21 February 2008

A Little Inside


Friend David recently examined past entries of mine (specifically, regarding my trips to California and Italy last year), and rather inadvertantly reminded me that Odin's Aviary here has gotten a little "inside" over the year. That is to say, there are certain terms and jokes here that new readers (those clambering at my virtual door daily) may not appreciate. I anticipated that when I started writing here. I have a penchant for nicknames, quotes and running gags, all of which -- when put in a long-term context -- lend themselves to coming across as a little inside. My apologies. This habit, however, has led me to an interesting discovery. An accident, to be sure, but one of the kind I enjoy and can't help taking some interest in.

Throughout the history of this 'blog thus far, I have used approximations of those irritating little marks one finds at the end of words or terms claiming rights to those words or terms. Trademark, copyright, rights reserved, patent pending, kosher . . . etc. (I know, for instance, that you can't patent language [apart from code, I think] or qualify it as "kosher," but I enjoy pretending you can.) This running gag originated from a variety of sources. One was a conversation with Friend Kate over the frustration of people trade-marking names of various forms of acrobalance. Another was the discovery that the word "superhero"(TM) had been trade-marked. It's all a little absurd, and I dig absurdity, so I dig into it in my little ways.

Along these lions, when I introduced my term The Third Life(r), I made sure to follow it with a little glyph of ownership, and have continued to do so with some regularity ever since. For some reason, it never ocurred to me to check into this, to simply Google-ize the term and see what came up. Friend David stumbled upon my 'blog again, did a little reading and, confused by the inside-term of The Third Life(c), decided to do just that. And what do you know? It ain't mine. I stole. From the Dutch. From a priest!

There was this dude: Jan van Ruusbroec, and in 1335 (cripes!) he wrote a book called The Spiritual Espousals. This book was comprised of three parts, and the last is called The Third Life, or, The Contemplative Life. From what I can glean here, Ruusbroec (van) was a part of a period of spiritual humanism in Flanders, and he got into some hot water for this third part of his book, because some felt it suggested pantheism or -- still worse, I'll just betcha -- that humans could come to a level with God (that's with a capital Gee). I'm still absorbing how he thought that was possible, but I get the feeling behind it. Particularly the bit about everyone having a portion of the divine within. We Unitarian Universalists tend to be a pretty humanistic bunch, and I tend to be a humanist who craves spiritual experiences, so I'm right there with Jan in at least one respect.

It is curious, though, that my phrase (Jan's phrase) should be used to describe a philosophical way of life at all, much less one that purports to be an alternative, and to emphasize enlightenment. Almost as much as I enjoy absurdity, I also enjoy coincidence. The pragmatism in me wages constant war with the inspiration -- as does the humanism with the spiritualism? -- and though it's always brief, every so often the inspiration wins a battle or two. This would be one such case. The connection between our use of the term is thin, yes, and I know we arrived at it from completely different . . . well, everything. Nevertheless. I am given pause. And I was taught that when I receive a gift, I should say "thank you."

When I use the term The Third Life (Copyright van Russbroec, 1335), I mean to refer to two things: the time an artist spends on his or her artistry, and that whole life in general, the one in which the artist makes a choice to devote time to their art. It may seem obvious. The conventional definition of an artist might be "one who makes art," but come on. I mean, really. Webster's wouldn't accept that. It's horrible for me to imagine, but there have probably been millions of gifted, necessary artists throughout history who simply never made the choice to pursue their art. Though they're none of them mutually exclusive, it's tough to balance life, love and art. It's tough because they're not mutually exclusive. This 'blog is a journal of one guy's attempt to create that balance, and improve it, in his life. Even the bits about comicbooks and fart jokes.

I don't mean to suggest that art = divine enlightenment by this comparison. Indeed, I would never presume to suggest that I have any generally useful insight into what is or isn't divine. (I even view it as going out on a limb to declare that to err is human, fer Christ's sake.) I will go so far, however, as to say that my quest for an artistic life is a spiritual one for me. Issues of inspiration and creation aside, just the alternating instrospection and communal contact with others that theatre allows me is what I consider a religious experience. Theist or humanist, I am more real, more awake, more alive and in love when I am living my life for something more than personal satisfaction or contentment. Apparently, so was ol' Jan.

Rock on, Jan. Rock. On.

4 comments:

Patrick said...

This will not come as a surprise to you, I'm sure, but my pursuit of art is also a spiritual quest. But then my ideal is to have my life be spiritual in all its facets. Certainly talking with you over coffee or wine has become one of my favorite forms of prayer in the past 7 years.

Davey said...

How cool is that?! You're like a reincarnated 13th century Flemish mystic!

Does that come with powers?

'Cuz if you've been holding out on me...

Jeff Wills said...

Thanks, Patrick. It has been a favorite form of mine as well. I wonder how many artists would declare that theirs was in no way a spiritual quest?

Davey, it does come with powers. I can be intentionally and unintentionally obscure in meaning through my use of over-wrought vocabulary. Plus I can fly, but only over certain areas of northern Europe.

Davey said...

You: Quickly my novice, to the bi-rimmed, man-powered pedal-driven tranportation devices we use when not in certain areas of northern Europe!

Me: You mean our bikes?

You:...