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Worshipping at the Altar of Our Muse

in Share your writing with readers Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:37 pm
by Miranda • 7 Posts

In recent years, with arguable hours of contemplation and a wee bit of therapy, one of the things that I have strived to realize with any endeavor I take into a world where others have gone before moi, is to recognize that all writers are not inspired by the same things, nor purposed for the same muse. In traveler/writer/seeker Alison Gunn's recent article, "Paying Homage at Hemingway’s Paris Shrines" she mentions her reluctant bowing to those who came before her and touches on that familiar autoimmune plague a writer can suffer. And that is the question of self worth and purpose in what one is about to say. Are we worthy to even attempt a verse...of contributing to this eternally crystalline pool of geniuses?" It struck me as a poignant topic for any creative artist, actually, and for me, the answer, was a resounding, "YES!" For we all have a verse waiting for us to give birth to.

I think of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, two writers I personally “worship”, especially the latter. When I was first introduced to him, I had no functional history lessons under my belt to understand the context with which Whitman even wrote Leaves of Grass (which my fingers almost typed as Leaves of Grace). Yet, its deeper truth touched my heart, stirring me deeply with an ache of longing for something my five senses could not achieve. Whitman was what I would call a mystic. He captured his experiences of the Civil War, poignant ever so now, I would submit, and gave me an insight about humanity, or lack there of, that I have had haunting me in my times of despair, loneliness, and sense of abandonment from Creator or of ineptitude:

"COME, said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,
Sing me the Universal.

In this broad Earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed Perfection.

By every life a share, or more or less,
None born but it is born—conceal’d or unconceal’d, the seed is waiting."

And then there are those times when dealing with the complexities of relating and being with people seem to come with a price tag that I’ve been drawn to withdraw, sighing “I think I could live with the animals. They would not be bothered by any of this. Their life would be so simple.” Such thoughts were inspired by this passage from Song of Myself, a section of a poem that has been poured over, crimped, highlighted in my copy for over 25 years:

"...I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of
years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth."

Whitman was a vagabond. A wanderer. A mystical reporter of the human condition in a time when there seemed to so little humanity to behold. And he had this marvelous duality that only a Gemini could invoke and a polytheism that I could hold onto. In my late teens and early 20's Leaves of Grass came to me out of the most unlikely of sources - the movie Bull Durham. In it, Annie quotes from I Sing the Body Electric, a more well known passage:

"I SING the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul."


I cannot explain why it captured my attention. I didn't really even understand what it meant. I was not familiar with worshiping at the altar of baseball as Annie did. I was not even schooled enough to know who wrote the verse. But there was a word. A single word in that moment in the movie that reached through 134 years and grabbed my seized my heart and my undivided attention.


It wasn't the word. I don't even think I really knew what it meant at the time. But something about it reached out to hold me. Annie's opening voice over in the movie carried that sultry southern twang of comfort. It beckoned me, calling me to drink more from this well of this verse. In that one word, I was bestowed the quest to find the well of one of my creative muses that is Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass, in part, was a kind of bible for me when I was in my 20′s. Some of it was meaningful. Some not. Not unlike other mystical works I'm familiar. It inspired me to write poetry, to attempt a poetic life... It intimidated me as well. Naively, I asked myself if I could live his life. At the time, the answer came up, “No… You cannot live what already was.” And so I’m left with a particular ache one acquires when you learn that you are yearning for a nostalgia that never existed…

That is the ache of the romantic, the open heart. And that was what grace I have learned seeds our voice, our purpose, our contribution. When we are in it, we cannot see it. But others can. Somehow, somewhere, your words, your verse travels through time and space and comes up to inspire another. Engirth...

As mystical muses are concerned, the same holds true for Dickinson. She never left her room. She communed with God in a way few writers do. She scribed her ecstasy, awe, grief on life and death as a poem, but really what she was writing was prayer. Dressed in white, she was taking orders, an archetypal nun, devoid of the necessary impurities one would “need” to commune with fellow man. She was called to a place where few would want to tread, the life of a hermetic mystical writer, alone, in her room and growing more seldomly capable of directly communicating with people. And she lead a life that made her eccentric and disconnected from humans, but not her humanity, which is a paradox. She did not want to be a mystical scribe of prayer. She just was. She knew her true self and fell prostate to it:

"AMPLE make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground."

