Saturday, July 18, 2015

playing by the rules

There are rules, of course -- parameters which designate and describe one pursuit or another. No one brings a basketball to a baseball field: If you want to play baseball, you bring a glove, a ball, a bat and work within the rules.

And it is comforting -- the rules: It's not something else ... this is this and I am among the friends who likewise adhere to this ball field, of whatever sort.

But have you ever noticed the progress of one painter or another or one musician or another? It seems to me that s/he may begin a career well within the parameter of melodic or representational rules and yet, as time passes, as the rules take root, there is a willingness to wonder what this game might be without the rules, outside the boundaries ... where harmony turns to dissonance or representation turns vastly abstract ... are these adventures any less a part of the game's panorama?

Pushing the envelope begins to insist as the contrivance of rules becomes more apparent. No longer is the comfort so comforting. No longer are the rule-inspired agreements so agreeable. What-if's natter and need to be attended to: What if abstract were no different from representational? What if harmony and dissonance were similar and symbiotic instead of opposites to be shunned or adored? What if marriage were not just an anointed union, but also a field from which to roam and range?

Those who depart from the rules are likely to find themselves alone and sometimes lonely. No longer is the communication with others made easy by rule-book strictures. Abstract art communicates, but it's not quite as recognizable as a woman in a hoop skirt. The departure from the rules puts the practitioner out on a limb where there is only room for one ... if that.

And yet there seems no other recourse. Rules can only hold sway where the land of no-rules offers contrast if not conflict. Baseball is not basketball. The matter can be confusing and discomforting and yet somehow needs to be addressed or incorporated ... in art, in music, in a perfectly ordinary lifestyle. In what way are rules and no-rules consonant ... friends? And how big a deal is it to wander and explore a world that has rules and no rules and seems perfectly at ease in the "paradox?"

Today, in email, I received a video of a spiritual guru expounding on the use of the word "fuck." Leaving aside the reputation of the presenter -- Rajneesh -- still I think anyone, whether spiritually inclined or not, might listen to this apparent pushing of the envelope. True, it's giggly and the audience laughs, but the principle is informative ... taking a step away from the lugubrious sincerity that can characterize spiritual presentations and playing in a no-no world of "wrong speech" or something similar. Can "fuck" be denied, even by the most devout? Doesn't it have a role in the mix? Are the rules against it much different from the rules for it? There may be comfort in a world that does not push the "fuck" envelope, but once the rules are in place, is it possible to overlook their dependence on the no-rules of usage? Who says you can't bring a basketball to the baseball field? Who says infidelity is not part and parcel of the harmonies of marital fidelity?

At first, the step feels like fingernails on a blackboard: You simply can't play baseball with a basketball; it doesn't compute. Stepping from representational art into the abstract is ... is ... is messy and fractious and fractured and, perhaps worst of all, lonely. It feels as if some battle had been enjoined. There must be a winner, right? No one says "shit" in a nunnery but then someone says "shit" in a nunnery and ... well, now what? No one contravenes whatever rules bring comfort to this life, but then someone or something does in fact contravene and for a while it feels as if the handholds have been snatched away.

The rules ... the meaning ... the explanation: Chaos is daunting and yet simultaneously imperative. Rules made some sense: What makes sense when the rules dissolve? Does a daisy have rules? Well, yes and no... but which is it?

Saying there are rules is comforting and true. Saying there are no rules is just another ruling. The best I can figure out is to let the battle fight itself out. Over time, the energy to complain and explain and demand some resolution to "paradox" or parallel lines meeting in infinity wears thin.

In one, light-hearted realm ... fuck it! Troubling yourself where there is no trouble seems a bit over-the-top. But I am prepared to be called "wrong."


  1. Aleister Crowley said "do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law". I imagine appropriate indictments and sentencing would follow that law. Just be careful out there.

  2. In other news:

  3. ... and then there's the Dalai Lama, holding up the mirror, suggesting that the differences between and among people deserves little more than, to quote him, a "fuck it."