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Henry Miller

excerpt from Sexus

at The Spirit and Flesh World Religion and Spirituality Online Library: uniting seemingly opposed ideologies and vibrations into the true, pristine harmony of cosmic oneness.

Henry Miller book excerpt

 

"If you persist in throttling your impulses you end by becoming a clot of phlegm. You finally spit out a gob which completely drains you and which you only realize years later was not a gob of spit but your inmost self. If you lose that you will always race through dark streets like a madman pursued by phantoms. You will always be able to say with perfect sincerity: "I don't know what I want to do in life." You can push yourself clean through the filament of life and come out at the wrong end of the telescope, seeing everything beyond you, out of grasp, and diabolically twisted. From then on the game's up. Whichever direction you take you will find yourself in a hall of mirrors; you will race like a madman, searching for an exit, to find that you are surrounded only by distorted images of your own sweet self. ...

The world would only begin to get something of value from me the moment I stopped being a serious member of society and became- myself. The State, the nation, the united nations of the world, were nothing but one great aggregation of individuals who repeated the mistakes of their forefathers. They were caught in the wheel from birth and they kept at it till death- and this treadmill they tried to dignify by calling it "life". If you asked anyone to explain or define life, what was the be-all and end-all, you got a blank look for an answer. Life was something which philosophers dealt with in books that no one read. Those in the thick of life, "the plugs in harness," had no time for such idle questions. "You've got to eat, haven't you.?" This query, which was supposed to be a stopgap, and which had already been answered, if not in the absolute negative at least in a disturbingly relative negative by those who knew, was a clue to all the other questions which followed in a veritable Euclidian suite. From the little reading I had done I had observed that the men who were most in life, who were molding life, who were life itself, ate little, slept little, owned nothing or little. They had no illusions about duty, or perpetuation of their kith and kin, or the preservation of the State. They were interested in truth and truth alone. They recognized only one kind of activity- creation. Nobody could command their services because they had of their own pledged themselves to give all. They gave gratuitously, because that is the only way to give. This was the way of life which appealed to me: it made sound sense. It was life- not the simulacrum which those about me worshipped. ...

What I secretly longed for was to disentangle myself from all those lives which had woven themselves into the pattern of my own life and were making my destiny a part of theirs. To shake myself free of these accumulating experiences which were mine only by force of inertia required a violent effort. Now and then I lunged and tore at the net, but only to become more enmeshed. My liberation seemed to involve pain and suffering to those near and dear to me. Every move I made for my own private good brought about reproach and condemnation. I was a traitor a thousand times over. ...

The purpose of discipline is to promote freedom. But freedom leads to infinity and infinity is terrifying. Then arose the comforting thought of stopping at the brink, of setting down in words the mysteries of impulsion, compulsion, propulsion, of bathing the senses in human odors. To become utterly human, the compassionate fiend incarnate, the locksmith of the great door leading beyond and away and forever isolate. ...

In the beginning one wants to approach every problem directly. The more direct and insistent the approach, the more quickly and surely one succeeds in getting caught in the web. No one is more helpless than the heroic individual. And no one can produce more tragedy and confusion than such a type. Flashing his sword above the Gordian knot, he promises speedy deliverance. A delusion which ends in an ocean of blood.

The creative artist has something in common with the hero. Though functioning on another plane, he too believes that he has solutions to offer. He gives his life to accomplish imaginary triumphs. At the conclusion of every grand experiment, whether by statesman, warrior, poet or philosopher, the problems of life present the same enigmatic complexion. The happiest peoples, it is said, are those which have no history. Those which have a history, those which have made history, seem only to have emphasized through their accomplishments the eternality of struggle. These disappear too, eventually, just as those who made no effort, who were content merely to live and enjoy. ...

The creative individual (in wrestling with his medium) is supposed to experience a joy which balances, if it does not outweigh, the pain and anguish which accompany the struggle to express himself. He lives in his work, we say. But this unique kind of life varies extremely with the individual. It is only in the measure that he is aware of more life, the life abundant, that he may be said to live in his work. If there is no realization there is no purpose or advantage in substituting the imaginative life for the purely adventurous one of reality. Everyone who lifts himself above the activities of the daily round does so not only in the hope of enlarging his field of experience, or even of enriching it, but of quickening it. Only in this sense does struggle have any meaning. Accept this view, and the distinction between failure and success is nil. And this is what every great artist comes to learn en route- that the process in which he is involved has to do with another dimension of life, that by identifying himself with this process he augments life. In this view of things he is permanently removed- and protected- from the insidious death which seems to triumph all about him. He divines that the great secret will never be apprehended but incorporated in his very substance. He has to make himself a part of the mystery, live in it as well as with it. Acceptance is the solution: it is an art, not an egotistical performance on the part of the intellect. Through art, then, one finally establishes contact with reality: that is the great discovery. Here all is play and invention; there is no solid foothold from which to launch projectiles which will pierce the miasma of folly, ignorance and greed. The world has not to be put in order: the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order, to know what is the world order in contradistinction to the wishful-thinking orders which we seek to impose on one another. ...

The great joy of the artist is to become aware of a higher order of things, to recognize by the compulsive and spontaneous manipulation of his own impulses the resemblance between human creation and what is called "divine" creation. ...

To be caught in a glut of dramatic episodes, to be ceaselessly participating, means among other things that one is unaware of the outlines of that bigger drama of which human activity is but a small part. ...

To ask the purpose of the game, how it is related to life, is idle. As well ask the Creator why volcanoes? why hurricanes? since obviously they contribute nothing but disaster. But since disasters are disastrous only for those who are engulfed in them, whereas they can be illuminating for those who survive and study them, so it is in the creative world. The dreamer who returns from his voyage, if he is not shipwrecked en route, may and usually does convert the collapse of his tenuous fabric into other stuff. For a child the pricking of a bubble bay offer nothing but astonishment and delight. The student of illusions and mirages may react differently. A scientist may bring to a bubble the emotional wealth of a world of thought. The same phenomenon which causes the child to scream with delight may give birth, in the mind of an earnest experimenter, to a dazzling vision of truth. In the artist these contrasting reactions seem to combine or merge, producing that ultimate one, the great catalyzer called realization. Seeing, knowing, discovering, enjoying- these faculties or powers are pale and lifeless without realization. The artist's game is to move over into reality. It is to see beyond the mere "disaster" which the picture of a lost battlefield renders to the naked eye. For, since the beginning of time the picture which the world has presented to the naked eye can hardly seem anything but a hideous battleground of lost causes. It has been so and will be so until man ceases to regard himself as the mere seat of conflict. Until he takes up the task of becoming the "I of his I."

(by Henry Miller, excerpted from Sexus)

 

Henry Miller book excerpt

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