Swampy Deep & Mountain High: Get Your Steady Sculpy On

What it is, author image

The cream rises and talent will out and all that, yes, it’s true, but it’s just as true that we have…, well, I’m not going to allow myself to surrender to negativity and a criticism of how things are. Life is messy, not everything works out according to plan. Sometimes it seems as if nothing does. So be it, nothing worth anything is easy except the things close to your heart. Which is to say, when you surrender to your personal mythology good things happen even if it’s merely the sense, the experience, of everyday connectedness that otherwise alludes us. Sit by a river and just be. Sculpt your sculpts. Write, walk, read, cook, hit power chords on your guitar. Create your vision of a better world. Rescue damsels in distress. Bake cookies. Be who you are.

Meanwhile, we all know Van Gogh died without experiencing the unique success that eventually came to his work. He suffered for his art in a way that seems frankly unacceptable. How can life be so cruel to someone with so much to offer the rest of us? He’s the tragic example of just how unfortunate the disparity between effort and commensurate reward can be. Ultimately, the work found its home and its day. And that’s the long and short of it: the work is the life. Talent, timing and drive? All part of it. And we’re not in 100% control of any of that, either. We’re tasked with exerting our influence, that’s all we can do. That is, the life is in service of the work and if it means that fulfillment for the individual art-crafter is difficult to resolve within the context of a lifetime, then, so be it. The energies of the creative life possess and express, if they’re mythologically authentic, a more or less eternal quality. “More or less” in the sense of just how direct a connection any particular art-craft vision solders itself to the cosmic circuitry of “universal appeal.” This part of things is a mystery and always will be, thank Thor.

Recall, once again, the wisdom of J.C. (Joe Campbell), hereby paraphrased: the reception to the boon within the context of the world-of-action takes one of three forms: (1) welcome, (2) refusal, (3) indifference. The indifference amounts to an opportunity to inform and teach and apply the patient pressure and time that eventually, on a good day, fractures the rock of resistance to one’s art-craft vision. Or any vision, for that matter. The world’s refusal can be overcome, eventually, by way of pedagogy and patience. And then of course, when the Genie grants your wish, you get everything else that comes with it, but that’s just another adventure, too. (Tap the source of this here):


Which brings me to the super heartening idea of paying-it-forward, as they say. One thing that happens, hooray! – is people helping people. So that sometimes one’s work gets in the hands of someone with influence – an influencer – and things get going. Things may even take off.

Let’s face it, nobody does art-craft for its own sake. As much as we like to imagine that the best, most authentic art-crafters will in fact devote themselves to creating that painting, symphony, sculpture, novel, what have you at all costs and under all circumstances, it ‘ain’t true. Yes, the most intuitively devoted amongst us, those most directly and reliably and relentlessly, as it were, communicating with the muse and enjoying life circumstances that do not otherwise crush us into survival mode ( the struggle against survival, security and domination, to borrow from the Kundalini chakra philosophy, that we share with the animals) will find some way to get something done. But I’m focusing here on the idea of attaining and expressing a version of mastery that rings true enough with the world-of-action that it, in a word, clicks.

Because the work, no matter if it’s your life work or not, has a cost in biological terms. The energy gets used and if it’s not replenished, it gets frankly used up and, day after day, year after year, if we don’t enjoy some measure of commensurate reward (the details of which will be different for everyone) we lose heart. And things fall apart. The art-crafter works and requires a connection in the form of encouragement from the world, and it’s hardly ever the economics that are most important. Hell, nobody makes money, statistically at least, doing anything. Most of us merely manage to cobble together an income that keeps things afloat. As art-crafters, especially, borrowing again from J.C., we require so very little. Otherwise, on the bad days, in the metaphorically chewy words of a buddy of the Crafsman, as he tells it:

“I feel like a gut slung out over a stump.”

Which happens to be the way I felt at the end of this last very long six day week on the job. (Hence, I’m only now getting back to posting). You don’t have to hunt game, slaughter chickens in your backyard, be a butcher or a cook to understand this sentiment. You just have to give it your all day after day and month after month and year after year and experience the psychological vacuum of the Void and you’ll know how it feels. It’s not so much pissing into the wind because that at least is a kind of feedback, unsightly and horrible yes, but nevertheless it’s a reaction, a return on your investment. No. It’s rather the failure to connect and the cruel sense of distance, of the cosmos turning a deaf ear to your heart that crushes one’s soul into powder, that reduces you to your hydrocarbon essence. Art-craft is expression, yes, but mostly (and any art-crafter, if they’re honest, will admit this) it’s communication. And it goes without saying that communication requires at least a listener. Otherwise, we are talking to ourselves. Which doesn’t cut it. It makes us question everything. Why do we do what we do? Are we wrong to be doing it? Are we a failure? Is the cosmos telling us that we should be doing something else?

It means everything and nothing to be devoting your life to your personal mythology. The still point in the center of this pushing and pulling is what we seek yet that still point is not life. Rather, it’s an aspiration. It’s not the experience of living, at least for most of us. Our aspirations are our legitimate ideals. The still point is enlightenment. Enlightenment as an ideal, too, but in philosophical terms it seeks the elimination of the self. Or the transcendence of the self into the larger Self. Which, paradoxically, amounts to no-self. All this is my dime-store summary of the Buddhist’s blown-out match condition (which is not a condition) of Nirvana. No self, no suffering, that’s the point.

So, as the Buddhists, for example, will agree, to suffer is to be alive. What to do about it? Rather than seek Nirvana (except in metaphorical terms) I suggest, as J.C. does, seeking the experience of being properly alive. This is something attainable, something within reach. It’s not so-called “meaning” that we seek, I agree with J.C. on this point. Rather, it is the experience of being properly alive. You know it when you see it or, rather, when you have it. And why not have more of it? How? Follow your bliss. Not your happiness and contentment but whatever it is that you find yourself doing especially in your time of need. I’m not talking about vices. Unless smoking and drinking happens to be your personal mythology – hey, I’m not here to adjudicate. Sometimes you have to begin with your vices, such as they are, to remind yourself, by way of comparison perhaps, if nothing else, what it is that makes your heart sing and what it is that doesn’t. And there’s good energy to be had within the shadow portions of ourselves. Beware of casting out the devil in you, said Nietzsche, lest you cast out your best part. And all that. Meanwhile, it helps to meditate occasionally on the idea that we’re nothing. And everything. Likewise, your creations.

Paying it forward, then. Crafsman’s latest video is devoted to doing just that on behalf of a newbie, T-Nu, and his Youtube channel entitled Cajun Craftastrophe. This guy T-Nu has oodles of talent and Crafsman does well to communicate not only that but to appeal to our sense that, gee, this guy’s amazing work is mired in semi-oblivion, he’s not getting any significant numbers of hits on his channel, especially given the enormous energy and time devoted to it. Nobody except those courageous and oh-so-rare “first adopter” types have managed to discover this. Well, somehow word spread to Crafsman and he did his own thing about it to help out. A good thing. Thanks, Crafsman, I subscribed to Cajun Catastrophe. T-Nu is great. (Likewise, check out his wife’s outstanding circus banner style painting career, very cool).

And who would’ve thought the nexus, perhaps a burgeoning golden age, of figure sculpting and craft video would emerge from the friendly swamps and woods and bayous and craft shacks of somewhere within the Creole-Cajun Gulf Coast realm of the United States? There’s no more to be said about the fun greatness of this stuff – see for yourself.

Well, there actually is more to be said. I’d planned on getting a version of my post out at least a couple of days ago, but the employment grind and the physical and psychological recovery period from it (always at least a day) coupled with my devotion to getting some TC2 editing done, well, recall the slung guts scenario….

Anyway, the crafsman-craftastrophe connection is a heartwarming story. Cajun Craftastrophe went from 145 subscribers to close to 10,000 in the 48 hours or so following the Crafsman shout out. I watched T-Nu’s little “Thank you, Crafsman” video this morning, and read Crafsman’s response in the comments and it was all good. If you want to feel better about the world, I suggest just diving into what these guys do. Communication. Connection. The experience of being properly alive. That’s what it’s all about. Go get your steady sculpy on. Or your jam. Or whatever. Thanks for reading.