Halfway through the morning coffee crazy things often happen. For instance the other day I caught myself standing in the middle of my room and staring at a globe (of the Earth) which sits a-top a college-fridge. I could sense some sort of a calculation going on behind my eyes but my conscious-self wasn’t privy to the details so I waited. A few moments later an inaccessible part of my mind spit a calculation out onto the floor of a more accessible part; low-and-behold- I had a idea.
In my world flat, blank surfaces, ripe for putting stuff on are quickly swallowed up by said stuff. This is a constant dilemma for people like me who aren’t always great at putting shit back where it goes when done using it. Globes are kind of nice to have around but more often than not this one is just in my way. This and a telescope are the only things I own that are of no use to either my music or art endeavors. I’ve had to work pretty hard to make my 11’x11′ ”work-space” work. I have a ridiculous amount of hobbies and as much “stuff” as I do keep I’m definitely not a pack-rat. When I know something has no further practical use I see it as dead-weight and am quick to donate or sell.
So within a matter of seconds of my morning epiphany I’m reefing on this thing and trying to get it apart; which, by the way, is the best way to figure out how anything works. Directions are over-rated and anyways I only paid $2 for it at a yard sale. It didn’t come with paperwork.
The mount dismantled, parts in hand I hit the garage where I keep all sorts of tools and storage cases full of random screws and bits. In one of the bins is a molly-screw with identical threading; I had everything I needed to hang this thing upside down; suspended in my ‘space’.
Flash to smash this whole ordeal was probably only 15 minutes. Trading this sliver of time for a square foot of prime real-estate still seems like a pretty good trade. Now I have another convenient spot that’s perfect for quickly unloading my hands of small things that belong elsewhere.
See the hanging basket next to it? That is my recycling bin and it was thunk up with the same type of caffeine-addled sagacity. Also I no longer accidentally kick recyclables all over my room and it’s fun to throw things at it.
How I’m going to tie all this in with the rest of today’s post? I have no idea but my faith in the way caffeine randomly connects unrelated portions of my brain to yield unusual concoctions is unwavering.
•••Intuition & The Sad Plight of the Young Artist•••
These last few days I’ve been engaged in a sprawling, but great, conversation with a friend concerning the mysteries of intuition. All I can say for sure about it is that intuition is incredibly hard to define. Here’s Merriam-Websters attempt at it…
Intuition: (in·tu·i·tion | \ ˌin-tü-ˈi-shən , -tyü- \)
“The power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference”
Intuition and the gut-feeling has proven itself to be remarkably powerful force in my life… most of the time. Other times it has definitely failed me but then again I can say the same about my capacity to use reason and logic.
Some time ago a singer/songwriter had heard through the grapevine that I have the experience and ability to produce and record albums, which I do. She was pretty green to say the least but had convinced herself that her songs were good enough to record and that she was good enough to perform them. She was one of these “spiritual types” and had the tendency to view everything though the lens of New-Age Mysticism. Right off the bat she explained to me that she has been on some powerful life-journey and that I actually came to her in an important “vision” she had. I was the guy, she was told, that was gonna walk with her through this particular phase of her trek. At this point in my life I’m pretty motivated by keeping things streamline and getting to the point. Also I’m more than adept at explaining things without the need for any pseudo-scientific bullshit. But whatever, this was her ride and I had no problem deciphering the spiritual mumbo-jumbo and translating it to practical information I needed to do my job. For example: Vision = Idea. See? It’s easy.
Everyone feels things within; it’s part of the human condition which is fundamentally mysterious. We can define these inner gurglings as intuition or as thoughts but either way this phenomenon will fall somewhere on the spectrum of the two. People can call it visions, spiritual communications from the dead, messages from angels… call it Shit-Signals-from-planet-ShitBird…. it’s doesn’t matter. No matter what we call our mysterious inner activities it is all, at a base level, electrical signals coursing through machinery that’s the same in each of us. Why some people find the need to explain things in the most difficult and improbable way I don’t know. Maybe there’s discomfort or fear of the unknown? Science hasn’t been able to explain everything and likely never will but it’s by far the best “guess” we have. But I find it sad that it’s only in the vast realm of the of the unknown where soothsayers, astrologers and religious folks find their purchase to join the conversation with confidence brandishing some false valence of authority. This is where they finally make their stand? With every scientific discovery these quacks are further marginalized into the reaches of no-man’s land. If you ever listen to Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle try to explain your intuitions using quantum physics you are heading in the wrong direction.
