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Dismantling Art and Literature

O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention!
~ Shakespeare, Henry V, prologue to the play

When I was a boy, I always ended up dismantling (read destroying) my favourite toys. This was because I just had to find out why they worked as they did. At other times, I took them apart to try and repair them when they stopped working properly. Either way, the results were the usually the same: I couldnt put them together again. Far from understanding how a toys innards meshed, I ended up with a pile of assorted components that soon found their way into the wastepaper basket. On the rare occasions when I actually figured out how the thingamajig functioned (and why it wasnt doing so), I found that the solution had come to me in a flash of insight inspiration quite independent of my act of tearing the toy down, part by part. Never did the answer come to me by any deductive process of cold-bloodedly analyzing the toys innards as I took down its train of clockwork components. Dissecting sundry specimens of insects, amphibians and mammals in the school laboratory made me queasy. It was not just the sight of livings thing chloroformed and reduced to their constituent parts that made my stomach churn. It was more of an inner conviction that I was looking for the right answers in all the wrong places. To cut up frogs to learn about their internal mechanisms was acceptable if you wanted to see how these simple creatures differed from others. Dismantling a frog merely to find out what a frog was that seemed to me an exercise in absurdity. A frog was something much more than its parts. Taking it to pieces obscured rather than revealed its true nature. In other words, my childhood experiences with toys and assorted fauna had shown me that I lived in a personal universe that could not be understood by separating and analyzing its component elements. That truth was more accessible when I felt around inside me for the answer I knew was already there. It gradually dawned on me in a very nebulous sort of way that I did not have the sort of mind that reasons its way to answers. In my case, imagination superseded logic, which might explain my abysmal scores in math. In a science dominated school curriculum, this had a depressing effect on my scholastic grades. As a result, my IQ was popularly presumed to hover at a level somewhere between that of an amoeba and a fruit fly. Though I managed to get through school more by luck than logic, it was borne in on me forcefully that I had to steer clear of math and science if I wanted to keep body and soul together. I did not have the mental equipment needed to handle these subjects. I envied the 47-plus Patels from Mombasa and Nairobi. Merchants all, their math-oriented brains worthy precursors to the electronic calculators of today put them right at the top of the science-oriented culture that ruled the roost at school. They turned up their pimply noses at my essays, at my adding notch after notch to my gun in English, Scripture and GK. These were subjects far below their Pound Sterling-calibrated standards. No, they recited gleefully, collectively and disdainfully Grammar, prcis and parsing Arent worth a penny farthing

It was clear that I was destined for a humbler, ragamuffin world inhabited by lowlifes such as poets, writers and sculptorspeople who rarely get to shave, bathe or eat. I sort of looked forward to it. No Walter Mitty really goes without the good things of life. It all depends on what one means by the term. Cracking (a b)2 didnt do anything for me. A satisfying essay did. It probably meant Id go hungry now and then. That was acceptable if it meant I could distance myself from numbers. By some diabolical quirk of fate (or a sudden, unaccountable lapse into insanity), I went and joined a bank. I now lived, breathed and slept numbers. Banks are best known as temples dedicated to the worship of Mammon, but they hardly inspired in me the sort of awe and reverence they elicited from my peers. On the contrary, the moment I entered a bank office, a wave of despair swept over me, as perhaps afflicts one who passes through the portals of Sing Sing, Alcatraz or Tihar. To me, banks were burial grounds for the finer sensibilities inherent in man. People seemed to be gathered there to waste each others time. At last I understood why James Thurber and P.G. Wodehouse1 departed in a tearing hurry after encounters with banks. I was much slower. It took me twenty years to realise that my life was slipping through my fingers, and that it was time to regress. No more adding, subtracting and analyzing. Enough was enough. It was time to grope my way back to myself. In the foregoing paragraphs, I was building up a case for examining art and literature through the eyes of the heart and not the head. As Antoine de Saint- Exupry said, Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit. He also said: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. In the same vein, Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Stray Birds: A mind all logic is like a knife, all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. The creative are a relatively diffident and ambivalent lot. I envy the others the blind confidence with which they approach the challenges thrown up by life. I wonder if they realise the challenge involved in sitting at a desk, year in and year out, writing a book that no one might ever read. Imagine the depth of the occasional bout of despair, the stamina needed to keep going as the world moves on from event to eventthe fortitude of a Kiran Desai who wrote The Inheritance of Loss over a period of eight years, bolstered only by her self-belief. Yet we presume to dissect and analyse it. Something that wells up from the soul a shapeless bundle of thoughts and emotions, a nebulous cloud of plasma and congeals on paper as the written word, cannot be understood by anything other than the heart. Ernest Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea falls in this category, I think. So Spartan a use of language means it is a book aimed not at the mind but at the heart. A book like that isnt read but felt. There are hundreds of books in this genre, books economical of construction, sparse of vocabulary and with terse descriptions. With no intention to single them out for special attention, Id like to mention here three of my favourite books: James Hiltons Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Nevil Shutes A Town like Alice and two of Richard Bachs books: Illusions and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I only have to mention Robert Louis Stevensons self-confessed way of writing to drive home the message. When someone asked how him how much he wrote daily and how he planned his books, Stevenson replied: I really do not know. I write from one episode to