This poem came to me through another movie... Sophie's Choice, a film that illuminates that with choice there is always a sacrifice some place in our life. And, despite the magnitude of her choice, smaller choices in our life carry that same voltage, that same charge. Dickinson knew this. Having this verse woven into the fabric of human tragedy, into a movie no less, was a mystical thread that tied her eternally her to Sophie and showed us expressions of grace. Sophie's Choice was inspired somewhere by Dickinson. Her mystical prayer was party to the alchemy of this movie script. Those numb to their five sense would not have heard Dickison speak from her grave. Those numb to their heart would not feel the grace she felt when she wrote them.

As a mother myself, though not at the time, the voyage or Sophie facing internment at a concentration camp, having to choose the fates of her two children, the two sides of her heart, was more than I could comprehend. But my heart did not simply break. It shattered me. The agony I collapsed under in the closing scene where Sophie's body of suicide is prayed over with this poem is an event that even Dickinson could never have imagined her work to inspire. A movie amplified for those of us in a way that simply reading can sometimes not flesh out. What we write, what she wrote, carried an intention that gained momentum through time and captured us in an era when poetry was lost on us as a collective... That is the magic we cannot predict, we cannot control, but can set into motion with inspired verse.

Dickinson is a writer I could never be. I do not know that I would be capable of such a sacrifice, to forego the typical earthly delights and dramas. I do not know that I could suffer in the kind of grace required to humble oneself to something greater than Self to such a magnitude. But I can for a few minutes or hours a day. And, like many a mystic… She died of a stroke. Which is interesting when you think about that for a while… The very thing that saves us and delivers us can kill us. For her, perhaps it was not a sacrifice. It was a calling she responded to. She was taking her orders. Perhaps it was even a craving.

In similar fashion, Whitman was called to the front lines of the darkness of humanity and he vesseled that for generations to come. Here we are, astrologically speaking, at a revisit of many of his themes, and we can learn from him as the lost soul can read upon Dickinson and draw form of prayer from her works.

While I worship the work of these two people, upon closer examination, neither life is what many would call glamourous or sexy or high profile, let alone successful in today's market. For Dickinson, it was a time when she was not hampered by the natter of so many voices. For Whitman, he had to write amidst of the bombs of distraction. We live in a time where many much to say; much of it without a pregnant pause of reflection, let alone conscious thought. Many people write and say nothing. And I suppose the kind of agony Gunn's beloved Hemingway had in competing with the voices of his peers was the very muse and passion that allowed him to devour life in his own way, to step aside and let the grace of verse birth.

It is said that one of the Mystical Laws is “That which we crave will be the source of our greatest suffering.”

We crave when we believe there is lack, there is drought, there is unworthiness not just of abundance, but of survival. And we can accept that as a truth, first, to become hungry, and we can allow that suffering to animate us to passionately give over to that voice, give it air time, and release it. I think Hemingway knew this. How one voices is so utterly unique if one can pull up the talons of attachment to trying to recreate what has already been done. He was not trying to be Fitzgerald, yet he was inspired by him. He drew from a well of his inner literary warrior and forged through the trenches of creativity to be broken enough to receive his orders... All the while being "original" may or may not have been a conscious thought. Being driven to voice and birth verse was a different kind of sacred journey. And to compare him to his contemporaries or those before him, or we to the same, desecrates the sacred path of being a scribe. For me, this is how we abort a creative muse.

People either synthesize or they are original. The majority of writers and artists synthesize. That’s not likely going to change. Because…

Originality is a lonely journey.

It requires us to stand alone and be accountable for our words, thoughts and ideas that come to us unfiltered, ready to be uttered. It is about standing in your dominion, unfettered by the naysayers, and that is the spot that can gut us out and bring up our Saboteur. We don’t sabotage ourselves when we are about to fail. We sabotage ourselves when we are about to do something we CAN do. And synthesizing has as much sacred value as originality. Until we bravely embrace the leap of faith required to vessel the purity of inspiration, we will synthesize. And that is Divine as well... Sophie's Choice... Bull Durham... They and other synthesis has brought me great comfort and engirthed me in my own path of writing.

It takes a special kind of BRAVERY to be a writer. It HAS to… Otherwise we would not “worship” at the hands of those before us whose words turned over new soil. We love and honour the pioneer, the hero, the person who is capable of going it alone amidst the greatest of oppositions. Why? Because he or she has FAITH. They have that undying spark inside that says, “I am scared to death, but if I DON’T do this it will kill me.”

