Something’s Burning and I Think It’s My Mind!
There is a very shy man who occasionally comes into the gallery. He is interested in learning more about art but is very self-deprecating of his own experience and interests. He’ll hover in the background until it is only him and either me or my colleague in the shop and then ask all his questions and share his ideas and opinions on art, literature, music, film, etc. The conversations are always delightful and I do my best to be encouraging because it seems as though this is an entirely new world to him, so I do my best to encourage his bravery as he begins (and continues) to explore it. He is thoughtful and often quite insightful in his engagement with art. I enjoy our conversations.
Today I dropped by the shop and ran into him. He was just coming out and he mentioned that he’d bought a copy of my cento book. We talked about that for a bit and he had picked up some of the references to Greek epic in the poems, and he compared me to William Blake and Ezra Pound (which made me smile. I am a fan of both of these poets and that was quite a comparison) and then he said something that quite frankly made my week.
He had been assuring me that he was only scratching the surface, that he knew he wasn’t getting out of my centos what someone stepped in poetry would (and I was quick to say, that people respond to poetry based on their own experiences, that it speaks to each person differently). He finally paused and said, “I can only read a few lines and then I have to put it down and I carry those lines with me for days. It’s like…something’s burning and I think it’s my mind!”
I looked him right in the eye and said, “You understand my poetry perfectly.”
He told me that if he’d encountered my work in his twenties it would have destroyed his world, or set him on a totally different life path. He talked about books he’d read then: Hemingway, Joyce, Pound, etc. and how their work was like looking into a completely unique world, so incredibly different from his own and my work was like that too, that he’d read about people having these incredibly searing and intense experiences but it was like staring into a completely different universe from his own and then it struck me:
This is why purity is so important. This is why it’s so vitally crucial that we carefully choose what we read, what we watch, to what we expose ourselves (and it’s a choice we each have to make for ourselves, not one that should be dictated by any external authority). When we feed ourselves with words and art saturated with the Gods, it builds worlds in our minds. If we’re not careful, we can let in anything at all indiscriminately and that also builds worlds within our minds, polluted ones, rather than the worlds hospitable to our Gods and dead. These things matter and it’s an area that we alone control. What are we going to nourish in ourselves? What kind of landscape are we going to create within ourselves – one that nourishes the holy or one diametrically opposed to it? That is what religious purity is: creating worlds within ourselves hospitable to our Gods and spirits, and it’s important.