Monday, September 2, 2013

Why Do We Write – Really?

by Christina Carson

 His name was James Lane Prior, born in De Land, Florida and dying in Kathmandu, Nepal, sixty-two years later. The name under which he wrote and published was Pama Rab Sel. What he left for us, aside from a life that modeled what he wrote about, was a pocket-size pamphlet of fourteen pages, probably less than 500 words, in which he describes the moment as beautifully and fully as I've ever seen done. His brevity was born from his clarity, as it was obvious how deeply he grasped the reality of the moment.

I suspect that you may be wondering, right about now, why we are talking about James Prior or the subject about which he wrote. It offers an interesting explanation for why we write. Have you thought about it, why seemingly overnight thousands upon thousands of people are writing books, an undertaking that is not without its trials and demands of time and commitment? Have you thought about why you write? Yes, I know we create characters to love, hate, play with, and adore. We have message we want to share, and we write to escape our circumstances, create worlds we prefer and on and on. But if we dig underneath those seeming reasons for our commitment to writing, something more compelling emerges, something that speaks to a far more encompassing power that writing, and, quite frankly, all art forms, offer human beings. Without any study or practice, without trials or tribulations, it can usher us into an experience of the moment, our natural home, our natural state of consciousness, the one we came from, the one we’ll return to, the one we actually never left, but have expertly obscured from ourselves behind a novel entitled My Life told by a character bearing our name. As we've shown ourselves time and again, that story is not much fun and has but a nodding acquaintance with our true capacity for creativity. But when engaged in an art form, we experience minutes or longer where the art will tug us gently into the moment, and though we may not even realize we have left the world of Jane Doe for the expansive experience of selflessness, we do remember, in retrospect, how great it felt to be there.

Engaging with an art form saves us from ourselves, that small, petty self that organizes too much of our life. The more skillful we become as a writer, poet, musician, artist, dancer, or photographer, the more deeply it engages us and the longer and finer our experience of the moment becomes. And as an old Buddhist teacher once said to an inquiring student as to how he could improve his life, “Make the time between the moments shorter.”

We have given ourselves a gift of great measure, this involvement with art. The more conscious we become of what is actually taking place there, the easier it becomes to go sit down and write, to enhance the technical skills required, to raise our standards so our work increases in its capacity to fulfill art’s role in human existence, for it does have a most important role. Perhaps we’ll look at that in another blog, but for now, know that there is a power in the arts to change your life and those your art touches. Here is some of what James Lane Prior has to say about the moment:

Look around…ordinary?
Yet this is it, right now, the
exclusive message of the Cosmos to you!
This is totally and absolutely IT.
Look again, slowly, carefully…
Don’t bother with symbolisms.
Absorb the tone, texture and smell of Right Now.
Remove it all from the story like description in your mind.
Just look.
Just feel.
Hear the patterns of sound.
Slow down the tempo of your apprehension;
bring it to a still and endless moment.
This will do, will it not, for Eternity?
Had you something else in mind?
(Something a bit more grand?)
But this is where you are, right here.
The distance to Heaven is a blink of the eye.

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