For those called to write... We write because we have to. It is the oxygen that breathes life into creation. We are inspired. We write because we are called to speak. As the breath comes to us, we take in its life force and we pass it along to bring new version of life to others. We write because if we didn’t life would cease meaning and purpose. Dickinson had her works edited frequently for mass consumption, but it didn’t discourage her from receiving the inspiration; to keep expressing that voice. It would have killed her not to.

What we say is OUR business. How other people “hear” it is THEIR business. So the focus of our writing has to be, at its core, PERSONAL, not commercial, not about “popularity” or whether or not we get an Oprah level stamp of approval, not whether or not we “live up to” those who came before us. We can be inspired by competition, so long as there is not the seduction to compete with ourselves as well.

So I offer if we crave something that will result from the writing, it is not the writing we crave, it is the experience we enslave it to deliver us. There is always a “thing” or a “feeling” or a validation of a belief that exists on the light and dark side of the writing. Recognize it. Know they have a purpose. In the light, it can, perhaps, be distilled to the simplest of “I AM” statements. If we know we are sacred, unique, and have something that is a seed, a gift not opened, then we needn’t preoccupy our hearts with the contents. It can open with little effort. If we hold it hostage, even then, we will block our flow. If we release it, perhaps that is the pivotal step in allowing it to come to us willingly, lovingly and humbly?

Dickinson... Whitman... Hemingway... Fitzgerald... We can honour and worship at the altar of the words they brought forth and recognize the beauty that they were able to vessel. And, we can also recognize that at any given moment, there is an opportunity to channel our own grace and summon forth our own contribution, our own verse and know that neither has a lesser worth to someone. I was beckoned by a word. Some will be moved by a verse, and it will alter the molecules of their universe. Just as Alison wrote of her experience of Hemingway's Paris, she inspired this verse through me. Her words opened a door for me. She did not, I would presume, assume she could invoke such things out of me, nor I, yet I example here the fruit of the seed of her article. It had a breath. It has a life. It moves. It is sacred and it was a catalyst for blooming an idea in me that will, in turn, continue to grow and synthesize...

For some rare folk, we are a first stop for bringing forth something Source is ready for us to manifest. For others, we vessel the message further. We can be the conduit to a deeper message. And we can question a verse and beg its refinement or reflection. We can ask the question that provokes the desire to animate, to seek, to contemplate, to a-muse ourselves…

To give VOICE to a VERSE that comes THROUGH us not TO us.

Miranda J. Remington
Holistic Life Coach™ & Astrology

Inspired self discovery gets to the story under the story.™

Last edited Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:45 pm | Scroll up


RE: Worshipping at the Altar of Our Muse

in Share your writing with readers Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:38 pm
by Miranda • 7 Posts

I fall prostrate to my misuse of "prostate". Mercury is STILL retrograde, isn't it? oh gads...

Miranda J. Remington
Holistic Life Coach™ & Astrology

Inspired self discovery gets to the story under the story.™

Scroll up


RE: Worshipping at the Altar of Our Muse

in Share your writing with readers Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:59 pm
by Miranda • 7 Posts

For the "final version" of this article, please visit my blog.

Miranda J. Remington
Holistic Life Coach™ & Astrology

Inspired self discovery gets to the story under the story.™

Scroll up


RE: Worshipping at the Altar of Our Muse

in Share your writing with readers Sun Aug 21, 2011 1:39 am
by collaborativewriter • 85 Posts

I think what you've written, Miranda, encapsulates the idea of what true collaboration is. It is misunderstood by many. It implies, to those who are accustomed to writing alone, and taking all the credit for their own production, that they will have to hand away some of their ownership to the other person with whom they collaborate. Rarely do people realise that being inspired by those who came before us is also an act of collaboration.

We collaborate, consciously or unconsciously, with everyone we read. We read, and then we brainstorm with the writer, whether that writer is there, physically, with us or not. This is why I believe we don't actually need the idea of the Muses; we have each other, and ourselves, and that's quite enough to be getting on with.

However, taking on the subject of the Muses is a big one, and it's one I deal with at length in a book I wrote and am self-publishing, since I'm tired of dealing with publishers who are not me. But anyway, anything that inspires us, we also collaborate with to create a new sentence. The idea that we create anything totally and entirely 'unique,' of course, becomes problematic as soon as you start to see all writing as co-created. But, as you can see, I could go on and on about this subject.

Last edited Sun Aug 21, 2011 1:43 am | Scroll up

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