Both great humourists; the former wrote The World of Walter Mitty, a short story worth reading.

another, and when Ive finished a chapter, I look forward to how the story will unfold the following day, I have no idea what will happen next, and look forward to it eagerly. In other words, he wrote the book as it came to him from somewhere elsea twilight zone where his book, complete and finished, waited for him to access it. W. Somerset Maugham had a very similar though more methodical modus operandi. He wrote 2000 words every day; he wrote them as well as he could and left them alone thereafter. Editing a book is one thing; editing out its spontaneity is something else. Thats like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The next time we are tempted to critically analyse (not to be confused with explaining the nuances and possible motivations of the author) and dissect literature, let us not forget that art is not artifice. Far from being a mechanical construction carefully assembled according to a blueprint, it is an upwelling of the writers soul. No one can analyse a soul or its efflorescence. The same is fundamentally true of painting. Painters may sketch the outlines of their works, but that in no way makes the finished piece a contrivance. In the case of a painting, an outline, merely serves to capture the fleeting inspiration. More than lightning, inspiration never strikes twice. Writers keep pad and pencil by their beds to jot down ideas and stray words and sentences that can come to them at the oddest of times, sometimes even in the middle of the night. They are attuned to the working of their unconscious minds and recognize its importance in their creative efforts. Like writers, painters and sculptors keep sketchbooks and pencils in their bags. They never know when a scene, figure or object will entrance them, and they will wish to capture the essence of the image that their heart projects onto the canvas of their conscious mind. The emerging discipline of Emotional Intelligence (with Spiritual Intelligence already being mooted as being its successor) postulates that far from being just a muscular pump that is responsible for blood circulation, the heart is a sensitive organ that sees and feels. Poets, writers and other artists have known this for centuries. To counter the bad press that poets traditionally enjoy among the desensitized and unlettered multitudes, let me spring to their defence by quoting an epigram from Coleridge:
Sir, I admit your general rule, That every poet is a fool, But you yourself may serve to show it, That every fool is not a poet.

Who knows what agonies van Gogh suffered as he saw his genius trampled by people who failed to recognize its worth. But did he scheme, contrive and design his paintings? Vincent van Gogh was a creative artist so far ahead of his time (as was Pablo Picasso) that even today we despair at replicating his unique vision. If Leonardo da Vinci made sketches and notes of his various works, we should not lose sight of the fact that he was a multifaceted geniussculptor, inventor, painter, engineer, scientist and philosopher all rolled into one. He had a definite way of working, a system (including his mirror writing notebooks) that spanned the mind-boggling gulfs between his various accomplishments. To support my stand, I quote from Shakespeare as he describes Marcus Brutus when he says of Caesars illegitimate son and murderer that the elements were so mixed in him If van Gogh painted what his heart saw art sans artifice his generation had neither the eyes nor the heart to tune in to his unique wavelength. To understand art is to

