Heidi Oran at The Conscious Perspective has kindly asked me to write a guest post about meditation for her Monthly Mentor series. Please visit her site, have a read, and let me know what you think. Follow us both on Twitter @conscious_blog @EricRSchiller.
I tend to think of Art abstractly, as an idealized magical process. New things are created where before there was nothing. It generally starts with an idea or intuition out of which grows the impetus to create. Usually that first idea or an intertwining between two ideas comes with a great spark of enthusiasm that represents some sort of ecstatic truth. People would ‘get it’ perfectly if they could only feel exactly THAT.
But at the end of the day, art is something we perceive. I play a linguistic joke on myself when I talk about art without relating it to something in the world that someone is looking at, listening to, contemplating, or experiencing in some fashion. Creating something real that can bring others to that same ecstatic truth is Art. Artists attempt to elicit an experience or a process in their audience. But creating a worldly artifact that can be used by someone to achieve THAT is a process of its own.
Different art forms work differently this way. Some forms of art translate well into our everyday reality. For instance, if I think of a great idea for a book all I have to do is write the book (put words on page), publish the book (print/digital), and I’m done. On the other hand, if I come up with a great idea for a movie, I’ve got a lot more work cut out for me.
Literature, music, painting, and maybe dance are some of the most direct translations of an ecstatic idea, or THAT. In these art forms there is less process or activity for the idea to be lost or degraded. Each activity an artist takes to realize their ecstatic vision of truth takes the artist further from the world of ideas and closer to something that can be perceived by an observer. Even writing can dull the creative spark. Putting an idea into words is a challenge. A greater challenge is finding the right words and putting them into the right structure to guide a reader to a specific intuition.
This is the reason many serious artists don’t like to speak about their work. The ecstatic vision of truth doesn’t come neatly packaged in a few words, an image, or a soundbite. Usually it’s something numinous and mysterious, and the act of creating is the artist’s attempt to make that idea into something intelligible.
When a filmmaker is asked “What is your film about?” they better not have a snappy answer ready. If David Lynch could tell us what Lost Highway is about in one sentence, he shouldn’t have made it. Also, if it was that simple, we shouldn’t have spent 2 hours 25 minutes ingesting it. Fortunately the film exists as a process and a complete whole apart from any explanation. It opens up worlds of intuition for each observer to explore.
With film there are many distinct stages of creation, so the idea can get very far from THAT, the original creative spark. This can be a good thing because each stage demands its own creative treatment and different artists contribute their vision and talent to the final product. At the same time this can be a terrible thing because the successive stages of creation can dilute the power of the original idea. By the time the script is written, the crew and cast hired, the film shot, edited, blended with sound that’s been recorded, foleyed and mixed, and finally presented, the director might look at the screen and think, “This has absolutely nothing to do with my original idea.” The movie Bad Timing by Nicholas Roeg began with a straightforward script and was shot in a straightforward manner. Fortunately in the editing process they discovered a strange take on the material and the film became a beautiful example of non-linear storytelling. The finished product was surely closer to the original creative spark than Roeg expected from his linear script.
Film may be the most challenging art form because it contains so many types of art. Cinematography, production design, costume and make-up, sound recording, acting and more contribute to the overall essence put forth by the script, and this all must be wrangled by a director (who may or may not have written the script, and may or may not get it). The director ultimately, often unfortunately, answers to the producer. The producer is a business man who may or may not have any artistic talent whatsoever.
But film can be one of the most rewarding art forms because it is so absorbing. Film uses our aesthetic eye (like painting), our aesthetic ear and sense of rhythm (like music), our thinking mind (like writing), and our intuition (our own feelings), concerted to give us a two-hour experience, a process which hopefully will enrich us.
Of course, masterpieces in any art form stay with us forever. Good art shows us a vision of life we couldn’t seen without it. And whether we ever make it to exactly THAT, the process of discovery is the important thing.
P.S. Follow me on Twitter @EricRSchiller for my micro-blog book report on each chapter of Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. It’s possibly the craziest book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of crazy books.
I’m a recent inductee into a new kind of mania. It’s called Twitter. I signed up on Saturday night and spent all of Sunday checking it like an addict, getting more and more excited for the Game of Thrones season two finale (called Valar Morghulis). The show itself, and the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, are a mania I’ve had for a little while longer.
Forget whether you agree with the politics of the show, or ‘aren’t into’ the fantasy genre – Game of Thrones is one of the most absorbing things on television (HBO, big surprise), on par with Breaking Bad (AMC, also not a surprise). The storytelling is so huge and the world is so rich that Game of Thrones is the best bargain on the air, in that it takes you the furthest per minute of television watched. I’ve done the math.
When adapting literature for the screen, I don’t fault screenwriters for straying from the source because film is not literature. The experience of a book is completely different from the experience of a movie. Literature generally happens in the psychology of the characters, so internal reasoning and decisions can be dramatized within the prose. Film and television are visual and audible media, so the audience must be able to see or hear the dramatic action. Compromises have to be made.
In the first season HBO and the show creators stayed close to the book, and where they deviated from its blueprint, they did so meaningfully. In season two, with a quickly expanding world of characters and locations, new customs and intrigues, a lot was changed for the screen. Some of this was great, some of it was frustrating.
So here is an offering of thoughts on the season. There will be spoilers that go deeper than season two. If you haven’t read the books and don’t want anything spoiled, don’t read on. Instead, read the books.
First, Tyrion’s story was abridged for the season. The Imp is arguably the most complex character in the series, and I was saddened that he didn’t kick as much ass in season two of the show. In the book A Clash of Kings Tyrion is active the entire time, plotting and scheming, defending the city, outdoing his sister, carving out his destiny, and protecting his lover. His discovery of Cersei’s mole was handled by a two-minute sequence. His involvement with the Alchemists was reduced to one or two brief scenes. And the giant chain-trap for Stannis in Blackwater Bay was completely eliminated. Fortunately, he still did kick ass, and Peter Dinklage deserves the praise he’s getting.
Theon’s journey is great in the book. In the show it took my breath away. Some big elements changed, particularly near the end, but I think HBO will reign it back in next season. Alfie Allen brought a great performance to the table and humanized Theon despite the character’s incredibly bad decision-making. Being able to see his face subconsciously second-guessing himself made the character heartbreaking instead of infuriating. It’s interesting that in the series Roose Bolton keeps telling Robb Stark to send the bastard Ramsay Bolton to Winterfell, yet Theon’s involvement with Ramsay was written out of the show. It’s still early in the series, but I was eager to see the Bastard Bolton because by book five he’s such a terror.
Robb Stark’s romantic plot line is completely invented for television. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t and feels a bit sappy. Fortunately for those who know the books, Robb’s scenes, particularly discussing his vow to the Frey’s with Catelyn, falls in the shadow of such dread that it can only be riveting.
Danaerys Targaryen’s narrative was distinctly weaker than last season and her foot-stomping outside of Quarth was the low-point. In A Clash of Kings she starts slowly but ends in such a bizarre and engaging finale that the progression is satisfying. The series finale veered away significantly (have we even seen a red door in the series?). Instead of trippin’ through the House of the Undying she seems to have two very sober visions before being attacked by Pyat Pree. The feeling-tone of her journey in the show isn’t as delicious as the book. But all is forgiven for that glorious dragon fire.
A Storm of Swords might be the best book in the series, so the wait for next season is going to be bittersweet. And with no concrete date for the sixth book there are a lot of what-ifs floating around the collective conscious, and a hell of a lot of time to psyche ourselves up on Twitter.