Morning Pages

Four days home and I'm still suffering from jet lag. Oh, to have crossed the Atlantic by liner instead of jet plane. A gradual reintroduction to one's ordinary life, the transition from holiday (holy day) to feria made less abrupt. Instead, it is a struggle to stay awake, a struggle to sleep, appetite thrown higgeldy-piggeldy, the days too long, the nights too long, everything out of joint. Like being in an Hieronymus Bosch painting, appropriately enough. Watched In Bruges on the flight over from London; life and death, choices and judgment, mistakes that one has made that can never be corrected. Is it possible to live in a fairy tale? Certainly I spent the two weeks that I had in Belgium looking for something, not fairies, not Elves. Marys? Finding and not finding. The life that my brother is looking for; the life that I am looking for. Joycean musings at 5:05 AM, the day after the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If these were real morning pages, written by hand, I would say things that I can't say here, in type, for all the world to read. Fictions of frames, what is said and what is left unsaid. But my hand still hurts, nearly three months after my pinky jammed in practice. Can't write by hand, have nothing to say in type. Spiritual exercises include writing even when there is nothing to say. Original title for this post: "Invocation of the Muse". Most invocations begin thus: "I am afraid. I am so very afraid that I will have nothing to say." Emptiness and chaos, no ordered questions, no driving focus. Just jumbled thoughts and the hope of writing another book. Desire as a sickness. Advice from Badger on being in the action, not thinking about the goal, but being only the moment. How to get inside? Emic and etic, Meditation in a Toolshed, looking along the beam. How can I write about an experience that I have not had? And once I have had the experience, if I ever do, will I want or need to write about it? Writing as an invocation. By writing to create the experience. I can feel myself blocking, so many things that I need to confess and can't say, not even here. Academic writing can say only so much, articles rejected because my style doesn't fit the audience's expectations, but maybe what I want to say isn't expected. Or am I just kidding myself and I can't write? Oh, yes, even published professors have doubts, why are you surprised? Are you surprised? Interesting that we are not supposed to have doubts, not confess them, not reveal them. Which is more helpful to our students: pretending that we never question what we are doing, or letting them see that, yes, sometimes we, too, have moments like this one, awake in the wee hours, muddled? What do you think, my students who are reading this? Introversion, extroversion. An entire run of Asterix and a whole evening watching Battlestar Galactica and still can't wrestle myself free from the jet lag. A narrative cure. Is this something White People like? Embarrassed to find myself a cliche? Or reassured that I am not alone? False argument. According to Stuff White People Like, what white people like is to be authentic and unique, but then, of course, they aren't because they all want to be authentic and unique in the same way. Christian truth (which white people wouldn't like because it is about Jesus?): we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Does that make us individuals or copies? Nope, I'm still blocking and not saying what I really think. Temptation to check "Preview" and see how much I've written, but that is not the point of this exercise. Writing to show that there is something I've been thinking about. Footnote for those of you who haven't read The Artist's Way: morning pages as an exercise of brainstorming, creative opening, invoking the muse. Ideally, three pages, longhand, as fast as you can write, no editing along the way. Are you wondering what I would be writing if I didn't have an audience? Secrets and lies. What is the difference between something simply not said and a secret? Is something not said a lie or a secret? Is a secret a lie simply for not being said? Ironic that writing about my anxieties is considered "open". Think of all the things I'm still not saying here. Problem with my book, the book that is yet to be written. What am I allowed to say as an academic? Who will read it if I write the way it seems to me it should be written? Academic prose. Fiction. Essays. Blogs. All have their frames that can only be breached, never abandoned. No, I don't know what I'm writing about here. That's the point. It's 5:29AM now. No break through. Just a cat sitting comfortably by my side, my fingers dancing lightly on the keyboard, the apartment quiet because somehow my son isn't suffering in quite the same way I am from the jet lag and my husband came home several weeks ago, not being allowed as much vacation time as I am. Was I