Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reflections On The Fizzling Out Of AZI

I was working on the same writing project from September up until the beginning of this month. The project was called 'Art, Zen, And Insurrection: Finding Personal And Social Change In The Art Of Life". The project was inspired by my reading for the last year or so. The main people I was working with were Collingwood and Foucault. Foucault provided the initial inspiration when he introduced the notion of the aesthetics of existence in The Use Of Pleasure. Because of that book (and Clausewitz and others) I was compelled to read and think about creative living, philosophy of history, neuroplasticity, personal change, theory of mind, lots of things. I was sent on a weird reading path that addressed a wide range of issues, all of which focused on the question of aesthetic or artistic living. In many ways I think I was just trying to find out for myself how I could live a good life, or an expressive life, or to figure out whether an expressive life was a good life.

Eventually I ended up reading Collingwood's The Principles Of Art. I remember it clearly. At the end of August I tried to write an essay called 'The Science And Art Of Minds' and I couldn't do it adequately. I was stumped by the issue of living creatively, the issue of aesthetics and art. So Collingwood seemed like the logical place to turn. And gosh what a book I found! The Principles is an astounding book. I will talk big game about Collingwood all the time until I learn better. But at this point I still find his work so fascinating and fun and amazing.

I found The Principles so impressive that I decided to use it as the focal point of a large scale writing project that would address the issues raised by Foucault, and hopefully incorporate much of my other reading and writing. I managed to get really deep into the project. I wrote a ton on a lot of different things. I explicated Collingwood's aesthetics, I asked questions about how it applied to real life, and I capped the whole thing off with work on the purposeful creation of habits. The project occupied tons of my time and quite a lot of pages.

I still, however, have not finished the project. Recently I fizzled out on my serious writing. I wasn't able to continue going. But I want to continue going. And writing this post I feel it more than ever. The questions I am asking, the things I want to understand, are important to me. I don't think I'm talking about stupid things. But I might not be well read enough to talk about them adequately (duh).

And I think this is the core problem that is preventing me from plowing away at Part IV of AZI: Parts I, II, and III were drawing primarily on the reading that I had been doing for the last 2-3 years in my undergrad and my first year out of undergrad. Part IV, however, demanded that I take a very new track with my reading: it demanded political reading, reading about the relationship between art, culture and politics, reading about governments and wars, etc.. It demanded that I deal with the issues of war, politics, and violence. And I have been reading. I have certainly been reading, no doubt. But because Part IV is drawing on very fresh reading, it is much harder to write. Parts I-III were drawing on things I had read a while ago and had already been working with, already been reflecting on. But this new stuff, this Part IV, this is all very fresh, I can't expect myself to process such large and complex issues so quickly.

I will say, however, that this post has been quite helpful for me in two ways. First, it makes me understand that Part IV is a different beast, and that the material, the reading, the thoughts, are so much fresher that I can't expect myself to make hay of it as easily as I did the other parts. Second, that by sticking to the original premise of the project (to reckon with Collingwood and Foucault) I can potentially persist and finish the project. I think I did fizzle out because I was overwhelmed with new tasks. I read Rousseau and found it confusing. I read Enlightenment's Wake and found a ton to grapple with, I read Howard Zinn and didn't know what to do, I have been reading Zizek and feel confounded.

In short, Part IV is hard as shit for me to write, and there are reasons for it. But that doesn't mean I'm done. Because I'm not.

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