understand the windsong of the stars; it is to listen to a melody of a happy, magnificent universe awash with gifts for those who care to hear it. Some call it inspiration. I do not think any creative artist could not but have been inspired. Inspiration and creation are two sides of the same coin. Intuition is another valuable way of accessing another reality. What does intuition mean? And what exactly are coincidences, hunches, gut feelings, anyway? When it strikes, do we link into another dimension where there is no distance, time or space? Are there biological or physiological reasons that enable us to have these inexplicable experiences? There are. Its an area in the brain, located in the right temporal lobe, although medical textbooks of today have little to say about it except that it stores, processes, and interprets memory. It is still too earlydespite the enormous body of research that points conclusively to its role as a unique instrumentfor medical science to accept its role as a receiver/transmitter for tuning into what Jung called the Collective Unconsciousnessthe Universal Mind of the New Age philosophers. I am talking about an area of the human brain that more and more scientists are the calling The God Spot. Through this lobe we access the place where all knowledge (as many an inventor maintains), all memory resides, everything that ever happened, is happening, and everything that will ever happen in a finished, complete universe that science today acknowledges is no longer a myth created by mystics and philosophers. Unlike information, Time is not indispensable to a universe where, say the physicists, everythingevery last atom and sub-atomic particleis inextricably and eternally interlinked in a sequence of events thats not a sequence at all but a one-off event! If youve read John Donnes words about for whom the bell tolls and of no man being an island, you might see what that means. I dont think I need to again repeat Blakes To see a world in a grain of sand verse to get my point across. Sometimes, its the poets, rock-stars, philosophers, and mysticsheavily dependent on their right temporal lobes for inspiration (read the ability to access the Universal Mind) who understand, far better than most scientists, the basic, underlying unity of everything...peering unerringly into the future (Bob Dylan is one). Tennyson (Locksley Hall) and Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass) are two more examples. It is no wonder, therefore, that when we access the Universal Mind through the good offices of the right temporal lobe (or with the aid of LSD and other hallucinogens), we encounter another reality beyond the limitations of spacetime. Working through a different frame of reference to the one we normally operate from, we can use the right temporal lobe to access what we regard as the past, the present, and even the future. However, the compulsions and obligations of the workaday world we live in compel us to neglect the intuitive right lobe in favour of the more analytical, rational left temporal lobe. This ensures that the individual I predominates (giving rise to the aggressive assertiveness that is so essential in coping with the individualised challenges that are constantly thrown up by a highly-competitive environment that is often erroneously described as dog-eat-dog, when it is just a vast field of opportunity that challenges our ability to cope creatively. This over-developed sense of the I is also the undoing of modern societies, responsible as it is for spawning much of the ills of that plague men who have lost touch

with the soothing sense of harmony and oneness with the universe and everything in it. As science and religion increasingly view each other as allies, as physics and metaphysics converge and rush to meet on common ground where they will see each other as means of interpreting a shared reality, we see the beginning of the end of the end of the Dark Ages of the Soul. For as surely as Newtonian physics crumbled before the incontrovertible theories of Einstein, and as quantum theory unveils worlds at the sub-atomic level that question the very foundations of the older physics, man is beginning to re-remember an old truth: that the mind and the body are subtly linked, part and parcel of a universe that holds all the answers...if we but care to look. The key to looking, learning and responding, for a creative artist, is the Right Temporal lobe. It can be electrically stimulated, it can be kicked into responding by mind-bending drugs...but it can also be induced into action by meditation (which could mean nothing more than sitting quietly for about twenty minutes and fixing the mind at some neutral point, slowing down the frequency of brain waves to about the pre-sleep level of 8 to 10 cycles per second). Scepticism is both natural and healthy. It winnows the wheat from the chaff, and, when finally overcome by overwhelming evidence and conclusive repeatability, makes acceptance of new ideas and paradigms all the more welcome. Old habits and ways of thinking, however, die hard. Ulcers, for example, were always thought to be the result of stress until it was proved that a simple virus causes them, and that antibiotics can cure them. But even today, ulcers continue to be treated as though stress was the cause, by doctors who refuse to change their thinking. The story of science whether astronomy, cosmology, medicine, psychology, anthropology, or biology is nothing if not a series of anecdotes about new ideas that were derided when first mooted, examined, experimented with, and ultimately accepted to the extent that they became commonplace. Ideas start as heresies, mellow into self-evident truths, and finally live on as superstitions. So it is with art. Picasso is a poster boy today. But when he first unveiled his Demoiselles de Avignon in 1903, it was met with stony silence. He quietly rolled it up and put it away. Thirty years later, when he showed it again, the critics were stunned. One said: With this painting, we bid farewell to all the paintings of the past. A new era had begun in painting. Doctors have long believed in their gut feelings. Many a CEO acts on his hunches before rationalizing them with analytical studies and market research (Akio Moritas development and launch of the Walkman is a case in pointread his book Made in Japan). Intuition, according to top security and police officials, is often more valuable that body armour and guns. Any pilot knows the feeling he has in his bones about a flight. So what are these signals, and where do they come from? How come they and dreams, properly interpreted are often so accurate? Its the right temporal lobe at work. It is important to consider the role of coincidence in our lives, without becoming too nostalgic about Auric Goldfingers famous summing up in Ian Flemings Goldfinger, occasioned after his third clash with James Bond: The first time its circumstance, the second time its happenstance...and the third time its enemy action! Scientists prefer to regard coincidence as a lazy mans way of reacting to a set of circumstances. Some physicians like Dr Melvin Morse feel that when you invoke coincidence, you have only

