The role of narrative art

Jesse Cooper Levy, modified 9 Years ago at 11/21/12 8:51 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/21/12 8:51 AM

The role of narrative art

Posts: 68 Join Date: 2/4/12 Recent Posts
I've been ruminating on a couple lines of thought for some time now and would be eager to hear some new opinions. Thank you in advance, anyone who comments.

My skill and study, aside from "spirituality", has always been writing. I went to college for playwrighting and screenwriting. I am also a lyric-driven singer/songwriter. I've always loved writing and narrative art because of how it allows me to reinvent and re-conceptualize my experience of life. But currently I am feeling rather conflicted.

Dharma based practice, or in terms that I might use, practice focused towards gnosis, seems to be non-conceptual. Replacing conceptualizations with newer conceptualizations doesn't seem like much in the way of progress.

I'm finding it very difficult, and even undesirable, to engage in my practice of noting whenever I am writing, reading, or watching TV. Kenneth Folk talks about how the further you get along the path, the more obvious and undeniable it is that a television show is just colors on the screen. He also says that part of the fun of a show is being caught up in it's narrative, and neglecting this gnostic or dharmic truth. It's a passing comment of his, and he doesn't seem to get too far into the morality of this, which is why I am posing the question here.

I happen to have a job that puts very few demands on me. I work a box office, and can practice noting between phone calls and other tasks. I can also watch oodles of TV. So the question is sort of a practical one.

Additionally, I'm trying to justify creating narrative, when I ultimately struggle with the ideas it puts forth. Most narratives are build around a character's WANT and NEED. They WANT something, but the audience knows they NEED something else. Normally, this NEED is much more touching, compassionate, and feels more right, but from the point of view of Dharma, is it really? Or is it just another conceptual ideation for them to strive after? An ideation that might be practical for them or their loved ones, and so be justifiable in a relativist morality, but still conditional. In which case, how does it relate to realization, which Kenneth Folk would call "Happiness beyond Conditions"?
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Florian, modified 9 Years ago at 11/21/12 10:07 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/21/12 10:07 AM

RE: The role of narrative art

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jesse

I can't speak for Kenneth, obviously.

That demand for justification for creating works of art - that in itself exhibits the WANT/NEED tension you mentioned, doesn't it? So it's just more of the same - it's a narrative about how you want to create narratives but think you need to do noting practice.

Here are examples of narratives which I think express and explore certain Dharma points very well:

The movies "Rock'n'Rolla" and "Donnie Darko"

The "Discworld" novels.

The legend of the Buddha's life.

...

Also, writing a "true" narrative (which strives to express "truth" or Dharma) can be good practice. I don't mean writing some kind or moralistic edifying devotional piece - more along the lines of the examples above. And don't give up the noting.

Cheers,
Florian
Jesse Cooper Levy, modified 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 11:30 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 11:30 AM

RE: The role of narrative art

Posts: 68 Join Date: 2/4/12 Recent Posts
Hey Florian Weps,

Thank you for your thoughts.

That demand for justification for creating works of art - that in itself exhibits the WANT/NEED tension you mentioned, doesn't it? So it's just more of the same - it's a narrative about how you want to create narratives but think you need to do noting practice.


I see that, but I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from that. It's clearly a binary, which is problematic, but when one half of the binary is designed to destroy all binaries (practice), how can one view it?

What's more, I feel too inexperienced to write about dharma (directly or indirectly), yet sort of bored by the idea of writing about anything else.
John Wilde, modified 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 4:02 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 3:23 PM

RE: The role of narrative art

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Jesse Cooper Levy:

I see that, but I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from that. It's clearly a binary, which is problematic, but when one half of the binary is designed to destroy all binaries (practice), how can one view it?


What if the purpose of practice isn't to "destroy all binaries" but to make them transparent (including, eventually, the narrative underpinning your practice)?

Vipassana isn't really narrative-free. Reducing everything to five heaps and six sense doors, all having three characteristics, is itself a narrative. It serves a purpose. It works as a kind of divide and conquer and disidentify strategy. There's nothing holy or absolutely true about the resulting kind of perception or understanding. (And, it seems to me, all these teachings tend to swallow their own tail in the end).

I don't think the aim of any practice is to abandon all narratives but one (as in replace the false with the true), but rather, to make all narratives less opaque and heavy (cos their opacity and gravity is where the suffering lies).
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Florian, modified 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 4:57 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 4:56 PM

RE: The role of narrative art

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Jesse Cooper Levy:
I see that, but I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from that. It's clearly a binary, which is problematic, but when one half of the binary is designed to destroy all binaries (practice), how can one view it?


By telling a story about it, for example? Write down what happens to you (or a fictional character) when confronted with the question: "what conclusion should I draw from that?"

What's more, I feel too inexperienced to write about dharma (directly or indirectly), yet sort of bored by the idea of writing about anything else.


You don't have to show it to anyone. Burn it once it's written down. Delete the computer files.

Also, where does experience come from?

But if you don't feel up to writing about the Dharma, here's an experiment: write something thoroughly un-dharmic. Something utterly, utterly not true. It must not be true, not even allegorically, or symbolically.

And keep up the noting practice. Make a resolution that you can write as much as you want, but you have to, absolutely have to do 10min of noting practice per day before you can write even a single word.

These are just suggestions. If you don't like them, don't feel under any obligation to try them.

Cheers,
Florian
Some Guy, modified 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 5:23 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 5:23 PM

RE: The role of narrative art

Posts: 343 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
Your question reminds me of Jean Luc Godard's films, especially from the 80's and 90's. He really interrogates the various media of a film - visual, sound, and story. There is also usually a healthy helping of philosophical musing. The effect was pretty enthralling to me at the time, and there is certainly an element of deconstructing the senses, and so forth.

I think a lot of art is quite in line with Vipassana, not always in the same exact way. Read the Unnamable by Samuel Beckett. It's a novel about noting. But unlike most of our journals it's knock-you-on-your-ass beautiful and amazing. And it convinced me I was narrative fiction long before I began meditating.

To me, this gets at the difference between art and entertainment. Art can make you more... awake? Intelligent? More.
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Nadav S, modified 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 11:52 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/30/12 11:52 PM

RE: The role of narrative art

Posts: 5 Join Date: 11/30/12 Recent Posts
In my experience there's no conflict between practice and art. I think practice can help you connect to the 'source' of your creativity, with more clarity and less discursive thinking in the way. In Jazz we talk about taking the time for deliberate (conceptualized, goal-oriented) practice but then letting go of that in performance to just play. (Charlie Parker: "You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.") I would say that meditation practice will make it easier to get into 'flow' states, which are valuable for any creative experience. With greater perceptual acuity and less aversion to the present moment, creativity can unfold more organically.

You mention having difficulty noting while reading or writing. That's perfectly fine. You can try to keep a small thread of awareness on the body in situations where noting doesn't make sense. As your practice deepens you'll find that you have more "bandwidth" to be aware while writing, having a conversation, or typing a reply to this thread. Doesn't have to be in the form of noting though. I don't know anything about your practice so forgive me if you've already seen all of this.

Noting was my primary method as well. I had feared early on that meditation practice would take the magic out of music. So far, through technical 4th path, that has not happened. Not at all.

Don't forget to note these doubts and questions. :-)

You may be interested in this thread on KFD: http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/thread/4668605/Art,+Creativity+and+Spiritual+Practise?offset=0&maxResults=20

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