on vacation? Not supposed to be, supposed to be working. But, amazingly, my work includes looking at beautiful books and visiting churches. So is it really work? Interesting. I am feeling guilty about being on leave to do my own work because doing my own work feels to me like play. Which it should be, since play (according to Huizinga) is both authentically itself and yet set off from the everyday. Except that art and war and law also come under the rubric of play, according to Huizinga. I could spend this year doing anything I want. Well, sort of. I have made a promise by way of my fellowship applications to work on a particular project. But the problem is that I define that project. It is, in truth, whatever I want. What do I want to understand? Oh, but I've told you: prayer. So here I am at 5:35AM, praying. Is this what prayer looks like? Cartoon, thanks to Emily: "What prayer was like before it had a structure: 'I want a pony, give me a pony, I want a pony'."* (How do you punctuate that?) Prayer to define my desire. Prayer for the practice that I want to look along. Should I go back and break this musing (pun intended?) into paragraphs? Authenticity vs. legibility. The fiction of stream of consciousness, never actually a stream. Now it is 5:39AM. Time tags to show you the ebb and flow of my thinking. I really can type faster than I think because sometimes I have to stop typing in order for my thoughts to catch up. How many Muses are there? Saints and Muses. Euterpe with her double flute, shining atop the house in the Zurnbourg. Probably misspelled that**, but point here not to go out into Wikipedia and look things up. Oh, God, hasten to my aid. I am afraid of not having anything to say that has not already been said. Every step I take, I find others have been there already. My curiosity is authentic, but my ignorance is great. Time needed just to read to find out what others have already said. But how did that quotation go? Seem to remember it from Artist's Way. Spirit wants to express itself through you and you are the only one who can express it in this particular way. If you block it, it will never be said. Conversation with my son about this just a few days ago, on a train platform in Belgium. Maybe going to Bruges? When you try to be "creative", you end up saying exactly the same things as everyone else, but when you don't worry about being original and just say what you want to say, you describe the world in a way nobody else ever has.*** Imitatio as auctoritas. But is there really anything more to be said about the way in which devotion works? Late medieval devotion all about empathizing with Christ in his suffering, and everybody knows this. Images and words about arousing emotion, making the devotee feel as if he or she were present in the events of the Gospels, weeping with Mary Magdalen, feeling her joy as she recognized her Lord in the garden. End of problem. Lots of gory pictures that make Protestants squirm, too much art and not enough word, but we knew that. No, Mary not a goddess, but something going on with the saints. Battlestar Galactica moment here: the robots (Cylons) are monotheistic and talk about having their souls reunite with God, but the human beings are polytheists and think the robots are deluded by their programs. Religion everywhere, even in Belgium. Such a puzzle for us to understand. If we pray, we are giving into wishful thinking that somebody out there cares for us, but if we don't, we are cutting ourselves off from the universe. Who really prays for inspiration? Not me. Not purposefully. Inspiration sweeps you off your feet. Being inspired is being filled with the spirit, gratia plena, surrendering to God's will. Allowing God to work through you. Fears of no longer being oneself. See above on how worrying about being oneself ("creative", "original") is the surest way to being the same as everybody else. How do you tell the difference between inspiration and just not wanting to punctuate? See, even I can write in disjointed sentences, it takes effort to craft an argument. But... is there a but? Main effect of seeing all the paintings in London, Antwerp and Brussels: sheer awe at the craftsmanship of the Old Masters. What discipline it must take to paint like that. If only I could create something so beautiful. Now it's 5:57AM and time for yoga. Amen.

[Footnotes after the fact:
*Mister Boffo, 10-10-03: "The world and the way it was before prayers had structure and a set format: 'I want a pony, give me a pony. I want a pony, give me a pony. I want a pony, give me a pony. I want a pony, give me a pony.'"
**Yup, misspelled: Zurenborg.
***What my son actually said, from the notes that I took during our conversation under the cathedral in Mechelen (not on the train platform!): "Restating the obvious in a new way is the best way to make progress."]

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