Monday, January 14, 2008

Charted Territory

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open." – Martha Graham

In keeping with my thoughts on maps and mapping, it occurs to me that calendars are maps, maps of time, and that personal calendars are sketches of the landscape of our personal days. As I built today's collage, affixing layers of transparent tissue paper over a month of my life, I struggled a little with how transparent I wanted to be with an audience of strangers with my personal landscape. How much do I want to expose of myself? Because who am I but the sum of my actions, my thoughts, priorities, feelings, sensibility? I usually strive for complete transparency, not because I'm an exhibitionist, but because I want present myself – to myself – as honestly as possible.

Which leads me to this admission: I don't think much of today's collage.

But I'm beginning to understand that if I'm unwilling to mess around in the murky area, to be transparently awkward and risk falling on my face, I'll never break through to anything truly new.

I believe we all must stand smack in the middle of the no-man's-land between future possibility and "been there, done that" – in other words, be present with our limitations – before we can find our growing edge and push against it.

I ask myself now: should I have pushed this collage until it became something I'm proud of? Am I abandoning it midstream? Is this lazy? Is this a cop-out?

I'll answer with a question: Who am I to judge?

Maybe Martha Graham is right when she says it is not the individual's business to assess their own creative expression. Or maybe the edge I'm pushing against right now is simply the "stop worrying about it" edge. Maybe I have to trust that nothing will collapse if I make a boring collage. Maybe I have to take that risk before I can move into uncharted self-discovery, into new artistic growth, before I can move – unselfconsciously – off the map.

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