Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Meme-Noir: An Artistic Tour de Force January 14, 2020

Wherein lies the power of writing? Of story? When does a story become a meaningful experience? Prose become poetry? Writing become art?

Is good writing simply the ability to string words together in a logical way that always makes sense? Or is it something less horizontal and linear?  Something deep and dense, high and elevating? Complex and personal? The answer to these questions has less to do with your left-brained cognitive abilities — skills typically studied on IQ tests — than you might imagine. It’s more about your right brain’s preference for images and emotions.

Plato said art is mimetic by nature — an imitation of life — whereas ideas are the ultimate reality. For him, philosophy was superior to poetry. But his student, Aristotle, preferred poetry for the very reason that it mimics nature. He believed life is the ultimate reality, and that poetry reflects it.

Good writing, whether prose or poetry, resonates in your psyche because it is grounded in life. You might admire a writer’s intellectual cleverness with ideas and words, you might even try to imitate it. But a story or piece of writing will not become meaningful and memorable unless it stirs up images, memories, moods, and emotions in the same way dreams and myths do: by mirroring the archetypal truths of your soul in ways that move you. Interior experiences like this are embodied expressions of your nature in its essence, human nature, both physical and archetypal.

Meme-Noir (a play on the word ‘memoir’), is a remarkable new book by Toronto-based author, poet, artist, and teacher Steven McCabe that illustrates this connection perfectly. All of McCabe’s work — now including eight books, a blog called Poemimage, paintings, poems, drawings, videos, murals, and multi-media works — tell stories with a powerful psychological impact.

Imagine you are standing alone under a black-domed sky splashed with a panoply of starry constellations. Each has its own myths, cluster of personal associations, and visual and emotional nuances. This is how McCabe describes his inspiration for Meme-Noir:

“I emailed myself stories and anecdotes

Over an eight year period.

During discussions with the publisher (then),

For now the company has been sold,

I experienced a moment of revelation.

Luciano Iacobelli looked over my first ten pages

And said,

‘No, no, no, no, no.’

‘No theme, no thesis,

Just give me the puzzle pieces.’

He gestured with his hands and said,

‘Constellations!’

I was left to interpret ‘constellations’ as I wished.

I came up with the idea of vignettes comprising constellations.

Each vignette in a constellation

Has one key word in common.

Each series of vignettes

Covers various time periods,

Within a constellation.

So, it’s a non-linear timeline.”

This excerpt is from his beautifully illustrated post about Meme-Noir on his blog. Following is a sampling of three vignettes from the book. Each is a unique star in a particular constellation of his psyche centered around the key word “float.” As you read, notice the images and emotions the words elicit from you.

“Around dusk I saw a ball of light float slowly past. It was bigger than a basketball but soft as a dandelion puff. Later I saw another one outside the window, in the pitch-black countryside. The couple visiting from Toronto said, “We saw them all the way here.” I stayed overnight at their place when they were students. In the morning I did a shoulder stand and above me a tiny star exploded as soon as it appeared. Light shot everywhere.” p.12

“My brother asked older ladies in the department store for directions – while forming a saliva bubble on his tongue – and floating it out his mouth. “Are you alright, son?” When George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, ran for President in the Democratic Primaries he gave a press conference downtown. We leaned against the wall. Wallace walked towards the exit with men on either side. My brother stomped one leg like a pony. Wallace froze, with a startled expression. My brother leaned forward, at the hips, and floated a bubble into the air. Wallace stared for two seconds and continued walking. My brothers and I laughed, all the way home, down Canal Avenue.” p.13

“I substitute their names when I read art history books aloud as they paint: Myra developed Cubism, with George Braque, in the early 20 th Century – Omar painted a melting pocket watch, defining Surrealism – Janine introduced Pointillism, dabbing thousands of dots. I personalize the text, so it floats – without dragging – after their long week of data coming at them like a flash flood.” p. 13

This is not just art for public consumption. It’s an example of how a man is alchemically transforming the raw elements of his life into a work of art. What floated through your mind as you read?

Meme-Noir is a fresh, original, page-turning tour de force of a psychological memoir. McCabe as storyteller is an enormously likable lover of life who survives daunting challenges with forthrightness, intelligence, compassion and wit, sustained by his ability to lose and then find himself again in art.

