians for the most part, who can never decide what not to do. But the authentic artists, the ones who are obsessed with their creativity, consumed by a creative passive that demands total obedience, well, my impression is that they have no time for the jerkily inefficient dance of democracy, a dance which often sees the dancers stepping on toes, theirs and others; in lockstep, it can become some ungainly square dance in the round.

“A hermit is simply a person to whom civilization has failed to adjust itself.”  Will Cuppy

Most of my life was spent in a vibrant urban setting. I resided in the Lower Mainland for most of the period 1965-2003. Almost 40 years of alienating, exciting   city life. I had acclimatised to the ways of pavement and concrete. Since exercising my right to downsize, little has changed. I confess to having the same, or similar, profligate pursuits as finagled many of my preoccupied city days. Excluding regular employment that is, as well as my modest domestic duties, I easily fell into many of those deceptively easy distractions any great conglomerated urban sprawl had to offer.  Here, I am stymied only by my limited, slightly consumptive ambition.

There are two things I cannot imagine abandoning; writing and politically engaged community involvement. I need both. I thrive on both…even though I nurture my inner hermit with calorific food  and aimless diversion. I find that often, each, writing and community involvement, blends, one into the other. One pulls me out of myself; the other draws me in to my core. Healthy tension to be sure, tension that is the sap of life; it either refreshes you or knocks you silly…

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