The day began with a lecture by Mac McIlvoy titled “Somatic Wisdom.” He’s one of my new writing heros now that I have heard him read and lecture. (Note to self: next step, buy his books.)
Mac started his lecture by referencing Virginia W. (I’m abreviating because it’s nearing the end of the conference and damned if I can remember how to spell Woolf, Wolff, Wolfe, Woolfe…) who bemoaned the fact that she often felt as if there were a layer of cotton between her and the world. Meaning that often we have to focus in order to remember to feel. We can be divorced from our surroundings, tuning out sensory experiences until the world around us becomes just so much moving wallpaper.
This is not a problem I have. I am entirely tuned in, sometimes to the point of it being painful–a sensory overload. My sister had a brain injury a few years ago and the term “flooding” entered my vocabulary, but I had always experienced the sensation, without any injury that I knew of, and wihout any words to name it. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, flooding is when the brain has become so full of sensation that it begins to swamp, and everything becomes overwhelming.
In the West (moving back to Mac’s lecture) we are moving farther and farther from feeling. We test our children without remembering that feeling the world is just as important. Neither do we teach them (or remember ourselves) to get worked up about language. He read a lot from Anais Nin and referenced her work as very emotional, very feeling-based, sensation-based. “I only believe in fire,” she says. (You would have loved this lecture, Linera–if you’re reading–I’m getting a copy to send to you.)
He told us to think about children, about how engaged they are in their world. “For example,” he asked, “how many of you have reached down to pick up an object off the floor of the little theatre…and put it in your mouth or nose?” Children are all about sensation. We can learn from them. He believes that our first gift is physical aliveness, after that comes intellectual study/awareness.
He proposed we use the word “prehension” to describe the act of being without words, feeling that there is something there…as opposed to “comprehension,” a word we all respect and use. (I will be writing more about this next week, because the topic is huge and very somatically important to me.)
We made a quick trip to town to prepare for Harley night, then I attended Randall Keenan’s craft class which was wonderful. The class explored what Greek myths and the tabloids have in common and he urged us to write a tabloid headline for one or more of our stories. He also gave us a handout using some famous examples. See how many you can guess:
1)Mysterious millionaire found dead by pool. Cops suspect filling station owner nad possible mistaken identity.
2)Mad captain destroys self and ship in pursuit of murderous white whale.
3)Old woman emotionally misused by drifter.
4)Neglected wife and chemo patient finds momentary solace in the arms of a dim-witted teen on a moonlit bridge.
5)Woman haunted by owl.
6)Entire family slain by escaped convict while on vacation in Florida.
7)Old woman braves wilderness and elements to retrieve medicin for her sick grandson.
8)American couple in Spain argues publicly about abortion.
9)Kansas girl vanishes! Returns with tale of three gay men, a vicious fag hag, flying monkeys and a wizard with S.A.D.
10)Louisiana Governor assassinated on Capital steps. Conspiracy feared.
11) Rich old farmer gives away all land before death. Children throw him out.
I need to run to my workshop–I’m going up today–but will finish the day’s recap afterward. Thanks for reading.
1)The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
2)Moby Dick, Herman Melville
3)The Chrysanthemum, John Steinbeck
4)Floating Bridge, Alice Munro
5)The Owl, Elizabeth Spencer
6)A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor
7)A Worn Path, Eudora Welty
8)Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway
9)The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
10)All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
11)A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley