Archive for the 'muse' Category


April 28, 2014

I was writing about the Anglo-American property law concept of adverse possession in a comment I wrote to Paul Krugman’s column on Cliven Bundy, because I wanted to focus on how people get emotionally invested in their initially mistaken notions of what is theirs.

People do that in all kinds of contexts, including spiritual ones, I think.  In most social circles in our culture we don’t allow much discussion of trespasses against others that are not visible physical ones, but that doesn’t mean people don’t trespass against others in other ways.  In fact, the fact that we can’t talk about it helps such trespassers continue the trespass:  “What, are you crazy?  I can’t be doing that, that possibility doesn’t exist!”  And it doesn’t mean nobody talks about such trespasses, either — it is acceptable discourse in some circles.

I will focus on a context in which it is more generally acceptable to talk about the issue:  the muse relationship.

Writers, artists, and musicians who focus on someone whom they think is a muse may actually just be focusing on some particular real life person living their life on this planet.  Their focus may come across as a “wrong number” phone call to that person, and if the caller perseveres in the call, it may come across as a trespass; it may even damage the person.  And like Bundy grazing his cattle for years without paying, the caller may get used to the idea of a free grazing right.

People who have a lot of spiritual development and are very open get plenty of people who want their emotional and spiritual support.  Some of the people looking for the support try to establish muse relationships (some try other type relationships), and some of those relationships work, some of those relationships come across as trespassing or worse.  It can feel to the “muse” as if they are getting an unsolicited cold call promising them a scam.  They may follow up on the call to make sure it really is the scam it seems to be, and if it is, they may terminate the connection.  But first they may give the caller an opportunity to recast the relationship into a viable form.  If there is no willingness to negotiate in a reasonable way, then the connection will probably fray and fade.

Just calling the relationship a “muse” relationship doesn’t make it one.  It may be experienced as something quite different on the receiving end — the “muse” may feel as if she has a Cliven Bundy grazing his cattle on her resources, claiming, in essence, adverse possession.



“Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel”

February 20, 2013

I’ve wondered about this, and actually about what looks like the phenomenon in reverse.  What do you do when distinctive pieces of your life wind up as prominent parts of the art of someone you don’t know directly?

The “Be careful …” line suggests the person whose life gets publicized has some control over the situation:  behave in such a way as to preclude this from happening.  That ignores the fact of free will and that we don’t control other people.

But it contains, I think, the germ of what makes such a usage okay according to human convention:  a relationship.

In fact, when the person finds herself getting to know (there was an indirect connection through a neighbor who was a relative) a person who has written, say, a song that talks about a woman who works in an antique store and drives a used Mercedes, he will tell her, accurately from his point of view, that it’s just a song, not about her.  Her friends will tell her that he’s “getting into her stuff” (not necessarily consciously) and advise some equivalent of a “cease and desist” order.  But what would really resolve the tension is a relationship, on the physical plane, of some sort, that would make the usage seem not an experience of being used for another’s benefit.

In the case above, the connection that might have turned into a relationship seemed to be between the songwriter and the woman’s younger son, and had he (the songwriter) taken the boy under his wing in some way, of which he was sorely in need, that would have been enough.  Turned out the man had enough trouble being there for his own children (by the first of his two ex-wives).

So what’s the lesson?  Same as I’ve written before, that it’s analogous to trying to explain microscopic germs to someone who doesn’t believe that’s why they’re getting sick.

They don’t have to see it that way.  In this case, they don’t have to compromise the “wrong” through a social bond of some sort.

At some point, I think, the lesson is to let go anyway, without the resolution that would have eased the negative feelings that arise from a sense of having felt used, to forgive the person for not experiencing the issue in a way that allows them to perceive the damage that the person feels they have incurred.  Getting stuck in requiring that request be fulfilled becomes worse than finding some other way forward.  The bottom line is that the other person just won’t see it, and no amount of pursuing them or arguing about it, if they will give you the chance, will change that, and the helpful thing, it seems to me, is to figure out unilaterally a new way to perceive the situation that allows it to be resolved.

Faxes, phones, and copiers

May 17, 2012

I was on my way to a meeting this morning, sitting on the bus, and it occurred to me to wonder if I had left my computer printer on.  It’s one of those 3-in-1 things that combines fax, printer, and copier.  The way it’s set up now, if it’s on and somebody phones in, I think they end up with the fax screech rather than being transferred over to voicemail.

I got to thinking further about this all being filtered through one machine (it’s got a phone, too).  And that got me thinking about poets and mystics.  (I’m also reading Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now, so that may be an influence here.)

I’ve probably said this before, but I often wind up with poets in my life and I think my mind works in ways similar to theirs, so I think that may be the basis for the apparent affinity.  But like songwriters I have known who were even more explicit about it (“I’m just a songwriter, it’s just a song.”), many poets tend not to go all that deeply behind what they write, unless they also participate in what we might call mysticism.

There is a fairly loud strand within me that sees mysticism as purer than poetry, as somehow more valuable, important, or primary.  It’s not the only strand but it is there and it can get pretty loud.

