In the interview I did with poet Charles Noble, published in WestWord the Writers’ Guild of Alberta magazine, I inadvertently left our a word crucial to understanding of Charles’ point. The omitted word was ‘myths’. Here’s what the Noble poet, farmer, and weightlifter said:
“So I began jotting in a notebook, while driving the tractor. Finally when seeding was over for the summer I made poems from those notes. The only way you could dramatize Kantian operators behind those situations was for it to come out as zany or surreal or bizarre. So it’s kind of ironic that this surreal aspect comes from a super-rational philosopher—a weird justice nevertheless. In The Raw and the Cooked Levi-Strauss analyzes “crazy” myths as “Kantianism without the transcendental ego.” Then in 1978, the book, Haywire Rainbow, came out with my ‘superpoet’ poems in it.
SRS: While taking all those notes while seeding you must have been cutting some pretty wiggly rows.
CN: Yes there were a few times I had to correct the steering.”
The full interview can be found in the May-June 2015 issue of Westword. Available to members from the Writers’ Guild of Alberta; also available to members in online form.
(Charles Noble’s most recent book is The Kindness Colder Than the Elements, published by Athabasca University Press, 2011)
Many articles have been written on the ways in which being constantly accessible and digitally connected can increase stress levels, at a low and steady rate. One manifestation of stress and distraction – and I’ve done this and see it all around me – is when we pull out our cell phones in ‘empty’ moments between ‘tasks;’ moments like waiting for an appointment, or for a light to change, or when a conversation flags – out comes the smart phone. I think we’re letting ourselves be kept in a state of constant anticipation; and we use our devices to enable escape from our own thoughts or feelings. We tune out of ourselves and into an external channel. Let’s be honest – in that channel messages are not always urgent or memorable. And if we’re not tuning in we get prompted: “Mike has changed his FaceBook profile picture,” or “’Some people you may know on Twitter.” And we tap in. Digital devices can often be much like fast food, quick but nutritionally empty. They keep us in a state of constant arousal and hunger; we’re being conditioned, Pavlovian-style. Our state of hunger is maintained but is not fulfilled. Insatiably, we tune outward and not inward.
Some studies have shown that multi-tasking alters brain chemistry, increasing the dopamine levels and adrenaline. Dopamine initiates feelings of happiness and adrenaline is a stress hormone. There’s a kind of strange artificially stimulated chemical battle going on in our brains and in our psyche that is shaping our habits. And we’re left with little space for daydreaming, pondering, or awakening ideas and associations.
At this point in my treatise I assume digital-defenders are leaping up. I say “Easy, easy.” Of course there are positive attributes of the digi-sphere when used well. But that’s for another essay. (I’m trying to stay focused, right?).
In my yoga practice of over a dozen years, I’ve often heard instructors tell class members what to do when attention strays from the pose (the asana) of the moment, when the mind starts to whine about the difficulty, or when we compare ourselves to some other yogi in the room. The instructor will say, “Just let the thoughts go and bring your attention back to your breath.” People who meditate speak about the same dynamic . . . “bring your attention back.” I understood that, but had forgotten that I needed to engage the same mode in my writing practice. In such a focused mode – simultaneously empty and spacious – we come deeply in touch with ourselves. This contact with oneself – with one’s being – is most important for deep discoveries in mind and imagination. This state, I believe, is essential for liberating a writer’s, an artist’s, creative energy. That’s where I want to be.