ART & ORGANISM
Your A&O Diary
Actually, the epigraph above, extracted from C.D. Lewis’s book The Poetic Image (1983) applies to all artistic expression. Arguably the first “audience” for any creative expression is one’s self.
Your CLASS JOURNAL: is a key tool: this is your personal document in which new material from class and your personal passions are more-or-less integrated. This is yours alone and private, but can be used in multiple class exercises. If there is ever an open-book quiz, this will be the book. Please look at how journals and diaries have worked for other people. (e.g., Maria Popova’s 2014 essay at Brain Pickings blog and her collection of comments on diaries by Virginia Woolf. I keep a diary and her comments really resonated with)
Also, for me, C.D. Lewis’s observation works: “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand . The cognitive processes involved in the act of writing seem to synergize with other processes that taken together, help us understand what we’re thinking in ways we still do not understand. (from A&O Course Description)
From ’s essay “In Praise of Aphorisms.”) a process connected to an observation related by E.M.Forster: “How will I know what I think until I see what I say?” (and see many other similar observations by accomplished artists at A&O notes on extraordinary experiences of artists in their own words)
ZEN of taking notes. Taking and transcribing notes: There is an obscure element of Zen training, Sutra Copying. This was addressed by Taizan Maezumi Roshi in a Dharma talk at the Zen Center of Los Angeles: “What is the practice of copying sutras? The Lotus Sutra says repeatedly that those who copy it will, just in the act of copying itself, accomplish supreme enlightenment. Copying is an excellent way to fully put yourself into a sutra. You are one with copying and one with the sutra, truly sensing and feeling it. The action and object are easily unified. When you are copying, there is a sense of copying and also of the sutra allowing you to copy it. This interrelationship is felt intimately and, such a state of being, is itself supreme enlightenment.” [i]
Something about this rings true. In the early 1960’s, when first exploring spiritual practice, I benefited from the exercise of learning sumi brush work and copying scared symbols or even just words hundreds of times. When technology enabled me to copy notes of interest out of books, journals, or magazines I took to it eagerly … then learned for certain ideas it was sort of “disrespectful,” and I found myself taking the harder route– copying word for word (as I did since high school and until the advent of on-line resources). It was often (not always) better. I felt a greater intimacy with the ideas I was writing out.
As you find your way, I hope you will explore alternate paths … go beyond writing in mere words: embellish and doodle freely, the privacy of your personal field guide should be empowering, and its results are likely to surprise you. This will be the natural history of you.
The Natural History Notebook, examples:
[i] THE PRACTICE OF SUTRA COPYING 写経 Shakyō . Zen Center of Los Angeles. https://zcla.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Sutra-Copying-Introduction.pdf downloaded, February 22, 2021. Collected Materials and Writings for Zen Training Purposes only