Thinking about the fax/phone options in my printer gave me maybe a more neutral way of looking at it — maybe poets process faxes, mystics take phone calls (from the universe, the collective unconscious, whatever we’re all tuned into).  And some people probably do the equivalent of making copies.  (Printing from the computer is actually what I associate with the way I revisit past lives — I kind of play them out and then look at them.)

That’s my main point here, this metaphor, but while I’m on the subject, I will give voice to another loud strand within me.

Some people communicate on what I think many people call the astral plane, as well as on the physical one.  I suspect that different people who do have different ideas of what those connections or relationships mean, how to integrate those astral plane connections into their physical plane lives — or not.  I think there can be real problems when one person treats them as no different in significance from ones on the physical plane while the other person doesn’t.

Example:  an obvious beacon on the astral plane whom some people interact with as a muse but who is just another person and who therefore expects interactions to be reciprocal when they involve any part of the ego structure, and observes and experiences a distinction when we pull that aside and let our souls communicate and commingle.  The part of this “muse” they could communicate with without engaging in a personal relationship is different from this “muse’s” astral plane presence.  That interaction with the “muse” on the astral plane is sometimes experienced as “hacking,” when it’s surreptitious, and when it’s more overt, it can be experienced as deceitful or teasing if there is no bona fide relationship behind the interactions.

Sometimes I think this “muse” issue arises when the person being thus perceived is having trouble pulling her own ego out of the way, and that’s probably true, but if she’s also mirroring back the ego of her interlocutor, then there’s not much she can do to keep the egos out of it altogether, though she can keep repeating that “This is not what I’m about.”

This, I think, is a danger of astral plane interactions between poets and mystics — some ego gets in and then we’re off to the asymmetrical races.  This muse thing may work for the poet, but it doesn’t seem to for the muse.  I think it occurs at length and not for the good when the muse has interior damage she hasn’t resolved, so I do think she contributes to the dysfunctional relationship.

This is not to say that mystics and poets or poets and others or mystics and others can’t have astral plane relationships, just that for some of us, there is no meaningful distinction between an astral plane relationship and a physical plane one, and this muse relationship is just plain uncomfortable.

I am not a muse

April 7, 2012

I say this tongue in cheek, not directed at anybody, although I admit to having felt frustrated at being treated as a muse by people, by many people, whether they were conscious of what they were doing or not.  But, I’m feeling better about the whole thing now, because I’ve come to see myself differently, and learned, maybe, to dwell in my own self-image, not other people’s.

Here’s my tangible reflection in the material world of the process of coming to that understanding.

Many years ago, my parents gave Willy and me, for our anniversary, a reproduction of a head of the muse for comedy, Thalia, produced I think by a partnership between the Vatican Museum and the New York Metropolitan, if I’m remembering correctly.  It wouldn’t stand by itself, and we found someone in Somerville, MA to make a pedestal for it.  It now sits on top of a piano at what is the back of the dining room but used to be part of a pantry, I suspect.

A few months ago, I added a Buddha head to the tableau:

Then along came the painted Buddha head, which sits on the floor below Thalia and facing me, through a doorway, when I’m sitting at the kitchen table eating.

The Buddha above and Thalia share the upright piano platform:

What I derive from these juxtapositions and sequence of events is that I used to allow myself to be treated as some kind of muse, whether for poets, songwriters, artists, and such, or by people with whom I was in a relationship, but that more recently I have identified that energy that people tap into as being about something else, as being part of my soul’s divinity.  I was aware of being unhappy when it was put to artistic, much less commercial, use, but demanding that others not do this didn’t seem a fruitful approach.  And I know I have felt used, especially when the other person has not returned in their own way as much in the way of energy and resources as they took from me.  But I have come to see that what I need to do is to be clear in my own self about how I see myself, and that as long as I am clear in how I see myself, I can let the rest go, and, indeed, it all falls away —  it no longer feels like my responsibility or my business, and when I rest in my own vision of myself and am not focused on what others are doing, whatever it is they are doing impacts me less or not at all.

That understanding has given me some peace of mind.

Marriage and muses

January 12, 2012

Robert Graves had a thing about this, marriage and muses, and he managed to work out a theory and practice of it, for better and for worse.  My reaction to both the theory and how he conducted himself has changed over time.  (My high school Latin teacher is responsible for introducing me to the work of Robert Graves, back when I was an impressionable fifteen years old, so it has been a long period of reacting, both to Graves and to Secare.  Here we are somewhere in the middle of that (that is, Secare — my high school Latin teacher —  and I), about twenty years ago: .)

Graves and his muse relationships were problematic, even if they supported his creativity.  That jumping out of windows by Laura Riding, and by Graves after her, doesn’t seem like a great advertisement for such a relationship, and Graves’s conduct in the post-Riding years, while probably nobody’s business but Beryl Graves’s, sound somewhat difficult for all concerned.

I guess what interests me at this stage of my life is whether the relationship between writer and muse can be experienced as a successful asymmetrical love relationship, or whether it, like so many others, collapses from a mismatch between what is sought and what is aroused.