Looking out at the quiet south oval this morning as I take some time to reflect.
I just completed a final exam for Musculoskeletal Anatomy, hands down one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. Anywhere.
And I can’t help but hear myself:
Dang – you got #43 wrong! Why didn’t you switch to C? Stupid!
You missed an assignment because you’re a disorganized flake. You were weak and got affected and spaced. People will think you’re a flaky artist. All your diligent work will be for nothing.
My auto-talk is run by a rather unfriendly personal demon. I don’t like them very much. So I’m reworking my words to myself … with summer-reading simmering in the background.
In And Then You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World, Anne Bogart writes:
“Stand up and articulate what you are rather than what you are not.” (2007, 25)
(This is from a section of the book about Articulation, the act of pointing towards the thing you mean to get across as clearly as you can, as one of the essential components of art-making. And maybe of living well.)
Ok let’s try that, Self:
I’ve experienced a LOT in nine weeks!
I took an intense course because I wanted to learn, and I completed it.
I experienced a deep, constant, heightened encounter with mortality both within and outside of the lab.
And survived to tell about it.
I met and learned alongside a stellar group of individuals whom I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise.
I fully engaged my creative capacities for learning – and enjoyed it.
I was challenged and moved.
I know more now than I did before.
I appreciate even more the overwhelming, stunning complexity of the human form, and the life coursing through and all around us.
Oh and I also helped remove a brain, observing it in a state close to what it looks like in vivo.
That’s weird. And pretty cool.
* * *
As I consider the manner of my self-talk, I’m reflecting upon recent conversations with students and graduates of the dance department, and many years of conversations with dance-artist colleagues in New York and elsewhere. Many people trained as dancers, consciously or not, assume a manner of speaking about themselves from a place of lack as routine. Without thinking.
(So do many other people.) Regardlesss of reason – the habit obscures reality to themselves and to whomever they are speaking.
Another thought from Bogart:
“When we use the wrong words, or weak words, or abusive words, or assume that the words we inherit are good enough rather than embarking upon a close examination of the vocabulary, we are cheating ourselves of a wide range of experience and expressivity.”(2007, 24)
Embracing the responsibility to do the work to choose clear, accurate words, and to eradicate embedded demons in our daily lexicon (ones that perpetuate diminishment of self or others) can help us see ourselves and each other more clearly.
And might keep us honest and on task as we navigate a climate of divisive soundbites, marginalizing language, and easily tweetable/re-tweetable ignorance.
I’m going to the studio.
Bogart, Anne. 2007. And Then You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World. New York: Routledge.