So the recording project blew up in short order. This starlet-hopeful couldn’t leave our dogmatic differences outside the studio door and her curiosity about my spiritually, or lack there of, became palpable. And annoying. I also got the feeling she found it important that I knew her particular story… which was fine. I braced myself for boredom and leaned back. After all, I was getting paid by the hour and if she wanted to spend her money talking gobbledygook then that’s her decision.* Her main mistake, as I see it, was seeking a sort of validation from me for her beliefs. I remember asking her, as she prodded me for input, if she was really sure she wanted to go that road because I suck at lying worse than I suck at holding back the truth. By then, though, it was on for this Spiritual Warrior. She had spied the bookshelf behind me and I noticed was having trouble looking away for long. The Christopher Hitchens‘ books, god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The Portable Atheist; in their bright yellow jackets, tend to pop off the shelf regardless of their provocative titles. The shiny, chrome cover of Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion is also a hard one to ignore.
*she never did pay me for the five hours of work we did. I wonder if stiffing me came by way of vision too
But she went deeper into the blah-blah with flimsy reasoning about how she’s not a Christian but a follower of Jesus and his teachings… I did my best to listen polity while captive to this nonsensical drivel. I learned a long time ago that there are just no compelling, non-fallacious arguments to be had from religious people. And it usually gets pathetic when they try to use logic for something so inoculated from it. For instance, as she was telling me about all the great works and lessons he bestowed to his followers 2000 years ago she didn’t seem bothered that most anything written about the guy, if he even existed at all, happened many hundreds of years after he died and always for some kingdom sanctioned power-grab type drama. Or that there probably weren’t too many tall, white-skinned, blue-eyed people in the middle-east then… There’s a billion examples of how the bible doesn’t square with real-life but I don’t need to get into that now. I’ll just whole-hardheartedly recommend the books I cited above as well as End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. If you’re fully confident that your faith is the absolute truth than if follows that you should be able to ingest any contrary information and when you come out the other side, if you still believe; provide some good arguments. Please get a me if you do, would genuinely love to discuss.
In the end i did my best to explain the logic behind my disbelief but it was taken as an insult. This isn’t how facts are supposed work, I futilely tried to explain. She left shorty after and that was that until I received a call a few weeks later to explain how insulted she was by my view on religiosity. Still she took the whole thing personally and as a sign of great disrespect. And much to my relief she decided we shouldn’t work together. No intuiting needed there; this was the first thing we agreed on.
Okay rounding our way back toward intuitions again… To be honest I intuited from the beginning that the project probably wouldn’t work out too well. Even before I heard her ‘sing’ or read her ‘lyrics’ I just had a bad gut-feeling; she just seemed way out of her element and completely aloof to even the basics with performance or recording. We never came close to touching a mic. When I said she was green earlier I’m talking like the most vivid shade possible.
Within short order of working together there were plenty more reasons that began surfacing to strongly support my foreboding feelings about our pairing; this was far before the religious tiff. But this is a situation where I have a “job” to do and she’s was a “client” and giving it your best shot is the only option. That’s just what a producer is supposed to do. Sometimes the job is putting lipstick on a pig or hubcaps on a tractor.
Not to be too hard on the new-artist types. Everyone has to start somewhere and should have the right to bring their dream-work to fruition regardless of how undeveloped it might be. I hoped at the very least I could help her with that crucial step. After all, hearing your new music played back is a hugely important but disorientating step for the new-artist. It’s where they begin to see themselves as they actually are and as opposed to what they imagine themselves to be. My first recordings are INSANELY terrible and I truly thought I was ready for the big time! I couldn’t sing any notes that weren’t already in the chords being played. I sang in some Kermity-sounding register and was stupidly transfixed and enthralled by what the only three chords I knew sounded like. Why did I think I was ready to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone at as 13yo? Because I didn’t know jack-shit! I’d never been anywhere and didn’t have internet. By then I was still a ways away from learning the supreme values of brutal honesty and constructive self-criticism. I’ve accepted those lessons so far into my house that they often suffocate me.
Loving thy-self too hard is a conman trap for any artsy noob. Our first creations feel positively miraculous; like a gift from the gods, falling from their hands to yours. The outcome is always unexpectedly precious, otherworldly and an object to simply behold and admire. But as age and experience tightens it’s grip on your perspective and presumptions you learn many other important yet excruciating lessons. Such as you need to kill your darlings. I think Stephen King said that… And he’s absolutely right. Too many hopeful artists are way too enamored with themselves. It’s just one more step on the long road to creation with quality. It’s one more homey cocoon you’ve grown to love that you must claw you’re way out of once the fit is too snug
So in the early days it’s safe to say my intuition failed me but so did my logic. Probably more often now that’s I think back on some of the stupid things I’ve done..
I think it’s also safe, and fair, to say that intuition failed my client as well. (I do wonder if she’s getting her visions from some other source now…)
We have brains for a reason and it seems pretty clear to me that logic and intuition need each other; like a binary star-system forever locked in a violent dance for balance and survival.