one in a million chance of being right. Many children who have recovered from NDEs (Near Death Experiences) have gone on record as saying that there are no coincidences. There seems to be a deeper pattern underpinning the entire fabric of nature that we can access with the aid of not our humdrum five senses but the other lost senses that tap into the Universal Mind with the help of the right temporal lobe. According to Dr. Melvin Morse, MD, the interconnectedness of life is real. This was one of Niels Bohrs first major concepts. The founding father of quantum physics discovered that there is a marvellous interconnectedness between apparently unrelated subatomic events that scientists cannot explain. But the Zen masters smile gentlythey have long known this. Physicist Wolfgang Pauli and psychologist Carl Jung developed the concept of synchonicity before Bohr proved it existed. The theory is that hidden patterns in life can be expressed by seemingly coincidental events, and that these patterns represent communication with a conscious, universal mind. Mandell, who continued Jungs work, demonstrated not only that synchronicities have valid meaning, but occur at times of major shifts in our life patterns...births, deaths, falling in love, marriage, intense creative work, or even job changes. This internal restructuring, he stated, produces external if a burst of mental energy is propagated outward into the physical world. Looks like what we call coincidence... or perhaps inspiration! Can you relate this to your now shifting concept of art as a creative medium? When the brain developed its current bicameral configuration about 200,000 years ago (says Dr. Morse), man had no need for the self-assertive I so necessary in our competitive modern times. Primitive man, deeply attuned to nature, relied heavily on senses other than the conventional five we all have, to locate distant game, communicate telepathically, and even undertake migrations (across the land bridge from Asia into North America, for example) that would be daunting even for modern men. Each member of the tribe knew her or his role in it. In India, we called it the four varnas. Individual functions were so clearly defined that the group functioned as a single unit, with the tribal chiefthe repository of the common mindworking at achieving the common good. Written and verbal communication developed with the coming of civilisations (such as that of the Sumerians), based on agricultural advances that led to disposable food surpluses and therefore the formation of stable urban agglomerations. The use of the left lobe shot into greater prominence as the right lobes intuitive, remote seeing, extra-sensory uses gradually fell into disuse. The other senses we had been gifted with withered away, even as the Dark Ages saw large-scale persecutions of those who retained their powers; many of those who relied on intuition and precognition were condemned as witches who consulted the powers of darkness. Man has always felt fearful of or antagonistically inclined towards things he doesnt understand, taking them to be witchcraft and magic. The science of today would have been called magic in medieval times. We ourselves scarcely believe in a future where men will be half-man, half-machine. But Kevin Warwick of Reading University, U.K., the worlds first Cyborg, has ushered in a revolution that will see man shape his own evolution as he reaches for the stars from which he came, and to which he will ultimately return. I have seen too much science fiction come true in my fifty-plus years not to believe in this wholeheartedly.

Left lobe usage (which has reached its zenith today) increased further in medieval times, as society gradually succumbed to forces of de-stratification. New theories and attitudes challenged the old, as use of the right temporal lobe declined even more. The great flowering of art and culture we know as The Renaissance may have been a despairing, defiant upsurge by the right temporal lobe beginning to diminish in importance as it linked to higher reaches of reality and triggered off a brilliant flowering of human capabilityjust as the Eastern mystics do. In fact, Eastern societies, more holistically oriented than the west, have always given due importance to right brain activity. It hasnt served them too well in the past, in practical, left brain terms. But now, as the world shrinks and the global economy integrates, it is no coincidence that the greatest advances in research and electronics are coming from people of Indian and Japanese origin. Intel outside, Patel inside is a wry comment on this phenomenon. The Goldman Sachs (BRICs) report tells us that within a couple of decades well be within striking distance (in spite of the ineptitude and self-aggrandising tendencies of political systems) of the material standards of the west. Provided we avoid the pitfall of lapsing wholly into left lobe thinking, we will see a flourishing of a civilization that will herald the coming of the new Age of Enlightenment and the unfolding of what we today regard as miracles and mysteries beyond human comprehension. You can be sure that India will be in the thick of the action, telling the world where it is and where its going in stunning, iconoclastic, right brain generated imagery. I would venture to say, then (and you are at liberty to disagree with me) that art is, at bottom, a combination of four thingspurpose, serendipity, inspiration and intuitive foreknowledge. I feel that, in a very curious way, the four are one and the same, because of the intrinsic nature of lifeall things being inseparably, inscrutably and irretrievably linked in some so far inexpressible way. As such, attunement a term I use to describe this state of oneness with all things brings discernment and foreknowledge, since barriers of space and time do not exist on that higher plane of existence. In other words, art is really about connecting with the larger universe beyond optical vision, with a zone of eternal Truth, Light and Beauty that lies outside the reach of all but our higher senses. Whenever I perceive these three vital elements that form the crucial touchstone of timeless value, I know that all things are as much part of me as I am of everything else. I might have been rash in going way beyond art and creativity to things such as Quantum Mechanics and superluminal connectivity. In doing so, I have left myself open to attack from puritanical, left-brain critics for whom art is but a matter of planning and mechanical execution, but I had to. I felt strongly about a distant yet inner junction where physics and metaphysics converge a place that, I feel, holds many of the answers to lifes conundrums to try and peel away layers of humdrum, everyday reality to get at the ghost in the machine. My only excuse for highlighting the signposts on the road to mastery is, that thats the way I see things. Besides, as is true of any creative medium, the technical stuff has to be got out the way before we can get down to brass tacks.