The style is unlike anything you’ve read before. Described as a “journey of addictive linguistic charm” (from a blurb by Pierre L’Abbe), it twists and turns through the subterranean rabbit warren of McCabe’s artistic sensibility to trace the transformational odyssey of a wounded soul trying to make its way home.

I highly recommend Meme-Noir. You can order it here, and hereNever More Together, McCabe’s visual, wordless poem about the harsh treatment of truth in a society ruled by fear, can be found here. To watch the poet speak about Never More Together, check out this Youtube video.

Image credits: All images created by Steven McCabe. Reproduced here with permission.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

 

Terry Pratchett on Life, Death and the Hero’s Journey March 16, 2015

Our neighbor's tabebuia tree

Our neighbor’s tabebuia tree

As I write this, it’s March 16, one day after the Ides of March.  This time of year has long been celebrated by religious observances honoring the delicate tension between Life and Death.  Poised at the end of Winter, March 15 still lies in the margins of Death. Yet, just a few days from now, Spring will arrive with its promise of rebirth and new Life.

Perhaps an intuitive awareness of the thin boundary between Life and Death is why this pair of opposites is on my mind today.  It started this morning when I took Izzie, my granddog, for a walk and was dazzled by Nature’s celebration of extravagant new colors and scents.  Then, when I returned to my computer and saw notification of someone’s retweet of a quote I posted on twitter last Thursday, I was reminded of Death.

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.” ~Terry Pratchett

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Sir Terry Pratchett, a writer who sold over 85 million books around the world, finally “let go” last Thursday, March 12, 2015.  Despite his diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimer’s eight years ago, he continued to write. According to one article, last summer he completed his 41st novel in the Discworld series in which he collaborated with friend and fellow author, Neil Gaiman.

The article continues, “Just hours after he died, Death, known for his signature habit of ALWAYS SPEAKING IN CAPITALS in Pratchett’s novels, appeared on his twitter account with this news: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

“Death…is one of the most popular and prominent characters of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. He appears in 38 out of the 40 Discworld books published so far. In five of them, Death is a leading character.”

Yes, he was fascinated with Death, but if anyone loved and celebrated Life too, this man did.

Azaleas

Azaleas

“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”

“So much universe, and so little time.”

Perhaps in reference to his early love for science fiction and his passion for creating comical fantasies with bizarre characters and other-worldly settings, he wrote:

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.”

An astute observer of human nature, a natural philosopher who asked the Big questions about Life and Death, and a moralist, Pratchett’s most endearing stylistic signature was his cheeky, yet vulnerable, irreverence:

“It’s not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing.”

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.”

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”~I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett

“‘And what would humans be without love?’ RARE, said Death.” ~Sourcery, Terry Pratchett

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Finally, Terry Pratchett was a terrific story-teller. Everyone likes a good story, but not all of us like the same kind of good story. For example, I know several inveterate book lovers who have no interest in mythology or some of the newer genres like science fiction and modern fantasy. I get the feeling some of them consider these to be cruder or more frivolous forms of writing than classics or “serious” contemporary writing. Being an avid fan of all three genres as well as many of the classics, I’ve often wondered why.

I think the answer lies in the parallel passions of readers and the authors whose books they adore. The great stories of mythology, for instance, generally have the most appeal for seekers oriented to philosophy, religion, and spirituality.

The same people also tend to love the works of writers like Dante’ (The Divine Comedy), Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf and Siddhartha), Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn),  and Kate Chopin (The Awakening), as well as more contemporary writers like Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet), John Fowles (The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus), and Ursula Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness and the Dispossessed).

What these books, Terry Pratchett’s books, and the people who love them have in common is that their stories were written by, and filled with, the wisdom of an individual who, having faced the terrors of Death, travels through Life in search of meaning, authenticity, self-knowledge and spiritual awakening on what Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey.

Rest In Peace, Terry Pratchett. It is fitting that you left us during this season of transition from Death to new Life. The new world being born will be a bit kinder and wiser because you were in it.

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Image credits.  Small Gods/ThinkStock, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents/ThinkStock.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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