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Integral Art

The idea of developing Integral Arts was suggested to me recently by Joanne Rubin. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I am always interested in developing artistic expression and I feel strongly that Sangha (community-LL) is a hugely important aspect of this.

We often times have this idea of the lone artist. The suffering, isolated genius who feels misunderstood by the all of her peers. I don’t doubt that there is much pain and introspection (UL) in art. It may very well be that it is necessary to embrace these dark sides of life to create truly great art. But the question must still be asked, why create art?

For me art has always been about communication. I could claim, as many have, that true art is a purely personal expression of ones soul that no one, save the artist, need understand. The fact that this is sometimes, and at one level necessarily, the result does not mean that explanation is not being attempted and usually achieved to varying degrees. I believe that did one not have the desire to reach out, the desire to connect, they would never manifest anything at all, never mind something as intimate as art.

There is a reason why art exists as an objective artifact (UR). Art is a form of speech. Whether it is the sound waves of a song, the dried strokes from a paint brush, the carved wood from an oak, or anything else that someone has allowed a piece of their identity to be crystallized within; the art that we create is intended to be information shared in a way that simple words do not afford.

This is where the idea of developing Integral Art becomes a bit hairy for me. If you ask me whose art I would like to see or whom I would like to present my art to, I may very well choose an integrally informed community to be a part of this sangha. If we are just talking about gathering like minds in a pot and stirring, then the idea sounds like a potent one indeed.

My resistance comes up when the need to talk about art arises. There is a big difference to me between music and musicology. More importantly, no where do I feel the difference between talking and doing more than in art. For me, art is most easily expressed through music.

I have given much thought to the origins and uses of music. One of the primary issues that I have wrestled with has actually been shown in new light by the bald headed one’s illumination of the pre/trans fallacy. The idea that both pre and trans rational thought will be dismissed by rational logic as simply non-rational, despite the fact that trans-rational transcends and includes rational has interesting implications in my mind. This is mostly because music, as many things, is capable of being all three. But, it is when it is primarily rational that, to me, it seems dead. Perhaps this would make more sense if we explore arts relationship to words.

I have become increasingly aware throughout my life just how much my thoughts are constrained by verbage. I know that there are many levels of consciousness both above and below what I am able to recognize verbally, but far too often it seems as if the only expressions that merit recognition, or are capable of being recognized, are the ones that we can put words to.

What happens to the rest of those thoughts, feelings, emotions, inclinations, intuitions, etc?

Fortunately we have art. As I have said before, I think that art is a way to get in touch with these levels of consciousness.


So why not talk about it?

Because, in my opinion, we are far too good at talking, and thinking, verbally. Our powers to intellectualize are astounding. The integral community, in particular, can talk even spirituality into mathematical formula’s and complex post-metaphysical addresses. This is why I love to be with these people. But how often is great art a product of formula’s alone? I think that inspiration must come from a degree of quieting the thinking mind. In retreat this weekend Daido Roshi spoke of Hara, the physical and spiritual center of one’s body located in the lower belly ‘3 finger below your belly button’ as being the source of artistic inspiration. The subtle body of sleep is a powerful source of artistic inspiration. There is a reason that while drugs can destroy our brains, they can also facilitate the production of great art.

So, I would love to be artistic with the Integral Community. If Integral ideas are ever going to be disseminated than certainly the vessel will have to be beautiful. The question then is twofold:

1. How do we discuss the packaging without defining constraints?

My desire is to find a way beyond simple words. Surely words will have their place. But, we have amazing powers of multi-media communication in this digital age that can walk all over simple words. And we have always had amazingly subtle abilities that are trampled by words. I am eager to find the most inclusive way.

2. How do we create a womb (physical or cyber room?) with an integral embrace from which anyone can be supported during creation?

I am drowning you in words about art this very moment. I recognize that this is something, though it is not enough. So I also offer song.

This is Pantry. Pantry began with a day spent banging on things in the kitchen pantry. Later violin, vocals, harmonica, guitar, bass, synths and congas were recorded and layered accordingly in an intimate, non-verbal communication between myself and 4 other people. Please listen, and allow yourself to let go of everything that I have just said. I’d love to know where you end up.

Candice and David. Two of the musicians on Pantry. Now married and parents of Talia, the wise sage quoted below.

  1. Amy

    Listening to the music made me wistful for times when I’ve had groups of people with whom to commune on a musical level. I’m really missing it.

    I think you’re right that in the integral crowd we’re really good at talking about things (although I was left wanting when we tried to discuss integral art). Perhaps it’s time for an integral jam session!