We need the technical know-how all the time, but we also need to gently let go of it when it comes to art, otherwise itll only get in the way of self-expression and, yesself creation. We grow with every outburst of creativity, as we do when we venture into other artistic fields. And to think that until people like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston really got into stride, society refused to accept photography as an artistic medium, even in the USA, where it first came to flower. Ideally, technical knowledge should always be constantly and effortlessly accessible, hovering unobtrusively at the outer reaches of consciousness yet on instant recall, like a computer ROM. All well-embedded learning is like that. Having managed that, you have to go beyond art when it comes to successfully interpreting and communicating your worldview, which is essentially a process that has little to do with art per se. It was important for me to highlight this point. Once the mechanical side is set asideonce the technicalities the brushwork, the vocabulary, the grammar become second nature, the real fun starts. There are worlds within worlds in this universe (as there are in ourselves, for we are all miniature macrocosms) some of which can ensnare the unwary explorer, trapping her in the bog of dissection and critical analysis, sometimes allowing her to escape only to plunge into the quicksand of seeking popular approval. One cannot please everyone, least of all an artilliterate public. An artist ploughs a lonely furrow. Some, like Beethoven and Satish Gujral live in silent worlds of hearing impairment. Yet they excel. Their disability does not hamper them because their art comes through them and not to them. I am therefore compelled to believe that art is all about conveying our special way of looking at our world to other human beings, interpreting our very own reality for others to glimpse. Perhaps, the better we are able to do this, the better the chances of our efforts being appreciated, for phoniness and plagiarism will not sustain us for long. In the ultimate analysis, what matters is our ability to project our inner visionrealistic, imaginative or abstract images triggered by the freewheeling unconscious mind. I have only tried to highlight some of the mental and spiritual processes and inner realizations that assist in this process, to lay bare as it were, the overriding program. Really successful artists identify with and interpret great themes. They paint on a larger canvas; they taste deep of the bottomless well of life. Some choose to underscore misery and chaos, while others celebrate life, with all its pathos, romance, magic and timeless beautyall equally valid representations of their individual visions. These Masters live in another universe; they hear other pipers, they march to a different drummer. The curious thing is that all the great themes flow into One Great ThemeLife. Life is what the Masters seek to interpret, and well do they succeed in their efforts, wrenching our hearts while simultaneously instigating horripilation and bringing the blood to our faces with the exhilaration that comes of seeing the Truth through someone elses eyes. A masterpiece is unmistakable, producing powerful neural pulses that it jolt us to the core of our being. Edvard Munchs The Scream is one such work. Masters are great encouragers, too. Instead of only looking for faults, they are people who point out strengths and encourage us to excel. Like all successful people, they look for positive qualities. They see potential where others see failure. And they encourage success in others. True leaders, as Neale Donald Walsch says, do not have followers, because they are too busy setting up other leaders. True leaders like all true Masters serve. Mark

Twain put it like this: "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great. Masters teach us to how to learn, which is where the road to mastery begins; they help us find our own road to where we want to go. As we learn at the feet of the Masters and struggle to grow, initially by trying to replicate their efforts, we should be using our skills to develop our own signature, so that our images begin to show signs of a new maturity and a distinctive stylenot being different from others just for the sake of being different, mind you, but different in spite of ourselves (for men usually prefer to go with the herd). It takes courage initially to step away from the beaten path, but those who take the road less travelled are always the ones who fulfil themselves. In encouraging us to shy away from tradition and to explore new worlds both visual as well as non-visual, including the abstracteven the submerged parts of our psyches, art helps us to realize and project our uniqueness as human beings negotiating the astoundingly diverse, desperately misunderstood and yet magnificent experience we call life. Whether it involves breaking fresh trails in aesthetic endeavour or the innocent joys of immortalizing a cornfield on canvas, it is a great way to circumvent time and project our thoughts and vision into a future that will know us better for the legacies we leave behind.
Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees. ~ Marcel Proust, Maxims