20 December 2006

Fear of the Third?

Yesterday, amidst the bustle of an office desperately trying to resolve its business before the impending holy daze, I got a call from my roommate, Zoe. (An "umlaut" goes over the "e." Let this parenthetical represent "umlaut.") Now, I am a master of silencing my phone, particularly at work, but I try to make a point of answering calls from family or roommate if I'm possibly in a position in which I may. It turns out I was, at that moment, available (doing nothing but musing and typing away over some silly 'blog) and I answered to discover that the call had nothing to do with the heating, a bill or me leaving my stuff out like some kind of domestic endurance course between the work room and the kitchen. No, Zoe (an "umlaut" goes over the "e"; let this parenthetical represent "umlaut") needed help of a different sort altogether.

Zoe (a"u"got"e"ltpr"u") and her partner Dave engage in a rarefied profession, coined "acro-salsa." Under the guise of Paradizo Dance, these marvels of modern physicality travel the world, performing and competing with their unique synthesis of movement traditions. They rock. Seriously. I don't know performers personally who are as strong and dedicated as these guys are. I met Zo(a"u"got"e"ltpr"u") through Kate Magram, who founded a circus-dance-theatre collective called Kirkos. Anyway, one of Paradizo Dance's new ventures is to put out a series of instructional videos in their approaches to salsa and acrobalance. Last night they had space booked, were all set for another filming, and Dave's back got sprained.

Hence, the phone call to me.

Now, I'm the sort of chap (don't restrain from hollering if you hear me) who spends a certain amount of his day planning out his evening--at least on the rare occasion when that evening's activities are not otherwise prescribed. This becomes a particular priority to me in times of flurry-ous activity, i.e., the week before Christmas. At the time Zoe(") caught me in these machinations, I had a good plan all well and settled: 1) visit Geoff at bar (Live Bait) and deliver Xmas present, have dinner+beer(s); 2) wrap-up Xmas shopping; 3) go home and start laundry; and 4) catalogue footage from film-making class. All-in-all, a nice little stratagem, sleekly designed to annihilate a certain amount of holiday stress. To top this off, about a month ago I injured my groin, or, in medical specificity, my ballular area. (What can I say? My sister's a nurse.) And so, when Z. proposed my presence as a base to her flyer for the purposes of posterity, I had a moment.

One of doubt.

Perhaps more anxiety than doubt, or inconvenience, but all roads led to doubt in the final summation.

I changed my plans. I went to BAX and helped out. Nothing spectacular happened. My groin did not 'asplode. My list of things-to-do remains precariously heavy. I'm so glad I made that choice.

Now for something completely different.

My dear friend, Patrick Lacey, began a project right around the autumnal equinox called The Traveling Muse. He began it by distributing three masks of his own making to the fellow members of our little group, The Exploding Yurts. (No, it's not a yodel-rock band from Sweden, it's a creative collaborative from the five boroughs.) The assignment was, amongst other things, to hold onto the mask for a month, then send it on. There's a lot that goes into it, but as I understand it the basic idea was to create something, send it out into the world to exist on its own and affect people as it will (though I'm pretty certain Patrick hopes it will inspire change for each person, be it in smaller or larger ways). Great idea. LOVE IT.

Loved it so much, in fact, that I was guilty of hanging onto the Muse for nearly three bloody months. There it sat, on the wall opposite my desk, boring its non-existent irises into my back. For me, it served as a reminder of all the things I'd rather be doing--indeed, feel I ought to be doing--if only I were in a demographic with more time for such things. It's possible it even inspired me to make more time, somehow; eke it out of my already jam-packed Third Life. All the while, I dreamed about when and to whom I would release it, and what effect it might have on him or her.

I got the most unexpected result. The person I sent the Muse to received it with enthusiasm, but when I explained to her about its purpose, she declined to engage in the project. The Muse will soon be winding its way back to Brooklyn.

There could have been any number of reasons. Perhaps she was too busy to be bothered, or maybe the project didn't make sense to her. Or, if it did, maybe it just wasn't something she could find the value in. There must be hundreds of reasons along these lines not to do it.

Yet it inspired in me a new idea about how a person might react to the kind of invitation the Muses are extending them. That reaction is: Fear. (A kissing cousin with Doubt.) Some people might be frightened by an excuse to step back and examine their wants, wishes, desires, dreams. Some may view their imagination as a place fraught with danger, unpredictability and disappointment. And, you know, I believe such people are right. It is dangerous in there. It may be where you got to make out with Angelina Jolie, but it's also where insanity sets its roots, and where Brad Pitt beats you down...and not in that nice Fight Club way.

I was reminded a couple of months ago of what an act of bravery any creative examination is when I had the opportunity to listen to Neil Gaiman speak during a tour promoting his new book. (It's a great read, as is his 'blog, which he writes in daily.) He talked about a lot, but what was striking about it all was to sit there and take in a person who had made his entire life about his creations, stuff purely from his mind and its collaborations with other minds. I thought, "God. That takes balls."

It does. Now, I don't know if my friend who is mailing back the Muse had this reaction. I can only guess. But the events of the past twenty-four hours add up to remind me that The Third Life(tm) is a high-stakes game, and playing it for too long can make one a little jaded to the feelings of others who may not be as involved in that particular game. Every act of creative examination is a very, very brave thing.

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